Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Judy and I went to Asheville, NC this past weekend with new friends Gary and Claudette Coulombe Baker, and Nathan and Nancy Hammons. Gary, of course, is someone I've known for over 45 years, but it has been just over a year now that we joined forces in the Princess Theater project and have become close friends. Nathan and I met through the project in March of last year. Both guys are "good people", the kind you enjoy hanging with and having a great time. I've only begun to get to know the wives, Claudette and Nancy, but I'm quickly finding out I also enjoy their company. They are all witty, intelligent, full of life, and seem to enjoy the same things as Judy and I.
The goal was to attend the 2010 Winter Warmer Beer Festival and to see Jeff Daniels (yes the actor) in concert at the Diana Wortham Theatre, located in the heart of the Pack Square Cultural District.

Well, the goal was attained and all had a ball! We walked the heart of Asheville, various shops and snacking at local sports bars. Asheville is a lovely town that gives you a secure feeling as you walk the streets. It's clean, and the center is central of several hotels and motels. You don't need your vehicle to have a great time, unless you want to go out to Biltmore House or other attractions.

When we arrived we didn't have tickets to the beer festival, but that didn't stop Gary from checking out every lead. He finally scored 3 "drinking" tickets, and 3 "DD" tickets from one of the event coordinators at the event site. We broke the news to the girls that they couldn't drink, but quickly added (after getting "the" look) that we would work that out by sharing. Otherwise, we would have been in the doghouse for sure!With tickets in hand we proceeded to Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria to enjoy a good draft beer (I had the Highland Gaelic and, my favorite, Fat Tire) and some appetizers. It was good to sit down a few minutes and replenish our stores and warm up. The weather in East Tennessee was definitely much warmer than Asheville. It was probably about 15 to 20 degrees colder with a stiff breeze blowing. We all had consider only wearing a light jacket or sweater, but we were all glad we brought heavier things to wear. It got down right cold, especially after dark!

There was a throng of beer enthusiasts at the festival, all clutching their "beer" glasses, which were included in the price of admission, and much smaller than the normal beer glass size that they handed out for "water only"! Everyone was friendly and there were no obvious drunks there, or any hint of frayed nerves from being compressed into a small area, shoulder to shoulder with full beer glasses being gingerly guarded in front of them.

Many local micro-brewers offered their product at the event:

From Asheville and WNC area:
French Broad Brewing Co.
Highland Brewing Co.
Green Man Ales
Pisgah Brewing Co.
Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co.
Heinzelmannchen Brewery
Appalachian Craft

Piedmont & Durham area:
Catawba Valley Brewing Co.
Big Boss

Nashville, TN:

Atlanta, GA:

Personally, I didn't find much I preferred. I don't like a heavy hopped beer, no bitterness, but I like pale ales. Of what was offered I mostly tried the vendor's "winter" beers, but settled for mostly the Sweetwater 420, the Yazoo, and the Highland beers.

When we had our fill, we troughed back to the Marriott to get the show tickets. It was freezing! We warmed there for a few minutes and then headed back toward the theater to Jeff.

The theater is a modern 500 seat proscenium theatre built in 1991. We were in the balcony and I had no place to firmly balance my pocket camera, so the photos of Jeff leave a little to be desired. However, you can click on his link above and see him. It look exactly the same.

Jeff Daniels is a musical storyteller and quite accomplished on the guitar. I was impressed with how he could continue to play with all five fingers, scan the audience, and tell his story at the same time. I might be able to do one or the other, but nothing close to him. He was enjoyable, but I think Gary was a little disappointed in the style of music. I think he wanted more upbeat bluesy music, like he I both like, so Jeff left him wanting more. For me, I was thoroughly entertained and was glad I didn't miss this opportunity to see him perform. Would I go again...probably not.

Judy and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and our traveling companions. We also enjoyed the detour trip along Highway 25/70 through Hot Springs, NC and on to I-26 and into Asheville. Intestate 40 has been closed over the mountain to Asheville, which is the normal route, for some time and will probably be closed through the summer due to rockslides. Coming back we took the I-26 to I-81 to I-40 route. Mileage wise it is longer that way, but with 70 mph speeds you can make more time that way. Unfortunately, it rained just about the whole way home. I had to be careful that I didn't hydroplane like a couple of unfortunate folks we saw.

Thanks Gary for coordinating this adventure...we were and are completely grateful for the invitation. Looking forward to future trips!

More photos of the trip on FLICKR!


BRUNO said...

They ain't the smokey ol' room, with broken glass, an' blood-spattered chairs of some of the past bar-rooms anymore, are they?(Thankfully! I'm too old for that, anymore!)

I'd LOVE a visit to a place like this one, someday.

But I still want a CORNER-seat, so's I can't get snuck-up on. Old habits die hard, ya' know...!

FHB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FHB said...

Glad you had a good time. Can't get myself motivated to go out these days. JB and GM are comin' through, but I haven't gotten any tickets.

Mushy said...

Ah, but life passes so quickly. Don't end up with regrets in some nursing home wishing you'd done this or that or them or those!

Suldog said...

It sounds you all had a fine time. I had no idea Jeff Daniels was a musician as well as an actor. You learn something new every day!

Scott from Oregon said...

love that fat tire!!

It goes really good with guitar for some reason...

PRH....... said...

Beer and Music, 2 of my 3 favorite things.... :)

Shrinky said...

That's a sweet photo of you and Judy up there. Looks like a wonderful night out, glad you made it home safe and well.

Buck said...

Beer festivals are a great good time, even in the cold!