Blog :: 2011

Travel website names Asheville a top up-and-coming destination



12/30/2011 - Travel website names Asheville a top up-and-coming destination
by Jason Sandford - Asheville Citizen-Times

ASHEVILLE -- The popular travel website Trip Advisor has once again handed an accolade to the city, including it in a list of 15 up-and-coming destinations for travelers.

In a list of 15 "destinations on the rise," the site notes that Asheville's "blend of remote Appalachian charm and cosmopolitan sophistication seem perfectly natural." The site goes on to mention the mountain scenery and an array of cultural attractions.

"Thomas Wolfe, Carl Sandburg and O.Henry all once called Asheville home. The city has historically been a resort for the wealthy. But there's also a friendly, small-town atmosphere; the city has a way of making visitors feel right at home," the site's description of Asheville reads.

Other destinations on the list include Branson, Mo., Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Austin, Texas, and Scottsdale, Ariz.

LeeAnn Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the Biltmore Estate, said the impact of such a notice can be seen at the historic attraction as well as the streets of downtown.

"Asheville has recieved so much exposure, I think all you have to do is walk down the street and see how lively it is," Donnelly said.

At the estate, the November-December Christmas season has been strong, Donnelly said. The estate gets about 1 million visitors a year, with about 300,000 of them visiting during those two months, she said.

"We've had a great Christmas, with this week typically being one of the busiest for us," she said.

The latest Trip Advisor mention comes after the site included Asheville on a list of top food and wine destinations in the U.S earlier this year.

The television show "Good Morning America" named Asheville one of the 10 most beautiful places in the U.S. And earlier this week, the travel website included Asheville's Firestorm Cafe in a list of the 10 "coolest independent coffee shops" in the U.S.


Trip Advisor's 15 destinations on the rise

1. Nashville, Tenn. 
2. Austin, Texas 
3. Fort Myers, Fla. 
4. Pigeon Forge, Tenn. 
5. Pensacola, Fla. 
6. Louisville, Ky. 
7. Branson, Mo. 
8. Scottsdale, Ariz. 
9. Saint Augustine, Fla. 
10. Charleston, S.C. 
11. Albuquerque, N.M. 
12. Wildwood, N.J. 
13. Asheville, N.C. 
14. Park City, Utah 
15. Santa Cruz, Calif.



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Weekend Planner: New Year's Eve in Asheville means parties early and late



12/30/2011 - Weekend Planner: New Year's Eve in Asheville means parties early and late
by Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- If there was ever a night in 2011 go get out and celebrate with some livemusic, Saturday is probably it.

Asheville and Western North Carolina will ring out the new year with an assortment of parties and productions.

The oddest celebration could be out in Brasstown, in the far western part of the state, where the Opossum Drop always makes headlines. This no alcohol event at Clay's Corner includes music, a Miss Possum contest, and the lowering of a live possum in a Plexiglass box at the stroke of midnight.

Back in Asheville, there's an early Saturday show at Highland Brewing Co., 12 Old Charlotte Highway, where Brushfire Stankgrass plays at 6-8 p.m. Admission is free. French Broad Brewing, 101 Fairview Road, also has an early throwdown with the Leigh Glass Band at 6-8 p.m. There's no cover charge.

World music sensations Toubab Krewe crank it up up at The Orange Peel, 101 Biltmore Ave. The London Souls open at at 10 p.m. Door admission is $31.

Acoustic Syndicate and Town Mountain play Americana at 9 p.m. at The Grey Eagle Music Hall, 185 Clingman Ave. Tickets are $25 at the door.

The bands C*, Samuel Paradise and Pure Light Energy play an electronic music dance party at 9 p.m. at Adam Dalton Distillery, 251 Biltmore Ave. Admission is $5 at the door.

The Charles Walker Band does the honors with fun, blues and R&B tonight at Tressa's, 28 Broadway. The night includes a soulfood buffet, champagne toast at midnight and a balloon drop.

Arcade Asheville, 130 College St., will host a big party with the introduction of a new brew, 8-bit Ale at 5-10 p.m. and a dance with DJKipper Schauer at 10 p.m.

