by Eric Ginsburg
Two beer releases. Two cities. One day.
Jan. 24 was my definition of a perfect Saturday, starting at the 100 Days celebration at Gibb’s Hundred Brewing, complete with a limited beer release and a food-truck festival before whipping over to Winston-Salem for Small Batch’s unveiling of a double-shot Percolator imperial stout.
And to sweeten the deal, the rain subsided and the sun arrived about the same time I showed up at Gibb’s in downtown Greensboro.
Part of the problem when I arrived in the Triad as an undergrad back in 2006 stemmed from my lack of awareness of local goings-on; this sort of an afternoon remained elusive until recently.
Somehow my friend and I ended up talking to a few folks attending the North Carolina Winegrowers Association conference around the corner from Small Batch, the conversation somehow winding from Kilimanjaro to a local zombie run. That’s right — the Triad has become the kind of place where the state’s brewery association hosted its annual event in Greensboro and a couple months later the state’s premier wine organization comes to Winston-Salem for its shebang, the same weekend as two separate brewery releases.
It’s the kind of thing I could really get used to, and that I expect to happen with increasing frequency.
Food trucks filled the Railyard adjacent to Gibb’s for the celebration, just next to the ice-skating rink and makeshift sledding hill. Thanks to an extension of the premises for the special event, folks moved freely with their beers from the brewery into the parking lot with food and vice versa.
Keeping in mind that I am in no way qualified to pair food and drink, allow me to say that a beet brisket sandwich from 1618’s food truck got along famously with Gibb’s new Waterloo Wheat, a Belgian tripel beer that is the brewery’s most potent at 8 percent ABV.
The golden beer isn’t as fruity or sweet as its wheat counterparts generally are, making it more appealing while remaining a great session beer. For now, it’s planned as a one-off, meaning while supplies last, though a packed house must’ve created a serious dent in the reserves.
I could’ve stayed, and wanted to, to drink the new brew made with two yeast strains for several more hours, but luckily my subsequent engagement was equally appealing.
Arriving several hours into Small Batch’s daylong event — which kicked off at the exact same time as Gibb’s — it took a minute for my eyes to adjust to the more dimly lit, smaller bar. But there was nothing sleepy about the affair, particularly thanks to the heavy Percolator coffee beer.
Let me also say, while I’m making admissions, that I just don’t like coffee. Never have. But with a gentle buzz on and a few sips deep, I managed to slip into that liminal space where I could appreciate the complexity and beauty of the beer. I downed a glass of the dark stuff easily, and not just for the show of it.
The Percolator imperial stout is Small Batch’s second bottled beer, still only available on site, and the guys think it’s the best thing they’ve put out to date. It’s called the double-shot for a reason — it packs twice the alcohol content of their mocha stout, delivering quite a punch at 10.8 percent ABV. Better yet, the brewery created the imperial mocha-cappuccino stout using espresso beans and cocoa nibs from Black Mountain Chocolate just a few blocks away.
Small Batch is constantly churning out new things, including an apricot-flavored ale with hops from New Zealand called the Taku Rakau Pale. And they’re working on an “Old Ale” using a recently discovered Moravian recipe from Old Salem.
Despite the similarities in typing and type, the two breweries’ events provided contrasting experiences. At Gibb’s, the light, $6 pours came in plastic cups so that patrons could wander into the makeshift pavilion with ease.
At Small Batch, the Percolator arrived in a $16 pint-sized bottle, sealed with wax. Two of the brewery owners’ wives work at Mullen advertising agency, enabling the guys to emblazon the label with an impressive eye-catching design. Adding to the small batch, crafted feel, the guys hand-numbered each of the 312 bottles.
That’s the beauty of a diverse beer scene — there’s something for everyone, and now the more explorative types can make a day of it.
Visit Gibb’s Hundred at 117 W. Lewis St. (GSO) and Small Batch at 241 W. Fifth St. (W-S).