Some breweries have you at “Hello.” Asheville’s Burial Beer Co. had me at, “Hey you guys!”
As we walked to Burial from the north on Collier Ave., we were greeted by a giant mural on the side of the building that depicted Magnum P.I. and Sloth from The Goonies, arm-in-arm in front of a wall of barrels. For children of the 80s like me, this was a sure sign that I had come to the right place.
Burial is delightfully off-beat, with interior walls adorned with additional portraits of Magnum and Sloth, along with John Goodman’s Walter Sobchak character from The Big Lebowski. There are also antique scythes, hammers and other tools hung on the walls and serving as tap-handles, part of the “burial” theme. There’s an old snack vending machine filled with strange items like toothbrushes, plastic sunglasses, a bunch of fake grapes, empty whiskey bottles and old action figures (this is some sort of funky art installation — sadly, you cannot actually buy any of these things). And there’s a fantastic outdoor area with picnic tables and cornhole boards set up, making this a great summertime destination.
The day we visited, a local named Eddie Cabbage sat at a tiny desk with an old-fashioned typewriter just inside the front door, with a sign that advertised “Poetry On Demand.” It was quintessentially Asheville, and of course we took advantage of the opportunity to have Eddie compose a poem about First in Flights. He worked fast too — we only had time to taste one beer before Eddie handed over our completed poem (and it was awesome).
As for the beer — it was just excellent. We sampled 12 different beers in a variety of styles, and we were taken aback by the creativity of the beer list. Burial really excels at crafting Belgian beers and farmhouse ales, and incorporating unusual fruits and spices into more traditional beer varieties. Asheville is brimming with amazing craft breweries, but Burial ranks right near the top for us.
Let’s get to the beers on tap during our visit this summer:
• Camulet Strawberry Rhubarb Grisette – A delicious, refreshing beer with a bright strawberry nose. A collaboration with Quest Brewing (SC), grisette is a style similar to a saison, but instead of being brewed for farmers, it was traditionally brewed for miners. Virginia’s reaction: “It was frickin’ good.” That about sums it up.
• Shadowclock Pilsner – Clean, floral, light hops, aromas of wildflower, honey and lemon. Extremely drinkable. 5.9 ABV. Perfect for a hot summer day.
• Thumbscrews Imperial Black Sesame IPA – 9.0 ABV. This is a collaboration with Adroit Theory (Virginia). Herbs and spice nose, bordering on licorice, with a little bit of nuttiness. Flavor is nuttiness up front, herbs at the back. Savory dark ale, cold-soaked addition of chocolate rye and midnight wheat. Very unique. We dug it (see what I did there?).
• Gandosa Double IPA – 8.0 ABV, 90 IBU. Citrus hops nose. They say it has notes of hop resin, peach and citrus. I definitely got the peach and citrus along with the robust hops.
• Crucifix Trippel – 8.5 ABV, 33 IBU. This is aged in a blend of red wine barrels — syrah, sangiovese and malbec. The red win flavor comes through more than the wood. This is a lively beer with a nice subtle sweetness and a clean taste.
• The Shroud Belgian Dubbel – 6.5 ABV, 24 IBU – Dark color, comes from dark cystic malts and traditional candy sugar, “gives it much needed bubblegum snap.”
• Machete Extra Farmhouse – 5.1 ABV, 30 IBU – Just a strong farmhouse ale — rather unremarkable to us, but a good example of the farmhouse style.
• Pollination Honey Saison – Malty honey nose, floral and herbal, medley of herbs ranging from lemongrass, hibiscus, chamomile, rose petals, passion flower and elder flower. We thought this was a standout.
• The Rosary Export Stout – 6.7 ABV, 35 IBU. Strong coffee nose balanced by fruit, plum aromas (I pulled a Virginia and accidentally dunked my nose right in the beer — these things happen after a full day of beer tasting). Not too sweet or bitter, balanced stout.
• Thresher Coffee Saison – 5.5 ABV, 18 IBU. Unexpected golden color, but very strong black coffee nose. Virginia’s take: “That’s a trippy beer!” It’s balanced nicely by malt sugars. We enjoyed it.
• Winnower Raspberry Truffle Porter – I like how the chocolate and raspberries interact, but Virginia didn’t care for it (her never-ending search for a really good raspberry beer that resonates with her drags on). They used 210 pounds of fresh raspberries and 40 pounds of cocoa nibs from French broad chocolates to make this beer. Medium bodied, packed with flavor – “amuse-bouche to your drinking day.”
• Doorhammer Imperial Stout – 9.5 ABV, 65 IBU. This one tastes like a Bailey’s milk chocolate liqueur – a bit too strong for us, but once again, it’s a distinctive, unusual beer.
We loved Burial’s adventurous spirit, and we heartily endorse it as a can’t-miss stop on any Asheville brewery tour. It’s right around the corner from Green Man, so it’s easy to double up. So grab Higgins and TC, hop in your red Ferrari, and head on down to Burial.
Aaron Fitt is fortunate to live halfway between Hillsborough’s Mystery Brewing Co. and Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery — his two favorite haunts in N.C. His tastes range from brown ales to pale ales to porters to ambers to sours to Belgians to … OK, he just likes beer.