Discordian Society plays experimental funk at 10 p.m .at the WestvillePub, 777 Haywood Road in West Asheville.

The Firecracker Jazz Band bring some snap, crackle and pop to the scene at White Horse Black Mountain, 105 Montreat Road in Black Mountain. Admission is $25. The Shane Pruitt Band brings out the blues and soul at 9:30 p.m. at Pisgah Brewing, 150 Eastside Dr. in Black Mountian. Admission is $12.

Vertigo Jazz Project and One Leg Up play at 9:30 p.m. at MoDaddy's, 77 Biltmore Ave. Admission is $10 (before 10 p.m.), $15 after. The Cisco Playboys do Western swing at Barley's Taproom, 42 Biltmore Ave.

Asheville's new Club Metropolis, 38 N. French Broad Ave., has a big dance music show tonight with PlayLow, Futexture, Marley Carroll and more. Admission is $15. The Grove House, 11 Grove St., has a beat going at its three venues: Club Eleven, Scandals and The Boiler Room. Admission is $20 for members, $25 for everyone else.

Sons of Ralph do rockin' bluegrass Jack of the Wood, 95 Patton Ave. It's a $10 cover. Yo Ma ma's Big Fat Booty Band plays at 10 p.m. at the Asheville Music Hall, 31 Patton Ave. Admission is $25.

The Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Ave., has two parties going tonight each with a $60 admission. Big Blast and the Party Masters play in the Grand Ballroom. The Doug Burns Band headlines in the Heritage Ballroom. Both shows start at 9 p.m. Fontana Village Resort in Fontana Dam has a New Year's Eve event that includes a dinner party, music by the Caribbean Cowboys, a champagne toast and fireworks at midnight for $62 per person.

The Avett Brothers have taken their New Year's Eve show and moved it from Asheville to The Bilo Center in Greenville, S.C. If you buy through Ticketmaster, it's $56.95 for upper level seating and $62.10 for both floor level seating and floor standing admission.



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Largest job fair in the region is Thursday



12/29/2011 - Largest job fair in the region is Thursday
by Blue Ridge Now

More than 80 employers will have booths at the Homecoming Job Fair Thursday, along with representatives to accept resumes and applications for job openings available now or in the coming months.


Employers participating this year are:

o Advanced Business Equipment
o American Recycling of WNC
o Asheville Family Health Center
o Bayada Nurses
o BB&T
o Carolina Information Technology Resource Corp.
o Comforce Staffing Services
o Extreme Global Marketing
o Friday Staffing Services
o Four Seasons Compassion for Life
o GE Aviation
o HomeTrust Bank
o Ingles Markets Inc.
o Linamar
o Mills Manufacturing Corporation
o North American Roofing Services Inc.
o NC State Highway Patrol
o Nypro Asheville
o Pardee Hospital
o Park Ridge Health
o Plasticard-Locktech International
o Sitel
o Sonoco Plastics
o Thermo Fisher Scientific
o UPM Raflatac Inc.
o Waffle House Inc.

The sixth annual job fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Biltmore Square Mall in Asheville. It's a good opportunity for job seekers and job creators to connect, said Ben Teague, executive director of the Economic Development Coalition with the Asheville Chamber of Commerce.

"As the largest recruitment event in Western North Carolina, we are looking forward to this opportunity to connect regional business to talent, to connect our workforce to employment, and to promote the diversity of career opportunities in Asheville," Teague said.

Park Ridge Health will be participating in the event, said Jennifer Perez, Park Ridge Health spokeswoman.

"It is our hope that we can get in front of a large pool of applicants who may not know that much about Park Ridge so we can inform them of what we have to offer," she said. "Events like this are great since it helps people get a better feel for employers in the area, especially for people who are new to the area.

"We have some food service, housekeeping and administrative-type positions available, and our outlying physician offices almost always have one or two positions available, whether it's part-time or full-time for their support teams. We don't have hundreds of jobs available, but we do have jobs available."

Sponsored by the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, the fair will also include seminars and resume reviews for job seekers.


