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I just started following someone on Instagram

Friday, January 31st, 2014

The someone I’m following is an entity referring to itself as “@frenchbroadbrewing”. Sound shady? “But, faithful bloggist,” I can hear you saying, “why do you call a corporate body a ‘someone’? Did you not watch the pilot of Aaron Sorkin’s ‘The Newsroom’ and were you not moved by his line about how a corporation wasn’t a person because a corporation can’t hold the door open for a lady? Isn’t a corporate body by definition an assembly of someones?”

And so it is, incisive reader: which is why we should not be surprised to find, upon first bringing up @frenchbroadbrewing’s “page” on our Instagram app on our phone, a variety of someones all at work doing brewery sort of things: gazing contemplatively into cold daybreak before milling, performing joyless autopsies on old kegs, grabbing a moment’s reprieve leaning against a pallet of canned Rebels.

Pictured in none of these, but present for all, is Peter “Pete” (“Carbondale”) Batinski, Assistant Brewer, a man who knows his way around a brewhouse. Peter’s as familiar with the lovibond color scale as he is new media. He can help you with your phone; he’s standing behind his in all these pictures, whittling choice moments off the day, popping captions under ’em, extending them to the world like keys, inviting whosoever has a yen for it right the hell in. There’s a picture of the kettle that makes it look like, I don’t know, a storm is building over an alien landscape, or something. We should market a beer like that, actually.


Daddy Mumbles walks down the steps and says, “Oh hell. What now.”

I tell Daddy Mumbles I’m writing a blog post to advertise Peter’s new Instagram account.

Daddy Mumbles sez, “I maybe just torpedoed our social media profile,” or something to that effect, explaining he’s tweeted something incendiary re: our property taxes (i.e., should he mail them directly to New Belgium?)

[Follow Daddy Mumbles’ pithy, incendiary missives at @FrenchBroadBrew]

Daddy Mumbles sez, “You should write something about how I,” he gestures, “whatever you call me, am so behind, I have no idea what you write on these things.”

“You mean, like, Daddy Mumbles is behind the social media regulatory eight ball.”


Yes, sir!


To paraphrase Norman Mailer, how cruel is life, but how just, that it destroys a man who won’t change. Amid the maelstrom of arguable things that constitute the world and our perception of it here in Craft County, USA, at least these two facts are indisputable:

1) We are the second oldest brewery in Asheville.

2) We are the least marketed brewery in Asheville.

But the new blood doesn’t always fall into lockstep behind the old blood. Sometimes it forces a change. We will poke our heads out from under this great big turtle shell. We will not be pretty or new or endlessly funded, but we won’t hide, either.

We open our door for you.


The Pigeon Episode

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Well, seeing as there’s been a lot of talk about helicopters recently I suppose I could relate to you all the wonderful story of the pigeon in the rafters.

While back, we got us a pigeon in the rafters. Just flew right in, did the pigeon, and took up a kind of amiable residence way up over the fermenters, not far from the paper-strewn aerie within which Daddy Mumbles haunts us–the stooped lord o’erseeing his shambling fiefdom. On the daily, lots of barley corn gets scattered outside and the pigeons love it, oh how they love it; they wait patiently up on the power line, so many of them and so quiet it’s The Birds all over. When it’s warm out we leave the big door open and usually one of us will chase them off with a spray hose. When it’s cold you’ll interrupt them, a frenzy of pigeons bearing down on a pile of spilled grain like jackals to carcass. This is the grain gone viral, in a way. People like the grains more when they’re melted into broth, collectivized, anonymous, but pigeons, a pigeon bows to each individual kernel as if it was gold. Isn’t that nice? Well anyway.

They can overdo it, too–particularly when the Rubbermaid cans overflowing with steaming spent grains get parked outside. These the pigeons can actually get drunk on.

