FOOD- THE DISH- On tap: Nelson County's new beer garden

Taylor Smack, his wife, Mandi, and friend Matt Nucci expect to open their Blue Mountain Brewery on October 23.

According to brewmaster Taylor Smack, he, his wife, Mandi, and friend Matt Nucci are a few short weeks away from opening their long-envisioned Blue Mountain Brewery. Located in Afton just 15 miles from Wintergreen Resort, the "farm brewery" sits on a four-acre tract of land with beautiful mountain views. 

Smack, who created the popular Satan's Pony and JP Ale while he worked at South Street Brewery, says the new brewery will be modeled after beer gardens in Germany. Unlike smoky, crowded pubs, the Blue Mountain Brewery will be a place to quietly enjoy hand-crafted beers along with spectacular natural beauty. 

"We're already making beer, and South Street has our Imperial Porter on tap," says an excited Smack. "Their Hogwaller Kolsch is contract brewed by us now too!" He adds that he's just days away from firing up his bottler and labeler– he plans to sell his beer at area stores– and is awaiting the last few permits from Albemarle county to open the brewery's tasting room.

If you're a fan of South Street brews, you'll definitely want to check out the Blue Mountain Brewery's new offerings, as Smack has taken all his best practices from downtown and created an impressive line-up of homemade beers. 

For example, where else can you get a "Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout" aged in old wooden bourbon barrels still soaked with whiskey? Or Full Nelson Pale Ale, featuring the brewery's own farm-grown hops?

Elevating Escafé

Escafé GM Chip Sawyer wants to let folks know that they've hired a new chef, Randy Jones, from Nashville, Tennessee, who was voted a top chef in that city in 1997 and 1998. Sawyer says Jones is going to bring a "new level of sophistication" to the cuisine at Escafé. Although Sawyer says he can't be too specific, he advises us to watch for fabulous new sauces and not-your-everyday sides. 

"We're excited about taking our menu in a whole new direction," says Sawyer. "And we're excited that Randy has decided to pack up his entire life down there and come join us."

Holy BBQ!

Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church at the corner of Emmet street and Thomson Road is hosting its annual BBQ cook-off on Saturday, October 5 from 4pm until dark. Last year, Dish and his counterpart at the other local weekly served as judges for the BBQ contest, a rare chance to collaborate on local food coverage. And while we'd didn't agree on which BBQ was best, we did manage to come to a consensus and select the winner. And ate some (actually, too much) great BBQ!

According to organizer Maury Early, there will also be live music and plenty of tasty desserts, and all the proceeds will benefit local Outreach Ministries. Adults and children over 10 just $10!

Eat Mario's, Go to New York!

Mario's New York Pizza & Pasta and the Starlight Express, the luxury bus service to the Big Apple started by entrepreneurs David New and Oliver Kuttner, have teamed up in a marketing concept that nicely merges their two businesses.

Spend 10 bucks at Mario's, right across from Albemarle High School, and not only do you get 20 percent off your next purchase, but you'll be automatically entered into a monthly drawing to win a free trip for two to New York on the Starlight Express.

"David and I were just kickin' around the idea over a few beers," says Mario's owner Ken Waxman, "and decided it would be a great way to promote the two businesses."

Waxman says the drawing will be on October 30, and if it goes well, he might make it a monthly event.