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Asheville restaurants going green in New Year



12/29/2011 - Asheville restaurants going green in New Year
by Dale Neal - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- More area restaurants that have made a reputation serving the best local foods on their menus are adding local energy going into the New Year.

The city already boasts half of North Carolina's existing certified green restaurants in a bid to turn the city into a center for environmentally sustainable dining. With a $258,000 state grant, the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association is working to help 18 members achieve the coveted "green" status from the Green Restaurants Association.

Posana Cafe on Pack Square was the first to be certified by the national Green Restaurant Association. Tupelo Honey's downtown and South Asheville locations, as well as Green Sage downtown, have also achieved certification.

"It's going to be a great selling point for all our restaurants," said Peter Pollay, owner of Posana and a member of the AIR association's Green Team.

All the restaurants aim to achieve the green certification by Earth Day, April 22, according to Katie Cavert, a spokeswoman for Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute. BRSI partnered with the restaurant association to win the grant from the N.C. Green Business Fund.

Area restaurants invested an additional $100,000 in the project, adding energy-efficient lighting, programmable thermostats and recycling and composting in the kitchens.

Sundance Power Systems workers are scheduled to install final arrays of solar panels today to heat water for Posana and the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.

Solar hot water systems have also gone up at Luella's BBQ, Homegrown, Green Sage South, Rosetta's Kitchen and Neo Cantina.

"Going green really sets these business apart as being committed to their local community," said Erika Schneider, outreach coordinator for Sundance. "These are local restaurants that have become firmly established using our local food. Now they're bringing in local energy in another step toward sustainability."

Other restaurants participating in the green certification process are Bouchon, Burgermeister's, The Corner Kitchen, Frankie Bones, Laughing Seed Cafe, Jack of the Wood and the downtown and south locations of Fiore's.


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Asheville-based Brother Wolf founder finds life's work



12/28/2011 - Asheville-based Brother Wolf founder finds life's work
by Sabian Warren - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- During her time as a nurse, Denise Bitz sometimes would wake up and not feel like going to work.

That never happens anymore, despite a job that keeps her going for as long as 18-20 hours a day.

Bitz, the dedicated -- some might say driven -- founder and executive director of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, has found not only a new career path but her calling.

"I can't really explain it, but it was just what I was meant to do," she said. "It doesn't really seem like work."

The accomplishments at the no-kill animal shelter on Glendale Avenue are a testament to the dedication of Bitz and her staff to finding homes for homeless dogs and cats. The shelter opened in June 2009. Today, it employs 17 people full time and taps into a volunteer force of more than 1,200.

The organization operates under a $485,000 budget, with no money coming from government sources. More importantly, Bitz said, the shelter this year has adopted out about 2,600 pets.

"We fundraise like crazy," Bitz said. "I didn't know anything about running a business, but you have to look at it like a business."

Private donations, benefits, grants -- along with a Brother Wolf thrift store that helps pay for the shelter -- all provide money. The nonprofit's 2011 Masquerade Furball is Dec. 31, giving people a chance to help the cause while enjoying a night out on New Year's Eve.

How it started

Bitz, 37, grew up on Long Island, N.Y., the kind of kid who brought home stray dogs and injured birds to nurse back to health.

Trained as an RN, she worked as a traveling nurse for 12 years, a well-paying job that took her to Denver, Seattle, Las Vegas and other cities across the country -- wherever a nursing shortage existed. She moved to Asheville five years ago after seeing the city featured in a magazine top 10 list, going to work at Mission Hospital.

She had volunteered at animal shelters along the way, but the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which took a heavy toll not only on people but pets, was a turning point for her.

"During Hurricane Katrina, the whole plight of homeless animals became so obvious," Bitz said. "When I saw animals clinging to debris and on rooftops, I felt like I needed to do something."

 She got her chance in Asheville, with help from Joelle Warren, who had been running her own animal rescue in West Asheville. Warren, who today is Brother Wolf's director of operations, and Bitz started out in 2007 by creating a network of pet foster homes before opening the shelter in 2009.

