My buddy, Billy the brewmaster

Hey gang, it’s Boomer the blogging squirrel.

Did you know North Carolina has gone nuts for craft beer? There are more than 130 breweries and brewpubs in the state. Anytime I visit my cousin Darryl in Raleigh or my other cousin Darryl in Charlotte, we check out a brewery or two. We squirrels are pretty laid back, so the brewery scene fits us just right.

Here on Beech Mountain, we now have our own brewery. It’s called Beech Mountain Brewing Co. and my buddy Billy Smith is the brewmaster. We talked shop over a couple of beers.

Boomer: Brewmaster is a pretty cool title, but what does it mean?
Billy: It means you’re in charge of quality control. I have to try all the beer to make sure it tastes good. Not a bad gig! (Beats the heck outta collecting nuts.) I also maintain and run the brew system, create the recipes and keg the beer. My assistant brewer, Max, is a lot of help around here.

Boomer: Beech Mountain Brewing Co. is nearing its two-year anniversary. What’s been most fun in those two years?
Billy: I’ve only been working in the brewery for six months, but there have been a lot of fun moments. I’d say the most fun aspect is putting together the recipes and then seeing our guests’ reactions when they try the beers for the first time.

Boomer: The first beer the brewery made was the 5506’ Pale Ale. What’s up with that name?
Billy: Our 5506’ Pale Ale is one of my favorites. Using Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops, it’s very crisp and has a nice citrus character. It’s an excellent beer for summer or winter. Its namesake is the elevation of our mountain, 5,506 feet. We also have a bar on the mountaintop named 5506’. I think one of the coolest things you can do around here is drink a 5506’ Pale Ale at the 5506’ Skybar while at 5506’ elevation.

Boomer: I’ve knocked down a craft beer or three, but I have some friends who are newbies. What is a good beer for someone starting out?
Billy: I highly recommend our Beech Blonde. This beer is very light, crisp and sessionable (that means easy to drink in brewmaster speak). It’s similar to a domestic lager, but it has more character and flavor. I also recommend our Wee Heavy Scotch Ale (funny name, tasty beer). When people see a big, dark beer, they often think it will taste bold and bitter. Ours is as far from that as you can get. It’s sweet and smooth with a nice caramel flavor and hint of chocolate.

Boomer: Winter is coming quickly. What are you most looking forward to for this year’s ski season?
Billy: I’m looking forward to shredding the slopes after a brew session, then coming back down to enjoy a delicious beer by the fireplace.

Come on up and join us!