Offbleat: Goats in Greensboro
Kidding around in the Goat City
If you’ve been to Greensboro, you may have noticed the goat presence. No, not feral flocks of goats roaming the streets, just a decent amount of goat-related attractions and activities. Is it a lot? I’m honestly not sure. I’m not dedicated enough to conduct an audit of various cities to count the number of places with actual goats or just have “goat” in the name. My lazy search of “goat tourism,” only showed me various goat farms. I’m going to go out on a limb and make a claim with no concrete evidence and say Greensboro has more goat-themed places than the average city.
Anyway, several months ago I was sitting at home, mulling over possible blog topics with a glass of old vine zinfandel as a not so helpful inspiration when my mind wandered to goats. In an impressive effort to avoid succumbing to my fleeting attention span, I forced myself to think about goats with Greensboro in mind and was delighted to discover there were enough things to be able to write about. I wondered if our city had some goat history that I was completely unaware of. Are all of the goat places connected? Is there a secret society of goat enthusiasts and if so, why wasn’t I invited to join? With this many nonsensical conspiracies, I had no choice but to dedicate a month to investigating everything goat. September seemed to be the perfect month for this topic. The spookiest month of the year is about to begin, and goats are arguably the spookiest farm animal with all of those silly satanic associations and such. Thanks, Éliphas Lévi, but also thanks, Éliphas Lévi!
Fainting Goat Spirits
The best vodka, gin, and whiskey may be made in Greensboro at Fainting Goat Spirits, and if I were a bolder person I would replace "may be" with "absolutely are." Since it opened in 2016, the distillery has earned more awards than I have in my entire life. That’s completely fair though. I don’t do things that warrant awards such as distilling the Best in Class Vodka at the American Craft Spirits Association awards in 2018, earning the title of NC Distillery of the year in 2017, or replacing my favorite gin. Okay, the title of my favorite gin is not a recognized award (yet), but their Emulsion Gin did beat Hendrick’s in a blind taste test, so there’s a more official one. Accolades aside, it’s a great distillery run by a family who cares about crafting spirits that defy the norm.
I had the opportunity to ask the Master Blender, Andrew Norman, some very important goat questions one Thursday afternoon. I, of course, asked the meaning behind the name. Yes, I read the paragraph on their website explaining the name, but it felt like a good starting question. The myotonic, or fainting, goat is their family emblem. If they fall down, they get right back up. Others may call them "odd" for doing things their own way, but that's what makes them stand out. They distill their spirits in small batches using only North Carolina sourced grains and are involved in every single step from grain to glass. And, yes, you can taste the difference. I went on to ask about The Bearded Goat, a bar located down the street from Fainting Goat, was it a coincidence? It was! Andrew had met Seth Mapes, owner of The Bearded Goat, a few years before either goat existed and they both discussed plans of moving to Greensboro to open a distillery and bar. Then 2016 came and they've been happy neighbors since. I suggested they both convince all the other businesses on Lewis Street change their name to include the word "goat," but that will likely stay a dream. I inquired about a goat secret of Greensboro's history and hit my first of many dead ends.
A few days later I returned to Fainting Goat Spirits for a tour and tasting. If you haven't done this yet, I advise you add that to your itinerary of things to do in Greensboro. For only $10 you get a fascinating tour of the distillery and the process of making each of their spirits. Afterward, you get to taste them all and keep the glass. Bill and Shelley Norman were on tour and tasting duty and entertained my many questions. Seeing their different spirits in various stages of the distilling process changed the way I tasted drinks. I've tried their vodka and gin in the past but tasting them after the tour was like trying them for the first time again. I'm sure there's some psychological reasoning behind that, but that may take away the enchantment of it all.
While Fainting Goat may not have had answers to my goat mystery, they informed me of even more exciting things. This December they will be releasing their Rye whiskey and a limited-edition Christmas whiskey. December 2020, look out for their Bourbon and a barrel-aged gin. I tried a sample of this gin... I was left speechless. There's a lot more they're planning, so keep checking in on what's distilling at Fainting Goat.