Once (and only once, my hand to God) we were molested for the better part of a day by a piss drunk bird of a generally brown hue. There is something unplaceable and weird about how a drunk bird acts: not getting out of your way, weaving a bit, just looking at things. This one was sort of wet all over, if memory serves. You got the impression it was having a bad hair day and was about to die. It was fearless and, in its pigeony way, truculent. It stared down the forklift I was driving like we were in Tiananmen Square. I loved this bird.

At first it seemed death was imminent and would come at any time. That was around nine in the morning. By lunch, it was stronger, though still grounded: it went on expeditions, it peered at things and got in the way, it was possibly scratching items off its bucket list. I had high hopes. But someone said in late afternoon that it was dead, and that was that. So it goes. I think Chris W. handled the corpse, which is one of the things we rely on him for.

Maybe you’ve seen the almost unwatchably funny nature documentary clips in which Serengeti wildlife get hammered on that rotting fruit that ferments in their bellies. All those reeling monkeys. That ostrich. My favorite is the elephant who can no longer stand and isn’t even managing to lie down well, but who’s still trunk-shoveling those things into his mouth with this deranged glee in his eyes. I see I’ve ranged a bit from the point.

So everyone became obsessed with getting the pigeon down from there. The pitchforks came out, the torches. We hoisted brooms, contemplated ladders, thought about throwing things. We turned off the lights and opened the doors and stared into the rafters and scratched our heads. It just sat up there. Someone said, We need one of those toy helicopters. It was exceptionally calm. It occurred to me that the pigeon was possessed of the martyr’s preternatural calm.

The clouds drifted apart and my mind flooded with light.

“This pigeon,” I told everybody, “is a decoy.”

While the flower of the French Broad Brewery’s young, capable, intelligent staff was embroiling itself in a quixotic, unwinnable campaign, the warehouse was left unoccupied, unguarded, the garage door wide open.

The warehouse: the Fort effing Knox of grain.

Even then, a squadron of pigeons was working in concert, clutching with their scores of beaks and talons a single bag of Maris Otter, their frantically beating wings percussive, inspiring, a terror in the cold empty dusty abandoned warehouse. You can see them straining, the fixity of their beady eyes, the bend in their necks. How long did they plot this caper? It had practically torn them apart. To think of it now, this lifetime of precious eats all theirs, if only they’re strong enough…

Finally the bag separates from the cement floor, from the earth, just an eyelash, then a smile’s worth, then an inch–here we goooooooooo!–but the exhilarant wind moves them too fast and they’re falling again, the bag crumpling to the floor. Now they notice, as one, the quiet that’s come over the Brewery, a quiet of no mean moment… They’re on to us… They’re figuring it out. They’re coming! It’s now or never–HEAVE, boys! HEAVE! 

At the exact moment that doom is unavoidable, the miracle: we careen into the warehouse, all us enormous and powerful human beings, just in time to see the bag, sneezing through the air in a cloud of laboring pigeons, at last flying out the garage door and into open sky. The Spirit of St. Louis is airborne; it just cleared the trees.

And what happens while we dumbasses gawk pointlessly outside, having been taken by a bunch of rats with wings? Rafter pigeon, alone at last after a day of torment, dives, takes wing, and flies unharassed to his comrades’ aid. We watch him join up.


That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.








Adventures in Helicoptering: Friday Edition: Photojournalism Edition

Friday, January 10th, 2014


A whimsical Batinski, his shirt coquettishly rolled, daydreams of helicopter fruit...

A whimsical Batinski, his shirt coquettishly rolled, daydreams of helicopter fruit…


A joyful Batinski tries to pluck the rare helicopter fruit from the augur tube.

A joyful Batinski tries to pluck the rare helicopter fruit from the augur tube.


Perimeter guard of Canine Tasting Room Security Unit takes note of potential intruder--in the sky!

Perimeter guard of Canine Tasting Room Security Unit takes note of potential intruder–in the sky!


