If you ever find yourself in western North Carolina, you’ll want to stop by a small blink-and-you’d-miss-it college town called Sylva because it’s home to one of our faves: Heinzelmännchen Brewery. It’s this super tiny basement spot with just a few card tables and chairs set up only a few feet away from the brew kettles… but don’t let looks deceive you!
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.