The Bearded Goat
It was a very special Friday night for two reasons:
It was the 21st night of September
I went to The Bearded Goat to eat goat
When I set out to cover everything goat, I meant it. Goat-themed places, actual goats, and goat products. So of course, I had to order my favorite goat dish in Greensboro - Irie Mon Curry Goat from Da Reggae Café. My friends weren't as committed to the goat cause, opting for jerk chicken and bringing a puppy instead of a pet goat. That seemed to be the more common thing to do anyway. I counted six dogs and zero people eating goat that night. In fact, in all my times at the Bearded Goat, I don't think I've ever seen a goat, but that's okay. Goats are less common pets than dogs and it should probably stay that way given most people don't have enough land for goats. That's enough rambling about responsible pet ownership.
Shortly after sitting down "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire began playing, reminding everyone that it was indeed the 21st night of September. The song played again a few times throughout the night in accordance with "Funk Law," which is something I probably made up. My friends and I ate our dinners, enjoyed some reasonably priced drinks, and basked in what may be my favorite patio of all the bars in Greensboro. There's art in every direction you can look, ample seating without overcrowding, a window to order drinks through when you can't be bothered to go inside, games, and most importantly, a bathtub. It's impossible to be bored here.
Over a few games of giant Connect Four, I asked other patrons if they knew about some Greensboro goat history or secret societies. I didn't get a direct no, but a burst of laughter followed by "what?" is close enough.
The Bearded Goat will be celebrating its second anniversary on October 13th and a second location will be opening at Revolution Mill sometime soon. Fall 2018. Both Lewis Street goats are doing big things, I'd like to say it's from the power of the goat, but the credit goes to the creativity and hard work of the business owners, managers, and staff.
Baby Goat Yoga
A magical place is hidden within a neighborhood off North Church Street. A turn down a gravel driveway takes you from upper-middle class suburbia to a home you’d read about in a fairy tale. Trees circle the property like some type of protective barrier against the stresses of the outside world. Beautiful flowers and a frog pond line the path to the yoga studio where you’re greeted by the older goats before heading inside.
Stepping back to my quest to find as many goat things in Greensboro as possible, I stumbled upon baby goat yoga classes at Unite Us Yoga & Therapeutics through a vague Google search of “goats in Greensboro.” I had heard of goat yoga before but had no idea what it was. Do the goats do yoga with you? Instead of “om,” do we don black hooded robes and chant incantations? Yes, I knew that last one wouldn’t be the case, but a girl can dream. I decided not to find out what goat yoga is. Instead, I simply signed up for a class and went in clueless.
Entering the studio, Cathy Yonaitis, owner and yoga instructor, greeted my friends and me and told us to pick a mat. Four baby goats… I mean kids, pranced around the room asking for a pat on the head or a spot in your lap. Einstein took a particular liking to me, climbing into my lap almost immediately after I sat down. Or maybe he just liked my shirt, a possibility made clear by him nibbling on the collar and kneading my chest with his little hoof. Unfortunately, my t-shirt did not possess the ability to produce goat milk (is that actually unfortunate?), but he didn’t seem to mind.
Cathy has been practicing yoga since 2002 and has an extensive background in occupational therapy, which sounds like a perfect combination for promoting health, healing, and growth to me. Goat yoga, however, was an entirely new venture she hesitantly started just last year by borrowing some friends’ goats after the dedicated requests from friends and students. Cathy teaches alignment-based yoga with an emphasis on precise positions, how would goats help with that? They don’t. Nevertheless, the trial run of goat yoga was a hit, and about a month later Cathy and her husband, Matt, decided to get their own Nigerian Dwarf Goats to continue the classes and eventually breed.
Anyway, let’s get to the answer to “what is baby goat yoga?” It's really just yoga with goats in the room. It can be a bit counterproductive, but maybe it's some kind of lesson in concentration. I mean, it is a challenge to focus on the yoga and holding the poses while adorable little goats try to get you to play and jump up onto your shoulders and back. If I were inclined to be more philosophical, I could point out the duality of the inherent peacefulness of yoga and the chaotic nature of goats and then say something about mindfulness. But I don't think that's why people do it. It's not why I did it. I just wanted to hang out with some goats, who doesn't?
