Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas: The Most Wonderful Time For A Beer

Sapphire Mountain Brewing Company
553 West Main Street
Sylva, NC
Visited December 5, 2010

Beer Selection: Good variety of local microbrews.

Food: Sandwiches and good pizza (supposedly, if you get there before 7pm on a day that isn’t snowing).

‘Tis the season!

Main Street on the quaint far-Western North Carolina mountain town of Sylva was decked out for Christmas.

As if on cue to enhance the ambiance, like out of one of those ubiquitous Budweiser Clydesdale TV ads, the snow flakes began to fly as I pulled up in front of Sapphire Mountain Brewing Company.

The owner of the place, Craig Shatto, jumps into the Christmas spirit with both snow boots. The entire courtyard leading up to the atmospheric 100-year-old mountain-home-turned-restaurant is filled with piped-in Christmas carols and 16 fully lighted and decorated 12-foot Christmas trees.

Those corporate hacks at Wal-Mart, who now subject their customers to Federal Homeland Security videos at the check-out line but bar their greeters from wishing Merry Christmas, could never hire this guy.

Waaaay too festive.

The celebration of the season continues once you open the front door and trod the centuries-old hardwood pine floors, as more holiday music and Christmas trees await you inside.


Sure. But during these days of Big Brother Wal-Mart military-industrial bahhumbugness and taxpayer-owned banks that have banished Christmas trees from their lobbies, a right-wing Christian takes what he can get when he goes out drinking.

Unfortunately, my Christmas spirit dissipated quickly once I presented myself to the hostess.

“I kind of think we are closed.”

“What????” I yelled incredulously as I looked at my watch.

“You kind of think you are closed at 7:15?”

Now, as a resident of a small Southern town myself, I’ve long ago learned that you don’t want to be hungry after 8pm – or you’ll end up at the Huddle House (the poor man’s version of Waffle House).

But closing at 7:15 – even on a Sunday – is a bit ridiculous.

After all, my Best Western desk clerk highly recommended the pizza at Sapphire Brewing Company – and assured me they are open until midnight on Sundays.

My loud protest prompted the manager to scurry to the hostess stand and assure this suddenly unhappy customer that they would be happy to serve me – as long as I don’t order pizza. He already shut the pizza oven down for the night.


The manager explained that as soon as it starts snowing, business dries up quicker than a snowball in July.

Never mind that the snow flurries – while festively atmospheric – weren’t about to accumulate into so much as a Dairy Queen Blizzard.

“You’d think these Carolina mountain people would be used to it,” he said. “But they lock themselves up tight at the first sight of a flake.”

Just then, the front door opened and a party of five presented themselves for an evening of beer and food, which made me feel better about any inconvenience my existence might have caused.

Relegated to the sandwich section of the menu, my Italian Sausage sandwich was okay. Nothing spectacular. Topped with a few onions and red peppers supposedly sautéed in “Sapphire High Red Ale”, it could have used something more – maybe a marinara or some sort of zesty condiment.

On the side, I ordered onion petals that came with a beer-cheese dipping sauce, which just didn’t work. The texture of the beer-cheese was too thick for the delicately fried petals. And even if you could somehow get the beer-cheese onto the petal, the flavors just don’t mix that well.

Look. I love beer. And I love dipping sauces. But even I think you can stretch it too far on occasion.

Clearly, the highlight of the meal was the beer and the appetizer of crab & jalapeño poppers.

While not house-made, the pre-packaged poppers packed a spicy, cheesy, crunchy bite. All the more reason to reach for the specialty of the house.


My friendly, easy-going waiter – who, unlike the hostess, didn’t seem put out in the least to be working past the ungodly hour of 7:15 – recommended a porter from the local Green Man Ales brewery.

The porter was so good, I ordered a couple, rather than sampling Sapphire’s other selections.

Dark, heavy and full of nutty, chocolaty flavor, Green Man Porter was the perfect choice for a cold winter’s Smoky Mountain evening.

While snowfall, carols and red ornaments on a green Christmas tree may be the secular symbols of Christmas for many, nothing puts me in the festive sprit like a dark, toasty winter ale.

Merry Christmas, indeed!

Rating: Would Wear A Free Shirt.

No comments:

Post a Comment