Daddy Mumbles [right, protecting large scroll like mother bear protecting cub [what is scroll we not know--Daddy will not tell]] tried to subdue helicopter menace with packing tape. One [left] attempts to persuade menace against war with handheld device, while face betrays potential complicity/desire for first blood.

Daddy Mumbles [right, cherishing large scroll] tries to subdue the airborne fruit menace with packing tape.
One [left] attempts to persuade menace against war with handheld device, while face betrays potential complicity/desire for first blood.

Will the Brewery fend off the attacks of the fiendish helicopter fruit? 

Will Daddy Mumbles reveal the contents of his coveted scroll? 

Will a crestfallen Batinski admit his shame in unleashing the fruity airborne menace upon his friends?

Was One, in fact, embroiled in shameful conspiracy against his colleagues? 

For answers to these questions and many, many more, tune in next time for:

 “Adventures in Helicoptering: Friday Edition: Photojournalism Edition: Amazing Conclusion!”




First Friday

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

I should’ve taken a picture, but I didn’t, so here’s as good a description as I can give: a brewer, forklifting a pallet of grain over to the mill this morning, slid on the ice and the battered old ancient French Broad Brewery-style electric forklift, aka “Clark”, it of the mysteriously dandruffy battery and the bent frame and the hilarious little horn, that three tons of brute, one-wheel-drive inertia became so godawfully stuck in the frozen murk right flat up against an eight foot wood fence that all of us who went to look could only gawk helplessly for as long as we could stomach the windchill-aided negative 8-degrees of 2014’s first Friday. Whatever was to be done had to be done quickly on account of that battery there was ticking dead and fast.

(Digression: have you heard about this Swede who invented a watch that ticks down to your expected death? Calls it the “Ticker,” does the Swede. You input some specs–D.O.B., gender, smoking or non–and voi lah, the numbers start reeling down. This is maybe what happens to you if you watch too many Ingmar Bergman movies.)

One time the forklift just got plum forgot about outside and the battery died and three days it sat there, in the way, useless, like a dead whale on your doorstep. Nothing worked. Attempts at towing only warped the metal frame and burnt a lot of rubber. Finally farmer Dale, who since the beginning of Asheville’s craft brew awakening has fed his cattle with the industry’s spent grain, he pushed it around to the charger with his 15-year old F-150. Ford freaking Tough indeed. Got a bumper sticker I don’t understand that says “If it ain’t RED it stays in the shed!”

Without a forklift our backs would break. All of them. One after another. Crack! Crack! You, sitting right there, you’d go to the store and there’d be no more Wee-Heavyer, no more canned Kolsch, no more delicious Ryehopper 22s.

So we got a tow-truck operator over here stat and this guy, was he a pro or what? Turns out Peter took a picture:



I didn’t see it, because it’s “To Build a Fire” cold out there and dying on Friday was not among my New Years resolutions, but this guy had a winch and a boom and the whole nine yards. Ten minutes after backing onto the scene he drove away, having rescued us from paralysis. Peter said he took two calls for jobs while here and that he ended both with “Nothing’s free or cheap today.”  We’re only getting just the western edge of this blizzard, aren’t we? I heard thousands of flights were cancelled. Local writer Catherine Campbell on Facebook wrote, rather arrestingly, I thought, “The 900 miles that keep two people apart have disappeared under snow.” Smoke breaks are hurried, glasses are fogging up, everyone is blowing on their hands. 2013 never did deliver for us here in Asheville, but around eight last night the mountains fell silent and snow drifted in. We watched the noiseless white static stream through the halo of light around the streetlamp, then took a crunching walk around the neighborhood. In wonderment, of course, because look at it.

Well, we’re open. You might call first in case conditions close the Tasting Room a little early, but here we are, seven beers on tap. A pinch of ale is the pepper to the snow’s salt, no?  A whole year of living’s in front of us. It’s $3.50 for a pint but the weather and the conversation are free.