Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain

Take a Look In at Lookout Brewing, Black Mountain, North Carolina The most local beer in the Asheville vicinity by Mark Damon Puckett

Lookout Brewing, 103 S Ridgeway Ave #1, Black Mountain, NC 28711, (828) 357-5169

Mark Damon Puckett’s food and drink writing has appeared in Saveur, The Daily Meal, USA Today, Act Two Magazine and Greenwich Magazine with a bar column called “Happy Hours”.   He was also the Travel Editor at The Daily Meal on Fifth Ave. in Manhattan.  Markdamonpuckett.com 

When you come to Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain, North Carolina, you are in the environs of a sublime city of beer, Asheville, sure, but there is something a little more exceptional at this superb and snug brewery.

About 15 miles east from downtown Asheville, Lookout is in a stunningly mountainous small town buzzing with students from the nearby college, as well as local intellectuals and beer tourists stopping off I-40 for a sample brew.  The mix is electric.  The beer itself:  lightning.


Entering, you see kids playing chess and can end up talking to a Ph.D.  Many claim “local”.  Lookout is organically local without forcing it, and it is fun to watch it grow.  Aside from having the most imaginative beers around Asheville, proprietor John Garcia will actually come talk to you about what you’re tasting, which is all pure and unfiltered.  “We’re the most local beer you can get in this region,” he says, “75% of our ingredients coming from within 100 miles.”

Dogs sit around under your feet and eyeball you with a curious head tilt.  Maybe there is a game of Connect Four happening at a table or an articulate conversation with bar maven Katrina about your beer of choice.  It’s a small, intimate place but the high ceilings somehow never make it feel crowded.  Families are at home here.  Some stop in for one while some regulars maintain their usual seats.  The garage door opens in spring.


Oh, and the popcorn machine is always clicking and flowing; a fresh basket is dropped in front of you whenever you wish.  The 1 oz. glasses let you taste whatever is new and you can sip on a couple 4 oz. ones too.  Sometimes you don’t want a flight or a full pint, and these cool glasses allow you try the beers in different ways.

It’s also just, well, relaxed.  Owner John and I were having a drink the other day when 2 beer tourists floated through and left their half-full glasses.  “We have to drive,” they said, and headed on, leaving the glistening quaffs very lonely on the bar.  John and I looked at each other, shrugged and grabbed the unfinished drinks, pouring them in new glasses.  There is no beer wasted here, even if someone else started to drink it.


There are 8 taps with about 40 recipes going in the back at any time, some hard to describe.  “For example we have a Sweet White Ale,” Garcia notes.  “It’s really uncategorized, but that’s what we call it.”

Their hops come from Hop’n Blueberry Farm (hopnblueberryfarm.com) and the malts from Riverbend Malt (riverbendmalt.com), the only maltster in the Southeast.  In addition you have homebrew supplies here with plenty of intelligent talk about how to start your own.

“We currently have over 40 recipes that we are working on with roughly 32 of them being final recipes, meaning they are in production for full time or seasonal offerings.”


Worth note:  Black Mountain IPA, Alison’s Front Porch Pale Ale, Topless Amber, Dark Town Brown Ale, Spyglass Pilsner, GFY Scotch Ale, The Dude Abides IPA, Hoptometrist Double IPA, and the Beer-B-Q.

“Our seasonal selection is constantly evolving but includes Jive Turkey (Thanksgiving), Hoppy New Beer (New Year’s), Nude Brude (Valentine’s Day), Whatever Wheat (Summer), and Mother Pucker Sour Stout (Winter).”

Owner John Garcia relaxing outside on the patio at Lookout

Owner John Garcia relaxing outside on the patio at Lookout

They expanded to a 3-barrel system in March 2014 and have increased production to get more beer distributed to local restaurants and pubs.

“We pride ourselves on our ZERO additive beer,” Garcia tells me, “meaning there are no chemicals, no clarifying agents, no filters, no enzymes, and no anything added to our beer.  We like to keep the product as natural and unaltered as possible.”


Maybe the only caveat would be that as Lookout Brewing grows and it expands, it might have to move from its current place that gives you such a good chance for connecting with people and talking about delicious beer.  I’ll be looking out for more Lookout, though, in all the local bars.

So take a moment to hit Black Mountain and come to a brewery that feels like you just made about 10 best friends every time you leave.


Owner John Garcia
Owner John Garcia



David Gibson’s End of the Tunnel Review

David Gibson’s End of the Tunnel has that relief of musical light to it, the feeling you have when finally exiting a long tunnel.  It’s a well-chosen title, for it captures the exact second as your car whooshes outside of a tunnel’s darkness and comes into the sun again.  And by light, I mean optimistic brightness.  The album is jazz grinning, but of course with that Gibsonian cleverness that makes you know that something deeper and moody is always happening.

