Don Paleno says his main goal with PicklePalooza is to have fun, and it’s easy to believe it, coming from a man wearing pickle shoes. Paleno is the co-owner of DJ’s Pickles and the brainchild behind the first PicklePalooza, being held on Nov. 14 — National Pickle Day — at Blue Ghost Brewing Company in Fletcher.
The festival invites families to come out for fried pickles, pickle-juice shooters, pickle sampling, live music (reportedly with a pickle theme), and a special Pickle Gose beer, brewed just for the event. Proceeds will go toward Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.
Paleno is a chef and former food-truck operator who found that his homemade pickles were quickly becoming the star of the show. DJ’s pickles was started with his friend Justin deWalder in February 2021, and right off the bat, Paleno knew he wanted to celebrate National Pickle Day.
His pickles are made by pouring boiling hot brine over cucumbers, then sealing them, unpasteurized and with no preservatives. They’re super crunchy, super fresh, and full of flavor. Paleno claims there’s no one within 100 miles of Asheville who offers homemade pickles like his, and given that status, demand is through the roof. He provides his pickles wholesale to restaurants and food trucks, as well as to select small local stores and other regional venues.
The Pickle Gose is a German sour wheat beer brewed with DJ’s Pickles’ juice. Zachary Horn is co-owner of Blue Ghost, and also the brewer there.
“What we’re doing is brewing a Gose like we normally do, ferment it like normal, and then after fermentation, we’ll add the pickle juice,” says Horn. “It should go really well together, because a Gose naturally has coriander and salt in it, so to add the pickle juice into a sour beer, it should taste great. We’re excited to give it a try, we haven’t done it before,” he adds.
PicklePalooza piggybacks on Blue Ghost’s reputation for hosting fun, family-friendly festivals. Paleno says he lives nearby and formerly would play cornhole there every Tuesday night, which then morphed into him selling his pickles there at his booth, which led to his interest in organizing PicklePalooza at the brewery.
“It’s a great place for the community; you just kick back and relax,” he said. “Plus, being in the food business myself my whole life, I just connected to all these food trucks and chefs here.”
When the brewery opened five years ago, the two founding families had four children under five years old.
“We did a lot of things for them that made the brewery fun when it was closed, but that also translates into making it family friendly when we’re open, as well. There’s plenty of space for families to spread out and have fun,” says Horn.
Paleno says the event is sure to be popular.
“When I first made the Facebook event page back in February, over 100 people [showed] interest,” he says. “People get super excited about pickles.”
PicklePalooza happens Sunday, Nov. 14, 3-7pm at Blue Ghost Brewing Company (125 Underwood Road, Fletcher). The event is free; part of proceeds from food and drink sales benefits Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. For more information, see “PicklePalooza 2021” on Facebook or blueghostbrewing.com. For more information about DJ’s Pickles, including a list of purveyors, see “DJ’s Pickles” on Facebook or djspickles.com.