Sapphire Mountain Brewing Company
553 West Main Street
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 of this quaint North Carolina mountain town of Sylva was decked out for Christmas.
And, as if on cue like out of one of those Budweiser Clydesdale commercials, the snow began to fall as I pulled up to Sapphire Mountain Brewing Company.
The owner of the place, Craig Shatto, clearly jumps into the Christmas spirit with both snow boots on—the entire courtyard is filled with the sounds of Christmas carols and sixteen fully-lighted and decorated 12-foot Christmas trees.
Those bah-humbug corporate hacks who ban their employees from wishing Merry Christmas to customers could never hire this guy.
Waaaay too festive.
And the celebration of the season continues when you step inside and trod the centuries-old hardwood floors full of more holiday music and Christmas trees.
A bit secular and commercial?
Sure. But a right-wing Christian takes what he can get of the Christmas season when he goes out drinking.
Unfortunately, my Christmas spirit dissipated 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’re closed at 7:15?!”
Now, as a resident of a small Southern town myself, I 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 for a Sunday – is a bit ridiculous.
Afterall, my Best Western desk clerk highly recommended the pizza at Sapphire Brewing Company – and assured me they’re open until midnight on Sundays!
My loud protest prompted the manager to scurry over and say they’d be happy to serve me – as long as I don’t order pizza. He’d 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.
Nevermind that the snow flurries, while festive, 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, I chose their Italian sausage sandwich. It 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 spicy marinara or a zesty condiment.
On the side, I ordered onion petals that came with a beer cheese dipping sauce, which just did not work.
The beer cheese was way too thick for these delicately fried petals. And even if you could somehow get the beer cheese onto the petal, the flavors just didn’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 and jalapeño poppers.
While not made inhouse, the pre-packaged poppers packed a spicy, cheesy, crunchy bite. All the more reason to reach for the actual specialty of the house.
My friendly, easy-going waiter – who, unlike the hostess, didn’t seem put out 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 instead of sampling Sapphire’s other selections.
Dark, heavy, and full of a nutty, chocolaty flavor, Green Man Porter was the perfect choice for a cold winter’s Smoky Mountain evening.
While a gently falling snow, carols, and red ornaments on a green Christmas tree may bring the Christmas spirit to many, nothing puts me in the festive mood like a dark and toasty winter ale.
Cheers to a Merry Christmas, indeed!