For about an hour Cathy guided us through different yoga poses, explaining the benefits of each one while the goats tried their best to keep you focused on them instead. Some people in the class were harder to distract than others. One of my friends managed to hold a pose I don't remember the name of (I want to say bird dog, but that's a phrase I remember from Pilates) with two goats on her back. Meanwhile, I was more prone to stopping for goat cuddles. It's not difficult yoga, but I'm sure you're not going to break a sweat, you're going for the goats. That being said, I did manage to get my heart rate up through laughing as did the rest of the class. It's hard not to laugh when a baby goat decides to perch itself on your back. And that's what really makes this type of yoga therapeutic - genuine laughter and not taking yourself too seriously.
Public baby goat yoga classes are currently over for the season, but check back during the spring or summer for more baby goats. Cathy does do private parties and offers other yoga classes as well. Visit uniteusyoga.com for more information and updates.
It was a cloudy Sunday afternoon at the Greensboro Science Center. I stood among a crowd of people anxiously waiting to see goats eat food.
"Is it 3:30 yet?" one woman asked aloud while staring at her watch. "How is it not 3:30? These goats need to eat!"
Tension braided itself inside of our chests, growing tighter with each passing second. This was our one shot, our one opportunity to seize everything we've ever wanted. One moment to see goats eat their evening meal. 3:28, my palms were sweating. By 3:29 my knees were becoming too weak to continue standing and my arms felt as heavy as wet bags of sand. I began to forget what I was waiting for until cheering and applause danced through my ears. I looked up to see the goats were nibbling on some hay. I had never felt true happiness until that moment.
Okay, I admit none of that happened. I actually missed the Friendly Farm Feeding, so I took some creative liberties and may have had an Eminem song stuck in my head.
Snapping back to reality, the Friendly Farm is part of the Science Center's zoo. It's home to various farm animals, but the goats are all that matter, at least for the sake of this post. Every day at 3:30 pm, you can watch all of the animals at the Friendly Farm enjoy their dinner. While I may have missed that particular experience, I've still had some goat encounters. As long as there is a docent, you can go inside the pen and pet the goats. I'm always amazed by how full of information the docents are. They can tell you all about the different types of goats such as, "is that a Nubian or Oberhasli goat? And what is an Oberhasli goat?" (For reference, the picture above is an Oberhasli). You can even learn about the goats' personality quirks, which is always my personal favorite. They can not tell you about any secret goat societies though, which makes sense since that'd defeat the point of a secret or there simply aren't any.
Goat Lady Dairy
I did not get a chance to visit Goat Lady Dairy's farm during my month of goat-venturing. But I did eat some of their cheese. It was an intoxicatingly sublime experience. That's not an exaggeration. Really. Try their cheese and transcend.
I feel obligoated (I'm so sorry) to say more than just "eat the goat cheese." I could give you the history of how Ginnie Tate moved to Greensboro in the 1980s and drove around with her two Nubian goats looking for land to buy, hence the name “Goat Lady.” Or that they’ve been in business since 1995 and make seven different kinds of cheese (more, if you want to count each flavor of chèvere). And that these cheeses have won many well-deserved awards, but you can learn all of those things and more at their upcoming events: Open Farm Day and Dinner at the Dairy. So am I stuck with just telling you to eat the cheese? I'm actually okay with that.
I do encourage you to go to Open Farm Day on Sunday, September 30th though. It's fun, educational, and free! There's something special about physically experiencing where your food comes from through all of your senses. It connects you to your food and the planet, which is exactly Goat Lady Dairy's goal.
If you can't make it to Open Farm Day this time but still need your cheese fix, a visit to the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, or Bestway will solve that problem for you.
If there’s some secret goat history in Greensboro, I did not uncover it. I'm not too surprised. While I do love a good conspiracy theory, a guarded secret involving goats is silly at best. There is one lingering question: does all this goat stuff make Greensboro the GOAT? I'll let you decide that one.