Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Shiva IPA

Asheville Brewing Co.
Asheville, NC

Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)
ABV: 6.0%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

You have one night in Asheville, NC, also known as “Beer City, USA.” You planned your trip to Asheville at the last minute, making it a stop of less than 24 hours on your way from phase one of vacation at Mammoth Cave and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks to phase two, in Charleston and Savannah. Your hotel is on the outskirts of town, miles from the downtown and brewery districts, there mainly to serve visitors to Biltmore Estates, which you know you will not have nearly enough time to visit. There are 18 craft breweries in this city of 80,000 people. And it’s a Wednesday night, the final day in April.

Where the hell do you even start?

That’s a great question. With limited time to browse the brewery guides but having made a successful stop at Appalachian Vintner, one of the finest craft brew shops in Asheville on the way in, we threw a dart and picked one. If you’re in Asheville, NC, why not go to Asheville Brewing Co. first?

Apparently there are a few reasons not to do that, and fortunately our cab driver was happy to correct us. After a 30 minute wait in the hotel lobby to get a cab in the first place, we found our driver to be quite pleasant. He quickly picked up on our desire to hit the hot spots in the Asheville craft beer scene and clearly recognized we had no frickin’ clue where to start. So when I reluctantly said that we were going to Asheville Brewing, he asked “have you heard of Wicked Weed”?

I had noticed Wicked Weed in the brewery guide and like Asheville Brewing, it seemed to be in the heart of the brewery district. The driver explained it was an “apparent hot spot” and had good food too. It being the dinner hour and us having not eaten, that’s all we needed to hear, so off to Wicked Weed we went. Great call by the cabbie as Wicked Weed got our whirlwind evening tour of Asheville craft breweries off to a fantastic start.

Alas, with three other brewery stops after Wicked Weed and the clock ticking towards midnight, we did eventually stumble into Asheville Brewing for a fresh pint. We both chose Shiva IPA and found it inferior to the other phenomenal IPA’s we’d had earlier in the evening, but good nonetheless. Even at midnight on a random night in April, there were still a few patrons hanging around the bar enjoying one of the nearly dozen choices on tap and a homemade pizza.

Asheville Brewing was founded in 1995, making it one of the legacy breweries in the dynamic Asheville beer scene. As best my research indicates, only Highlands Brewing precedes Asheville Brewing and that only by a mere year. Unlike many of the newer craft breweries in Asheville, Asheville Brewing is more of an entertainment destination. They now have three locations in Asheville proper, with the original brewpub known as the “Brew ‘n View,” which is exactly what the name implies … a brewpub and movie theatre rolled into one. It also has a game room and full-service restaurant. The location we visited was on Coxe Avenue, in the heart of the main brewery district just on the southern edge of downtown. It’s a full-service restaurant and brewpub and also houses Asheville Brewing’s production/packaging facilities, but lacks the other entertainment facilities that the original brewpub has. The newest location opened on the southeast side of Asheville in 2012 and appears to be more of a traditional brewpub.

Our sample of Shiva IPA at the Coxe Ave. brewpub was sufficiently tasty and led to a purchase of a bomber the next day as we visited the legendary Bruisin’ Ales on our way out of town. Less than five bucks for a bomber seemed a good deal, and we’re always excited to take home some samples we can’t find in the Midwest.

As is often the case, the flavor and profile of Shiva on tap did not fully translate to the bottle. While this could be in part to both transport and storage, it should be noted that I purchased it unchilled, kept it out of the light and in a temperature regulated environment, and drank it about 6 weeks after purchase. Undoubtedly there were still some profile changes, but I was cautious to limit contamination on my end.

Shiva from the bomber poured well, with a creamy foam head typical of an IPA and a cloudy, translucent golden brown color with some noticeable sedimentation. The pour was fairly lively and I did have to proceed with caution so as to not spill. All in all, it looks like a typical IPA in the glass … nothing more, nothing less.

Aromas are pleasant, though not overpowering. Hits of citrus and pine dance back and forth, with the citrus ultimately taking the lead. Aromas of orange zest and grapefruit are met with a faint piney, resinous scent that becomes more subtle and earthy after the initial pour. Not a bad aroma, but not as crisp and dynamic as many other American IPA’s.

The flavor, much like the aroma, is decent but not overly spectacular. Again, we sampled Shiva on tap after having a number of other quality IPA’s at Ashville brewers Wicked Weed, Green Man, Twin Leaf, and Hi-Wire, and it didn’t stand out. The bottled version has some different profiles, but the end result is the same. Hops are present as a mild piney backdrop teases you at times, but it never makes it to the forefront. The citrus that was so prevalent in the aroma is present as well, but in a reduced role. What really stands out in the flavor is the earthy, biscuity malt. It’s a somewhat non-descript, grainy, cereal-like flavor … which is fine, but not necessarily what one looks for in an IPA. The malt profile is one dimensional, without any hints of sugary sweetness or spiciness. As that malt profile takes over and the hoppy profile fades further into the background, it becomes quickly apparent that Shiva is nothing more than a run of the mill IPA. That might fly in some markets, but in the dynamic, top-notch Asheville market, Shiva falls short of expectations and is lapped by a number of other outstanding IPA’s.

Shiva is a decidedly average IPA that may be worth a sample, but is far from the top of the list when visiting Asheville. With 18 breweries and countless local IPA’s available, Shiva falls towards the back of the pack. In a city where unique is normal, Shiva is about as standard and non-descript as you can get. Asheville Brewing is worth a stop if you’re spending some time in Asheville, but if time is limited, make sure you do your research.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on October 6, 2014.
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