"She's definitely my right-hand woman," Bitz said of Warren. "I couldn't do this without her."

Bitz kept working as a nurse for several months after Brother Wolf opened but eventually had to quit her job at the hospital as the shelter took more and more of her time -- to the chagrin of her extended family in New York.

"My family keeps holding out hope that I'll go back to nursing, but I don't think I will," she said. "Once you do this, it kind of gets in your blood. It's hard to get out."

The shelter is open seven days a week, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, hence the need for the large staff to maximize the chances of adoption for animals there.

"You have to be open before people go to work and when they get off. And on weekends," Bitz said.

No regrets

Running a nonprofit hasn't come without a cost. Bitz took a big pay cut when she left nursing, but she said, "I'm not a person who needs a lot of stuff."

Even with the hardships, the rewards are greater. The Brother Wolf staff is very close-knit, and thousands of animals are saved from being euthanized.

"We're like a big family," Bitz said. "Definitely, when you work with people seven days a week, it becomes a family. I don't have any regrets. I think about almost 5,000 animals that Brother Wolf has saved, and I don't regret that. Life is too short to stay in a job or anything that makes you unhappy."



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Beer Guy: What a year it's been for beer in Asheville



12/28/2011 - Beer Guy: What a year it's been for beer in Asheville
by Tony Kiss - Asheville Citizen Times



Has this been the best year for beer yet in Western North Carolina? It's sure been a 12 months to remember.

The biggest local beer story? The strong possibility that both Sierra Nevada Brewing and New Belgium Brewing will build East Coast expansions here.

New Belgium will make a decision by February. It has not yet closed on property here, despite rumors that are flying around town, according to a company spokesman.

Sierra Nevada seemingly has set its sites on Henderson County. If one or both come here, it will dramatically change the local brew community, and for the better.

In February, international beer authority Charlie Papazian paid Asheville a visit. A few months later, Asheville was crowned Beer City USA for a third time in Papazian's online poll.

Asheville Brewing Co. made a big distributiondeal with Budweiser of Asheville and began canning its popular Shiva IPA and Rocket Girl lager this fall. Now you can get their six-packs at such spots as Ingles.

Lexington Avenue Brewing's top brewer, Ben Pierson, made us all proud by winning a bronze medal for his brown porter at Denver's Great American Beer Festival -- the nation's most prestigious beer event. He was the only Asheville brewer to win.

Speaking of beer festivals, tickets for this year's Brewgrass Festival sold out in a heartbeat this year, leaving some disappointed. But we say cheers to Brewgrass boss Jimi Rentz for making this such a popular event.

Asheville's Beer City Festival and Winter Warmer brewfest became even more popular this year. And while not strictly a beer fest, Asheville's Oktoberfest party was again an overwhelming hit.

Highland Brewing, the city's first and biggest craft brewer, quickly ran though its popular Cold Mountain Winter ale this month. And its new Thunderstruck coffee porter has also been fast seller.

Pisgah Brewing dropped its long-running Endless Summer golden ale this year but replaced it with the crisp and quenching San Francisco Lager. Pisgah continues to amaze with its wide range of brews.

The Thirsty Monk South opened its nanobrewery at the Gerber Village pub. It's the 10th brewery in Buncombe County and just the latest player in what has become a rock-solid craft brewing community.


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RiverLink board committed to raising funds for greenway section at former Health Adventure property



12/27/2011 - RiverLink board committed to raising funds for greenway section at former Health Adventure property
by RiverLink

RiverLink has a new section of greenway in its sights

With the UNC Asheville Foundation purchase of what was planned to be the new Health Adventure site comes an opportunity to expand Asheville's greenway system. The 8.9-acre site adjoins the existing Reed Creek Greenway, paralleling Broadway, and will help connect the UNCA campus to the French Broad River and downtown, offering students an opportunity to safely bike or walk from campus.

UNC Asheville is working with local nonprofit RiverLink.The RiverLink board has committed to raise funds for completion of this greenway segment. RiverLink will be working with UNCA and the Montford Community to gain input on this new exciting new link in the greenway system.