First track is Herbie Hancock’s “Blind Man, Blind Man”, paying honor to the past while slowing down this particular track to Gibson’s aural vision of it.  There’s no rush here because we’re seeing confidence.  We’re taking our time while standing on the shoulders of the Hancock giant.  We see further assurance by putting Hancock as the first track and then finding a new Hancock within it.  If you want to know what I mean, then YouTube Hancock’s “Blind Man, Blind Man” and juxtapose it with Gibson’s.  You will see what I mean.   My sense is that Dave Gibson respects his elders and reminds us of them.  He could have chosen any track to start, but he picked this one.  Jazz homage.  True jazz is always paying honor to its past.

Of the nine tracks on End of the Tunnel, Gibson has composed five.  Never forget that this trombonist is a composer at heart.  Boy from Oklahoma, professor at SUNY-Geneseo and Columbia, trained by his inimitable mentor Slide Hampton, Dave Gibson brings a history of jazz to his work.  Backed by Jared Gold pumping beats from his organ like Jimmy Smith’s Finest Hour, these nine tunes come into the classic.  Gold authors two of the tracks, “Splat” and “Preachin’”, so we really have the sensibility of two composers on these tracks.  Gibson composing five; Gold two.

Julius Tolentino on the alto, well, just listen to his solo on “Wasabi” and the subsequent amicable dueling with Gibson’s trombone, and you will see a fervent back-and-forth, merged back into post-solo harmonies between the two that then receive Gold’s organ(ic) riffs—all of which gives us jazz conversations that make you almost think you’re eavesdropping on the sweet jazz past.

A note on Quincy Davis and his drums.  This percussion is like background honey.  By that I mean there is a fluidity to his nearly silent beats, a true elixir that liquefies this album, never intruding, always complementing, never egoistic like so many drummers.  Listen close, though.  The drums are more intense than you think.

The ending of “Sunday Morning” is superlatively smooth.   Enough said.

Tolentino’s solo on “End of the Tunnel” makes your eyes open wider as it keeps impressing on the upbeat, followed by some drums by Quincy Davis that come to the forefront while miraculously remaining subtle.

“A Place of Our Own” takes us down a mood, slowing down the reflection, with Gold’s organ and Gibson’s trombone almost like jazz philosophy, melodic but luminous.

With “Splat” we wake up to harmonies and dissonances, something like the tunnel we need to get through but finally feel we will.  Gibson hits a solid solo after the first minute-and-a-half on Gold’s composition, and it is one of the best soli on the album.  Around 2:51 on the tune, Tolentino comes in a la Cannonball Adderly, saying to Gibson, “I got you,” with Gold always echoing in the background and Davis’ drums just saying yes, yes on top of it.

With “The In-Whim” we get a surreal organ start and harmonic trombone and sax.  It’s the longest track on End of the Tunnel, and the most intensely cerebral.  What do I mean by that?  Well, some songs get you in your heart, some down in your stomach, some even way down deeper below your stomach (what I like to call your gut).  But some songs make you think.  “The In-Whim” made me think about a lot.  Almost like an errand list I don’t want to tackle, but at the end of it I know that I’ve had a good day and that I can have good scotch with a successful friend and talk about life.  End of the tunnel.

“Preachin’”, a Gold tune, but started off by Gibson’s signature trombone, feels so casual that it could be street music.  This is one of the confident-est tracks.  It speaks to blues, to hymns—and back to that deep gut I was just talking about.  Taking us from our mind back to our stomach.  Real.

“Blue Rondo” is a flourishing final track with Quincy Davis initiating this one, his drums having been so cool and quiet through eight other tracks but finally getting his due.  All along no one has showed off on this album, everyone showing respect, and now we actually realize that we want them to show off.  But classy dudes never show off; they merely show up.  So we get Gibson and Tolentino slammin’, showing up.  Around minute 3:00, drummer Davis solos.  Listen for it.

What you realize is that all of these cats have been showing up the whole time.

Miles Davis once said, “When you’re creating your own shit, man, even the sky ain’t the limit.”  And I think about what you see when you leave the tunnel:   the sky.  But I also see that the tunnel limits us sometimes, if you stay in it too long.

If you want to see some sky, though, and if it is possible to hear the sky, once you leave the tunnel, then, man, Dave Gibson’s  End of the Tunnel is something you have to hear and see.

Like paying your toll in the Lincoln Tunnel and coming into the city, it’s all the melodious, intelligent energy waiting for you, a brightness of jazz light just welcoming you well.




My Homage to Jazz and Trombonist David Gibson

Trombonist David Gibson’s website:

For a while now, I have been thinking about how I can best serve jazz, and today I woke up and realized how I could do so.

It was my trumpet teacher’s birthday the other day, which started my thoughts on the subject. Trombonist David Gibson used to come up to Greenwich, Connecticut, from Manhattan and give lessons. Greenwich Music was walking distance from my house, and I would trek a few blocks each week to learn the instrument.


