John Garcia, owner and brewer of Lookout Brewery in Black Mountain, was used to a certain type of Black Mountain tourist before he switched careers. He’d see people in town because their family has a place in Montreat or Lake Lure. Others he talked to were stopping to grab a bite to eat before going skiing or kayaking. That changed when he opened a brewery.
“In our first few months of business, the one thing that’s been so surprising is the beer tourism,” says Garcia. “Some of the folks that come in don’t give a damn about the mountain or rivers — they’re here for the breweries and beer.”
When Lookout opened in May 2013, Garcia wasn’t sure everything would work out. He still had a second job as a bartender at Black Mountain Ale House. But two weeks later, the brewery was making money and Garcia hasn’t looked back. The brewery is now open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. almost every day and will soon upgrade its brewhouse to a three-barrel system. “We’ve been able to hire two bartenders, a brewer, and a cellarman. … The community here in Black Mountain has been a big support and the extended beer community [in Asheville] has just been amazing,” says Garcia.
What to Expect
Lookout now occupies two units at 103 S. Ridgeway Ave. in Black Mountain, with one fully dedicated to the tasting room. There are about 10 seats at the wood bar and plenty of larger tables for groups. In the winter there’s a fire pit outside, and in the summer a garage door brings the nice weather indoors. Garcia and fellow brewer Chris Terwilliger can be seen at work through a window behind the bar. “We’re the monkeys behind the glass,” says Terwilliger.
The brewers keep at least eight beers on tap with plenty of rotating specialties. According to Garcia, the most popular beer is the Black Mountain IPA — a malty rye version of the style. Allison’s Front Porch, the house pale, is a close second. As the name suggests, it was designed by Garcia’s wife, Allison. “She was sick of me screwing around with different recipes for a pale ale. … It turns out her recipe is what people wanted all along,” says Garcia.
In addition to the pales, IPAs, ambers and stouts, Garcia and Terwilliger always have experimental batches flowing. At the time of writing there was a pilsner, a tart stout, two beers fermented with yeast from wild figs and an early preview of a summer beer flavored with grapefruit. “We want to keep creative. … What we don’t want is the same Oktoberfest as everyone else,” says Garcia.
Last year that meant a Thanksgiving IPA brewed with cranberries and pumpkin instead of an Oktoberfest. Then in December they created a champagne-like ale called Happy New Beer. Next, Terwilliger says to look out for a “white stout” for Valentine’s Day brewed with cocoa butter, vanilla, lactose and sugar—the key ingredients of white chocolate. The two also can’t wait for the hops harvest, when they add wet hops to the kettle within an hour of harvest for a truly local beer. “They’re the best beers you’ll ever drink,” says Terwilliger. “Think of the difference between a tomato in summer and one in winter — that’s the difference when you make something this fresh.”
Lookout is open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday 1-6 p.m. Most pints are $4, eight-beer flights are $8-9, and to-go Mason jars (32 ounces) are $8-10.