When we were in North Carolina for Thanksgiving, we spent one Saturday checking out some local breweries. We were surprised to find two hidden gems located in Sylva, NC, a small little blink-and-you’d-miss-it college town. We didn’t really know what to expect going in, but we were pleasantly surprised with both!
The first place we hit was called Heinzelmännchen Brewery and it was this super tiny basement spot with just a few card tables and chairs set up only a few feet away from the brew kettles. The Brewmaster’s name is Dieter Kuhn and he came out and chatted with us for a bit. Dieter is a tried and true beer man. He grew up in Germany and has been surrounded by beer since he was a child, so opening a brewery like this came naturally.
Heinzelmännchen operates with the German altbier method of top-fermenting brewing in mind, which explains why all of these beers were like nothing we had tasted before. Even the self-professed “Hoppy Gnome” was enjoyable (and anyone who knows us knows we’re not really big hops lovers).
Of course we got a sampler flight and tried everything they had on draft. Heinzelmännchen professes to be “the beer brewed for food,” so naturally I put together a little menu in my head as we drank:
The GOPHER ALE was a pilsner type ale that had a real nice tart to it. I think it would pair well with a holiday dish like an herb crusted smoked turkey breast, topped with fried carrot threads and served with a side of cranberry-pineapple risotto.
The ANCIENT DAYS HONEY BLONDE was another pilsner that was made with local honey, which we thought was a nice touch. It immediately reminded me of desserts, so I think it’d go great with a white chocolate Bundt cake made with condensed milk and drizzled with a berry-infused honey (local, of course).
The WEISE GNOME HEFEWEIZEN was a little bit stronger than your average hefeweizen and yet very light and clean. It’d go well with a chargrilled cardamom and lime brined quail topped with bourbon braised wild mushrooms and a béarnaise sauce and served with a celery root, new potato, and carrot hash.
As mentioned, the HOPPY GNOME was surprisingly unhoppy but it definitely had a bitterness at the end. This pilsner would taste lovely with a pan roasted wild duck topped with a candied orange peel and served with a rosemary corn pudding and macadamia pumpernickel dressing.
The MIDDLEWORLD BROWN was an uncommonly smooth brown ale. I immediately thought of burnt butter, so I’d serve this beer with a double seared boar tenderloin topped with a lemon thyme beurre noisette and served with a caramelized cauliflower puree and honey roasted golden beets.
Jess really enjoyed the BLACK FOREST STOUT. It had a real thick creaminess to it that, again, would go well with a dessert, so I’d do a dark chocolate sweet potato pie topped with a bing cherry compote and double vanilla ice cream.
There were two seasonal selections available while we were there. The first, ROKTOBERFEST, was a really silky version of an Oktoberfest that would go well with a fall ceviche of shrimp, scallops, and salmon tossed in a pureed melon and citrus vinaigrette and served over chargrilled pumpkin slices.
The second was their HEAVENLY GNOME, a 12% ABV dark amber ale that was aged in a Heaven Hill bourbon barrel. It had a very smooth, sweet bourbon taste to it that reminded me of fatty meats and upscale bar food. I’d serve this with a rich elk burger topped with smoked pork country ribs, caramelized red onions, fried green tomato, local greens, double smoked provolone, and a Southern Comfort sweet tea BBQ sauce. Mmmm.
We’d highly recommend hitting up this “gnometown brewery” as soon as possible if you’re ever in the Western North Carolina area. It’s definitely a hidden gem that deserves some love.
The second brewery that we visited was a new spot called Innovation Brewing, but it was equally awesome so it deserves its own post. Stay tuned and, in the meanwhile, cheers!