Beer Scout: A look ahead to the coming year in WNC craft brewing

Beer-nanza: Brew scene blows up in 2013

The man walking toward you is Ken Grossman, the founder and owner of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. He’s standing in the basement of the new Sierra site in Mills River where the California-based brewery just broke ground on its first East Coast location.

There’s no clearer harbinger for Asheville beer in 2013.

So before we dig into all that’s opening, moving and changing in the year ahead, let’s take a moment to appreciate the big event.

The thing is, Sierra Nevada is not just big; it’s the No. 2 craft brewer in the country. It’s not just dropping a million or two out East. Its $100 million expansion will yield 300,000 barrels of beer per year in Mills River — more than all other Asheville breweries combined. Sierra will eventually hire about 100 people. Its shipments will change the way the railroad runs.

And our brewing community is legitimately excited about its arrival. Maybe it’s because Sierra hosted our brewers and brewery owners at its “Beer Camp” in Chico, Calif. Maybe it’s because Sierra’s owners and upper management decided to drop by one of Asheville’s homebrew club meetings. Whatever the reason, everyone has good things to say. Tim Schaller of Wedge Brewing Co. may have summed up local sentiment when he told Xpress: “Sierra Nevada is probably the most important player in our craft beer world. … You might think they would be a faceless corporation. Not so. They’re folks with real integrity.”

That bodes well for the entire local brewing scene, which will be busier than ever this year.

Smaller new breweries

Besides the new big guy in town, there will be at least three other breweries setting up shop in the coming months. Burial Beer will likely be first, opening at 40 Collier Ave., “as soon as spring,” according to owner Jessica Reiser. Burial will focus on Belgian ales and German lagers, but also offer a few American-style beers. Among the initial offerings, you can expect to see beers like Reaper Tripel, a Belgian-style beer made with local malt and honey, as well as Hatchet North Carolina Lager, an American interpretation of a light Munich lager. Burial is already on Twitter already: @BurialBeer

Around the corner, Twin Leaf Brewery will be opening at 144 Coxe Ave. It plans to have five core beers on tap at all times, plus seasonals and other one-offs. Not many details yet on the beers, though owner Steph Weber assured me the upstart plans to keep at least a dozen on tap, and, “They will be amazingly delicious, and will cover a wide range of styles.” She also said to expect “some crazy, experimental stuff.” There’s no firm opening planned yet, but you can follow Twin Leaf on Twitter for now: @TwinLeafBeer

Jason Schultz will be opening One World Brewing in the basement of the Leader Building. (The main floor will be Farm Burger, a venture of his brother-in-law, Jason Mann.) In addition to brewing for Farm Burger, One World will offer a unique proposition to Asheville beer drinkers. It plans to sell beer to everyone, but hopes to be a “community-supported brewery” by offering “memberships,” which will include a set number of growler fills per month and discounts on pints.

Moving in or moving up?

Local favorite Catawba Valley Brewing Co., based out of Morganton, will be opening an Asheville taproom and distribution center in 2013. Owner Scott Pyatt has yet to announce the exact location, but said they are “real close.” He added that the taproom will have live music and be a home for Catawba’s pilot system. “The brewers are doing their homework … their creative brewing caps are on right now as we get ready for this,” said Pyatt.

Beer bar and brewery Thirsty Monk’s South location will have an inter-Asheville move in 2013, from Gerber Village to Biltmore Park Town Square. It will have more space all around, including expanded outdoor seating and space for a larger brewing operation. Owner Barry Bialik said he hopes to open the doors in April, around the corner from Neo Burrito.

Oyster House Brewing Company will soon have an Asheville location of its own for the first time. Billy Klingel will be moving his brewing operation out of the basement of downtown seafood restaurant The Lobster Trap over to West Asheville. And yes, you will be able to order oysters with your Oyster Stout, and other food. The location is 625 Haywood Road in West Asheville (the former location of Viva Deli). Waiting for a table at Sunny Point is about to get a whole lot better. 

Altamont Brewing Company, which has been around as a bar long enough to have plenty of regulars, just made good on the “brewery” part of its name. Altamont’s first beers, a Porter, ESB and American Pale, hit taps the first week of 2013. 

Blue Mountain Pizza and Brew Pub in Weaverville introduced its first beers around the same time. With a small, two-barrel setup, brewers Mike Vanhoose and Joey Cagle are busy cranking out beer. To kick things off, they plan to keep two taps flowing with a mix of American and Belgian ales.

Happily Not Moving

A handful of established breweries made sure they aren’t going anywhere in 2013 by purchasing additional space and/or equipment. Mike Healy of Lexington Avenue Brewery bought the building next door in 2012, and 2013 will be the year he puts it into use. The new space will be anchored by a fast-casual “farm-to-wok” restaurant, according to Healy. He also plans to install new tanks and a lab for the brewery. That’s right: brewery tours will soon include a glimpse of the lab at the LAB.

A group of Highland Brewing investors recently completed the purchase of 30 acres and 110,000 square feet at its current location, and now owns the entire space that was once Blue Ridge Motion Pictures. Highland has announced no immediate plans for the new space, but is happy to have security (and space to grow). In 2013, we can continue to look forward to new seasonals. Last year, Highland saw huge success with offerings like Little Hump Spring Ale and Thunderstruck Coffee Porter. This year it's kicking things off with Devil’s Britches, a new red IPA named in honor of the trail of the same name. Like all Highland seasonals, the unique name comes from a Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy protected site, and it will partner with SAHC on multiple events to release the beer. See Highland’s website for details on the tasting-room party, hike and more: www.highlandbrewing.com

Greenman Brewery just underwent an expansion in which it bought additional space and equipment. (See the Jan. 16 Brews News at http://avl.mx/pg for more.) In addition to meeting demand for its core beers, they will soon have six packs and plenty of brand-new beers at the taproom and around town.

Tim Schaller and other Wedge Brewing Co. investors purchased the Wedge building in the River Arts District in 2012. While many were hoping that meant the brewery would expand and start bottling again in 2013, Schaller said the 2013 changes will be less about Wedge Brewing and more about the rest of the Wedge building. If the other new tenants are anything like the first one announced (a restaurant involving Drew Wallace of the Admiral), it will be quite a year.

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