By Sarah Gagliardo
When I was younger, I spent a lot of time in Bryson City, the hometown of my mother. My summers were consumed by long days hiking and tubing down Deep Creek. When I heard a new brewery, The Nantahala Brewing Company, had come to the area a few years ago, I was intrigued. The town is small, and known mostly for outdoor activities and the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway. I made sure to stop in and check out the brewery when I was visiting last summer.
I was bummed when I visited in June, having just missed one of their special releases of Trail Magic. So when I heard their third release came out in mid-October, and now that I was living back in the area, I had to take advantage of getting to try a sample.
Winter in the mountains of North Carolina, just like Philadelphia, can be cold! The brewery remains open all year round, but last year, the owners froze right along with the regulars in their open warehouse format. So this year, they have added a small heated bar with access to a larger seating area. Patrons can either get their beer and sit in the warmth, or bundle up and try their hand at a game of cornhole, or darts, located in the bigger warehouse.
Trail Magic, the beer I was there to try, is released three times a year. This year was the first time for their experiment in the tri-yearly release, but next year is already on the planning agenda. The idea behind the beer is to produce something that celebrates the local wilderness and “Trail Magic,” which among hikers of the Appalachian Trail is known as the act of strangers assisting hikers through kind actions, gifts, and other forms of encouragement, often done anonymously. Not only do the owners hike up and place bottles of Trail Magic along trail points, but a portion of proceeds from bottle sales benefit the Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Program, with the support of The Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The third release in this series is a Belgian Golden, strong aged in locally sourced French Oak, Red Wine Barrels, with Elderberry. It is the perfect fall and winter beer… with a warm oaky taste and the sweet hint of Elderberry. It would be perfect for a Thanksgiving table, and has a wonderful golden color. I recommend stopping in if you’re spending any time this winter in the mountains of NC, and visiting this great little brewery for your own bit of Trail Magic.