The New Year’s Vacation: Part II

Continued from Part I. [UPDATE: Grady’s out of surgery and back home, but certainly not himself… he’s allowed hardly any food or water, and he’s quite lethargic and sad. We have to give him pain medication and keep him on a leash for ten days… no stairs for the pup. It’s heartbreaking, but at least he’s alright.]

The drive from Blacksburg to Asheville takes a little under four hours, an hour of which involves crossing through Tennessee. FYI: There are no Sheetz in Tennessee. This is a problem for Shaun, who likes to combine Diet Dr. Pepper and Diet Mountain Dew into a 32-ounce fountain concoction lovingly dubbed “Diet Dr. Dew.”* The speed limit is also lower in Tennessee, and that’s about all I know about the state [except that Mike lives there, hi Mike!].

[UPDATE (10:20AM): Shaun, yelling from upstairs, “Courtney, I always get the 44-ounce cup!“]

We arrived after dark, quickly checked in to what turned out to be the most average yet perfect hotel we could have asked for, gave Grady his dinner and went out to explore. The first stop obviously had to be Thirsty Monk, dubbed the “premiere beer bar” of Asheville. Since Asheville is considered one of the country’s best beer cities [Beer City USA 3 years in a row, in fact], we knew this would be a winner. Plus, it was one block from our hotel. Obviously.

So, get this: 60+ taps and a bazillion bottles, two floors. The upstairs: Craft brews, mostly American, some from other countries, a ton of Asheville beers. The downstairs: a belgian beer bar. Asheville gets us.

the downstairs belgian bar.

Photo thanks to James @ Spreading the Craft Beer Gospel‘s trip to Asheville.

Before we learned the fun fact about the two levels having different brews, we opted to sit downstairs. The plus? The bartender gives you your seat number, so you can order from the other bar and they’ll credit it to your tab. Perfect. The next plus [as if this place needs any more pluses]? They do half-pours of beer, which means anywhere from 3-6 ounces per glass. This was just what I needed to (1) continue my portion-control practice and (2) sample a few beers for the volume of what would be one elsewhere.

That night, I had a half-pour of Chimay Tripel and then a half-pour of Pisgah Dopplebock from the certified-organic Asheville brewery. Brewing organic beers is actually a very intense, difficult process – maybe Shaun will grace us with a guest post about it some day? I loved the dopplebock and came back to it again later in the trip; but unfortunately it was a limited run and the brewery doesn’t sell it in bottles. Shaun had an Allagash Vrienden [a sour beer], the Pisgah Valdez, [brewed with Asheville Coffee Roasters coffee], and then Nantahala’s Dirty Girl Belgian Golden Ale [also from a North Carolina Brewery].

As if Thirsty Monk could get any more perfect, they offer small-plates, many of them vegan and vegetarian. See also my desire for portion control and sampling.** We tried [no pictures that night]: spicy pickled vegetable bruschetta, thai marinated tempeh, and and cheddar/brown ale dip with pretzels [pretzels did not hold a candle to Bell Alley,*** but this doesn’t make a dent in the rating]. The portions were perfect, and we then headed out for a long walk around the city with Grady.

I think we knew on that first night, after peeking into windows and checking out menus, that this was going to be a unique town and a great visit. We were oh so correct. Keep reading for Pt. III – New Year’s!

* Sheetz is one of the only gas station/convenience stores to stock both Pepsi and Coke products in their fountains. Also, this is actually really good.

** And my desire for beer bars to serve more veg-friendly food. I have high hopes for this new biker bar opening on Meade, because if the menu is anything like Tea Bazaar’s [same owner], I’m in for a treat.

*** See this post.


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Categories: Beverages, Dog, Food


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: Tumblr:


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