"RiverLink is excited about the opportunity to partner with UNC Asheville and the community to develop a greenway along this property, with an eye to eventually expanding and linking the U CA campus to the Wilma Dykeman RiverWay along the French Broad River and downtown," said Karen Cragnolin, RiverLink executive director.

Last October, TD Bank purchased the abandoned parcel that was to be the Health Adventure at foreclosure auction. The Health Adventure had planned a $25 million science museum for children, but ran short of funds, filing for bankruptcy in March 2011. TD Bank sold the property in mid-December to the UNC Asheville Foundation, who raised the money without the aid of student fees or state funds.

The Wilma Dykeman RiverWay Plan is a 17-mile greenway linking the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers into a 17-mile continuous greenway with separate walking and biking trails anchored on the south at the NC Arboretum and on the east by the Blue Ridge Parkway and on the north by UNCA. Adopted by the City of Asheville and Buncombe County, the plan was the brainchild of RiverLink, a regional non-profit spearheading the economic and environmental revitalization of the French Broad River and its tributaries as a place to live, work and play.

Located in Asheville's River Arts District, RiverLink is a regional organization spearheading the economic and environmental revitalization of the French Broad River watershed as a destination where everyone can work, live and play. 

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Asheville after-school program offering academics, enrichment



12/27/2011 - Asheville after-school program offering academics, enrichment
by Julie Ball - -Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- In one room of the Delta House Life Development center, a group of students is learning what vitamin C does for the body.

Inside another room, students are practicing a song with retired music teacher Angie Benton.

And downstairs, more students are learning to play different kinds of drums.

Each afternoon during the school year, Monday through Thursdays, the center fills up with middle and elementary school students taking part in LEAAP.

LEAAP, or Learning through Extended Academics and Arts Program, combines academic work and enrichment activities, said Shirley Whitesides, program director.

"Our program is an extension of the regular school day. We provide academics, enrichment and family involvement," Whitesides said.

Delta House has provided activities and after-school programs for children since 1983, but a $1.3 million, four-year grant has allowed the organization, working with community partners, to expand its reach.

LEAAP works with about 200 middle and elementary school students at six locations.

The program is offered for free to qualifying students in third through eighth grades, who have struggled with end-of-grade tests.

"We are targeting kids who live in poverty or go to low performing schools," Whitesides said.

Whitesides said the nonprofit also has been given permission to expand the program to other students who may be interested.

"We were told we can now open our program up to all the students and families in Asheville, and if they are not considered low income, we can charge a fee for them using a sliding scale," she said.

The program is also hoping to get donations to help pay for the healthy snacks provided each afternoon to students, she said.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center grant is federal money awarded by the state through a competitive process, Whitesides said.

LEAAP is in the second year of the grant.

Students get a healthy snack, bus transportation, homework help, academic programs as well as a variety of enrichment programs including arts and crafts, jewelry making, African drumming, chorus and movie making.

The students have access to computers and are learning social skills, Whitesides said. Another big push of the program is connecting with parents.

"We want to be able to help the parents so they will be able to help their own children, so we provide classes and services for them," Whitesides said.

Whitesides is a retired teacher and the wife of Asheville City school board member Al Whitesides.

She said the program employs certified teachers, who submit lesson plans. The program must monitor and report students' grades.

Students work on project-based learning, said Anthony R. Turner, sixth-grade math and science teacher at Asheville Middle School, who also works with students through the after-school program

"We just reinforce the common core curriculum, the standard course of study," Turner said. "This is my second year with the program, and I feel like the program has definitely been a success as far as getting the community involved."

Asheville Middle School Principal Mary Margaret Sullivan said she is starting to see greater confidence in students taking part in the program.

"Students are being exposed to a lot of things that they might not have the opportunity to experience," said David Miles, assistant principal at Asheville Middle who also serves as an on-site administrator for the after-school program.

Cassandra Ingram, who works for Asheville City Schools and also works as a site coordinator for the program, sa id a focus has been on getting parents involved.

"We had over 200 parents at our last function. What the program looks at is involving the community and the school together," she said.


