A Visit to Sierra Nevada's Mills River, NC Location

Harris King, July 14, 2015

At the end of June, the venerable beer writer Will Gordon posted a picture of The Calling from Boulevard Brewing. I responded by saying how much I love that beer, which led to this exchange.

I then decided to check my claim based on my Untappd check-ins. Yes, Both Founders and Victory are on my personal leaderboard, but both are blown away by RJ Rockers, my hometown brewery, Stone and especially Sierra Nevada.

Here are my double digit check-ins:

Westbrook 10 beers 

Founders 12

Bell’s 13   

Lagunitas 14 

Sweetwater 15 

Wicked Weed 16 

Terrapin 17  

Victory 17

RJ Rockers 26

Stone 37

Sierra Nevada 48

Granted, quantity is not the same thing as quality, but I am rarely disappointed with beers from Sierra Nevada. With Stone, I like Enjoy By and their other special, limited releases, but I am really not a big fan of their standard offerings. This is not the case with Sierra Nevada. The Pale Ale, Torpedo, and Nooner Pilsner are all favorites of mine, as are the seasonals like Summerfest, Ruthless Rye and Celebration. Yes, the very reasonable pricing and availability in both bottle shops and grocery stores does add to my number, but the Chico, CA and now Mills River, NC brewery  means both quantity and quality to me.

Ultimately, my discovery that Sierra Nevada is potentially my top brewery got me thinking about how I hadn’t yet visited the new brewery in Mills River, which is only an hour north of Spartanburg straight up Interstate 26. On July 3, I already had plans to go see Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ at the Grey Eagle  in Asheville, so my friend Kay and I decided we would first visit the taproom at Sierra Nevada before making our way to the show. It did not disappoint.

Located in the mountains of Western North Carolina about 20 miles south of the beer mecca Asheville, the brand new brewery is awe-inspiring as you drive up the winding road from the interstate. And it was bustling on this Friday, July 3. Apparently many other people also decided to use the holiday weekend as an excuse to visit the brewery. Nonetheless, even though the tap room was packed, we managed to quickly find two places at the bar right in front of the tap list.

I was driving, so I had a half pint of the Hoptinite, which as far as I can tell is only available at the brewery and then later a half pint of the Knightro, which Twitter and BeerGraphs friend Blake strongly recommended after I posed a pic of the tap list. He was not wrong. It's a great Irish-Style Stout, and pretty, too. 

The food was also outstanding. Kay ordered the mason jar salad, and I ordered the “braised and grilled heritage farm pig cheeks.” As an appetizer we split the duck fat fries before finally sharing the blueberry shortcake.

We exited through the gift shop, and I picked up a bomber of the Audition DIPA and a tube of Sierra Nevada lip balm. Kay bought a t-shirt and a glass. It was beer tourism through and through and it was a great outing. The service was amazing, the staff were friendly and the prices reasonable.

What I learned from the entire experience is that I wasn’t quite aware of what beers from which breweries I was drinking until I investigated. What about you? What beers do you drink and how many from which breweries? Do you stick to a limited number of sources, or are you promiscuous like I am? Let me know in the comments. Secondly, go visit breweries big and small. It’s a golden age, and we should take advantage of it as much as possible. What are your favorites? 

A bonus of my visit to Sierra Nevada ten days ago is that I got to use it as advanced scouting for when I will be there again representing BeerGraphs at the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference, which will take place this coming weekend in Asheville. I am very excited to meet the like-minded people who will be attending the conference, learn a lot, and then share with the readers here what I experience.

Harris can be found on Twitter @ohkiv, where he is often the ornery, old guy talking about baseball, music and beer. Also, the Drivin' n' Cryin' concert was amazing. I wrote about it here