I have an embarrassing admission to make….I don’t like beer. I have always known deep inside my heart that I would be exponentially cooler if I liked beer, wine and sushi, but at 41, I have to concede that it’s just not going to happen. I have had a sip of every beer my boyfriend has had for the past two years, he likes beer A LOT, and none has hit pay dirt. In fact, it’s sort of like those youtube videos where they give a pickle to an unsuspecting baby, except not as cute.
All of this brings me to one of my favorite jobs this year – decorating the in-town house for New Belgium Brewery.
So, how on earth did a non-beer drinker come to the attention of the New Belgium-ites?
Enter the beer tasting dinner, aka, the most beer I have ingested in my entire life.
Even though I don’t drink beer, I was pretty darn excited that Asheville got picked to be NB’s east coast spot. So, when some friends of mine asked if I wanted to go to a beer tasting dinner, I figured, why not….I can fake my way through this. There’s food involved – how much beer will I have to drink anyway.
Well, this dinner was nirvana for beer lovers. New Belgium’s renowned sensory specialist Lauren Salazar was to walk us through a multi-course dinner with every course paired with a different NB beer, some limited run special blends (do they call them blends?); rare birds of paradise sought out by beer explorers everywhere. And, through a strange twist of fate, I was at the table with the renowned sensory specialist, herself, and the other New Belgium folks – no sneaking the peas to the dog under the table, so to speak.
I could do this…sip here, sip there….I’m sure they bring the stuff out in, like, shot glasses or something, right?
Oh no….cue about 5 or 6 substantial glasses of beer that I had to make a visible dent in or I would look like a rube! So, I dove in…sort of.
All I could manage was about 4 or 5 sips of each glass….did you know beer is super duper filling? It pretty much lands in your stomach a liquid but then ferments and expands like a ten pound loaf of bread – like the kind Russian peasants eat. Luckily, my partner in crime, Sumner, also not a beer enthusiast, was suffering the same fate as we shifted in our seats to accommodate the lab experiment roiling in our stomachs….I think by the end of the night, I looked like I was pregnant with a bowling ball.
Through all of this, however, I had a great time getting to know the folks of New Belgium who, luckily, didn’t hold my inadequate taste buds against me. I got to know Jen Vervier, the woman in charge of the transition, who turns out had looked at and liked my flip house in Montford. She asked if I might be interested in helping to make their new home livable.
Since it’s pretty obvious that New Belgium has a finely honed sense of fun and whimsy, their motto is “Folly Your Folly”, one of my main goals with the decoration of the house was to bring in some colorful, graphic and fun local art to give as good a representation as I could of Asheville. I couldn’t begin to totally do the eclecticism of Asheville justice, I did have a budget after all, but I think I got a pretty decent start.
One of the first ideas I had was to do a wall of Lance Wille and Suzie Million’s awesome Handcranked Letterpress posters. These pull double duty. Not only are they graphically amazing, but they also give a good introduction to local clubs, music and cultural events. We’ve got everything up there from the Mountain Heritage Festival to the Orange Peel to Tyler Ramsey.
Dustin Spagnola is a local mural painter whose creations span from the Moog mural at Moog headquarters to pieces created for movie sets as well as more politically charged pieces. His Crazy Horse paintings have been a favorite of mine for a while. Cue, two original Crazy Horse’s for the dining room. Dustin was subsequently commissioned by New Belgium to do a huge mural on the Penland auction building on the site of the future brewery.
And since I knew that the NB folks were fond of the graffiti on the buildings of their future site, I got photographer extraordinaire Meg Reilley to photograph the tags on the buildings for the framed piece above the fireplace. I also picked one of the portraits from her Asheville series for the master bedroom.
One other thing in the house I’m kind of happy about: all the living room upholstered pieces were made in North Carolina and purchased, at a great price, at the Mitchell Gold Outlet in Hickory. Despite what some people think, some major label furniture is still made in this great state of ours!
Other local folks who got in on the act (and some are still getting): Patrick McMahon from Affordable Bedding provided the mattreses, Bionic Man Painting did a great job on the interiors, It’s About Time concierge service is keeping things running with help from Pristine Clean and French Broad Lawn and Landscaping.