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Asheville-area Outdoors Calendar



12/22/2011 - Asheville-area Outdoors Calendar
by Asheville Citizen Times

Professional kayaker Andrew Holcombe gives a paddling exhibition last week in the new Wave Shaper feature in the Nantahala River, the site of the 2013 ICF Kayak Freestyle World Championships.

Professional kayaker Andrew Holcombe gives a paddling exhibition last week in the new Wave Shaper feature in the Nantahala River, the site of the 2013 ICF Kayak Freestyle World Championships. / Erin Brethauer/


Appalachian Ski Mountain: Blowing Rock. Open for skiing and ice skating. Call 800-322-2373 or visit for details.

Skiing with Santa: Santa hits the slopes 1-4 p.m. Saturday.

Beech Mountain Resort: Beech Mountain. Call 800-438-2093 or visit for skiing conditions.

N.C. State Championship Snowshoe Race: Inaugural race, hosted by the Town of Beech Mountain's Parks and Recreation Department, at 1 p.m. Jan. 7. Register at

Cataloochee Ski Area: Maggie Valley. Open for skiing and snow tubing at Tube World. Call 800-768-3588 or for rates.

Hawksnest: Tubing park on N.C. 105 South between Boone and Banner Elk. Now open for snow tubing. Call 800-822-4295 for updates or visit

Sapphire Valley: U.S. 64 West between Brevard and Cashiers. Not yet open. Call 800-722-3956 or 800-533-8268 or

Sugar Mountain: Open for skiing and outdoor ice skating. Call 800-SUGARMT or visit

Wolf Ridge: Madison County. Not yet open. Call 800-817-4111.


RUN IN 2012 5K RUN AND WALK: Race starts at 11 a.m. Jan. 1 at Jackson County Recreation Park, 88 Cullowhee Mountain Road. Entry fees are $20 by Dec. 30, $25 on race day. First 80 runners receive a long sleeve technical T-shirt. Call 293-3053. Register



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Asheville's Green Man Brewing plans expansion in 2012



12/21/2011 - Asheville's Green Man Brewing plans expansion in 2012
by Tony Kiss - Asheville Citizen Times

Lately, there's been lots of talk that either Sierra Nevada Brewing or New Belgium Brewing will build big new locations somewhere near Asheville. But Asheville's next big beer expansion will be of the hometown variety.

Green Man Brewing will build a big new operation on the east side of town, off Swannanoa River Road not far from the Brother Wolf Animal Rescue shelter.

The expansion has been slowly taking shape, and Green Man owner Dennis Thies is carefully putting it all together.

Currently, Green Man makes about 2,000 barrels a year but has maxed out its downtown Buxton Avenue location. That site, fondly known as Dirty Jacks, will remain open and will eventually morph into a pilot brewery making smaller-batch ales.

"If we are brewing (at the new location) by Labor Day, I'll be happy," Thies said.

Meanwhile, Green Man will begin bottling its silky, chocolatey Dweller Imperial stout sometime in January or early February.

Only 100 cases will be filled, and they won't last long.

Beer for Christmas

Still doing that Christmas shopping? Highland Brewing has great glassware and shirts, but is out of Cold Mountain and Thunderstruck porter at the brewery. Check stores for those ales. Asheville Brewing now has Rocket Girl lager in cans, only at the Merrimon and Coxe Avenue breweries. Shiva IPA is one sale all over town.

The breweries are stocked with great shirts and pewter mugs. Green Man has some cool shirts and caps, and Pisgah Brewing has 22-ounce bottles of Valdez and Pale Ale.

French Broad has a nice line of 22-ounce bottles, including Gateway Kolsch.

At Bruisin' Ales on Broadway Street, Julie Atallah offered these suggestions for Christmas: Ommegang Adoration, Full Sail Wreck The Halls, The Bruery Four Calling Birds, Ridgeway Lump of Coal, Ridgeway Pickled Santa, Sam Adams Infinium, Lone Rider Belle Starr, Outer Banks Brewing Santa's Little Sledgehammer, Starr Hill TheGift or Southern Tier Chokolat.


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