Prior to these lessons, my musical knowledge was inchoate yet oddly performative. For example, I had piano lessons as a child but didn’t recall much of what I had learned, while I also sang and played harmonicas in bands for decades. I could play my harps by ear, but I couldn’t read notes. In other words, I thought I knew something about music. I didn’t know much.

So I lost a job three days after 9/11. Shortly after, around 2002, with much time on my hands, I decided that I wanted to learn to play the trumpet. For the next five years, I made an effort to learn.

I guess I should begin with the fact that I have always listened to jazz while I wrote. Jazz has been my creative soundtrack, my musical epigraph. I can’t tell you how many of my poems, stories and novels have a little bit of Kind of Blue in them. Right now, I am listening to Joshua Redman’s Beyond as I blog.

Every week with David Gibson, in a tiny room at Greenwich Music, I humbled myself. It is difficult to learn an instrument as an adult. I never saw any other grown-ups taking lessons either, only small children. I felt like John Cusack in Being John Malkovich when he’s in the small space but looks much larger, having to duck his head under the low ceiling.

But each week, something began to happen. Not only did I learn notes, I learned about rhythm. I became bold enough to break out my trumpet with my bands. I was asked to be second trumpet at First United Methodist Church. Best of all, you can put sheet music in front of me now and, boom, I can read it!

More importantly, though, I got to see a true jazz musician and master teacher in action. Thereafter, I have followed Dave’s career and tried to see him live when possible.


Over the years, as well, I have been lucky enough to see jazz live in Manhattan (and all over the country). Ron Carter once bought me a drink at Jazz Standard (jazzstandard.net). I’ve seen McCoy Tyner three times. Pat Metheny, Hank Jones, Joe Lovano, Pharoah Sanders, Terence Blanchard, John Faddis, Jimmy Heath, Jimmy Cobb, Branford Marsalis. One time, I walked into a Borders on Park Avenue to see Wynton giving an impromptu lessons to some young boys. He signed my Howlin’ Wolf cd I happened to have: “Yes, yes.”

Recently, I interviewed James Moody and Jimmy Greene personally for the Purchase Alumni Magazine. Moody died a bit later, but I was happy to be connected to him, even for a moment.

This article is about David Gibson, yes, but it is also about my relationship with jazz and how it keeps me going creatively as a writer. Dave and I have both been professors at SUNY schools. I taught creative writing at SUNY-Purchase and he taught at SUNY-Geneseo. Some of our conversations in that lesson room, man, I wish I had recorded them. To know Dave is to know that a) he knows his shit, b) he loves the jazz, c) he performs it with magic, and d) he speaks of music like a philosopher. Oh, and he is always giving back to his fans and students.

Today, October 2011, I don’t take lessons as regularly as I did, but I recently saw Dave at Fat Cat in Manhattan, just a couple of weeks ago in fact. He was playing “The Cobbler” from A Little Somethin’ right when I entered. I have listened to this album, as well as Maya and Path to Delphi for years. I was in Connecticut last year and turned on Music Choice to hear “The Cobbler” and two other songs from A Little Somethin’ playing on the television. He was also on The View with Gloria Estefan not too long ago.

My mom had bought me a silver trumpet at a yard sale for $10. A couple years ago, Dave suggested that I go to Dillon Music (dillonmusic.com) in New Jersey to have it cleaned. When I arrived there, I waited as they worked on the trumpet, and trumpeter/flugelhornist Kiku Collins (kikucollins.com) entered. I bought one of her cds, Here With Me, which she signed. How cool was it, then, that when I saw Dave at Fat Cat on October 7 that I got to re-meet Kiku–as introduced by Dave. Even cooler is that Dave and Kiku have been dating, the merging of two jazz stars.

Over the years, I feel I have become friends with Dave, catching him at a hotel on Park Avenue or up at Smoke (smokejazz.com). I once saw him at The Cornelia Street Cafe (corneliastreetcafe.com) with Dr. Eddie Henderson, and this was one of my favorite shows for its long intimate space and the artists just kicking it. Dave also played with the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni Big Band at Blue Note, led by John Faddis. In walks Dave with his teacher Slide Hampton, playing the trombone section. Amazing moment. Dave’s legacy is in the making; nice to watch it happen real time.

Take a look at jazzbone.org, Dave’s website. And take a moment with me to do a collective shout-out to the professor of the bone, the Chet Baker of the slide, the musician/teacher whose chops keep bitin’. There is a truly plaintive, real sound in his music that gets inside your head and glides down to your heart like jazz bourbon. I hope that if you read this homage, you will begin to listen to him, maybe even take the time to see him live. It might just become a good part of your creative life too.

Happy Birthday, David Gibson. Thanks for the music, the teaching, the friendship, the ongoing soul.