Altamont, Oskar and walking brewery tours

Beer pair: Ben Wiggins and Gordon Kear in front of tanks that are awaiting a brew house at Altamont Brewing Company in West Asheville. Photo by Anne Fitten Glenn
Beer pair: Ben Wiggins and Gordon Kear in front of tanks that are awaiting a brew house at Altamont Brewing Company in West Asheville. Photo by Anne Fitten Glenn

Altamont to brew soon

The Altamont Brewing Company boys deserve some kind of medal for persistence. Since they first formulated their business plan, their primary goal has been to brew craft beer. And, after a year and a half of running a rustic but popular bar in West Asheville, brewer Gordon Kear and business partner Ben Wigginsare are finally approaching the day when they will add a brew house to their operations. 

Altamont opened with local and regional beers on tap. Good beer plus a comfortable warehouse space, combined with regular live music acts, quickly gained the bar a following. Adding liquor drinks to the mix helped as well. But the goal always has been the creation of a brewery. To that end, Kear and Wiggins purchased a few tanks from Green Man Brewing several months ago. But the duo didn’t quite have enough cash to put together a full brew house — until now.

An investor/friend and Mountain BizWorks have stepped in with loans. Kear has a seven-barrel system on order, and by the end of 2012, possibly sooner, he’ll be brewing. He’ll start with an IPA, an ESB and a Porter, he says. 

Initially, all sales will be in-house, via Altamont’s taps. Growlers will be available and kegs will be for sale with pre-orders for special events. Then we’ll see what happens, says Kear, in terms of selling his beer to local restaurants and beyond. 

I hear Kear, formerly with Flagstaff Brewing in Flagstaff, Ariz., knows his stuff, so I’m looking forward to tasting his beers.

Altamont will be able to lay claim to being West Asheville’s first brewery (not counting the River Arts District’s Wedge Brewing). It’s enough to make Thomas Wolfe proud. 

New downtown walking brewery tours

A little more than a year ago, Josh Bailey and Stephen Steibel started a business called Eating Asheville. The company offers walking tours of some of the best local, farm-to-table style restaurants in downtown Asheville — from Cucina 24 to Zambra to Chai Pani. According to Bailey, it’s been quite successful, as well as a lot of fun.

Last week, the business partners added walking brewery tours of downtown. For $45 per person, you can accompany Bailey or Steibel to five breweries, getting tastes of three or four beers at each one. Initially, the two-and-a-half-hour tours will only be offered on Friday and Saturday afternoons. The tours start at Lexington Avenue Brewing, move to Thirsty Monk (whose in-house beers are currently only on tap at the Monk’s south location), then to Asheville Brewing, Craggie Brewing, ending at Oyster House Brewing at the Lobster Trap Restaurant. Beers will be paired with snacks at Asheville Brewing and Oyster House. In addition, walkers will get a bit of brewing education, beer history and general Asheville history. For more information, visit eatingasheville.com. Asheville Brews Cruise also offers both mobile and walking brewery tours. “We don’t want to compete,” Bailey says. “We feel like there’s room for more than one brewery tour in town.”

Bring it, Oskar

Brevard, is about a 40-minute drive from Asheville. But I reckon I’ll be driving down Highway 280 a good bit more by the end of 2012. Why? Because that’s when Oskar Blues Brewery will start producing beer in the small mountain town that sits at the entrance to Pisgah National Forest. 

In addition to a brewing and canning facility in a warehouse down on Railroad Avenue, OB will offer a restaurant and music venue in downtown Brevard. The location for that is being finalized, but I hear it’s on a corner of Main Street in a cool old building that recently housed a bank (if you know Brevard, you probably know the spot). 

I talked to OB founder/owner Dale Katechis recently, and he says a couple of his guys are closing on homes in the Brevard area this month, including brewer Noah Tuttle and canning/production manager Eric Baumann.

A few other folks will be moving to the area from the brewery’s home base in Colorado, but Katechis says OB will hold a job fair around the beginning of August to hire the other 25 or so folks they need to get it all going.

“Just shy of 40 percent of all the beer we make goes to the East Coast,” Katechis says. “So it makes sense to have a facility there. It looks like this project will pay for itself within two years.”

Plans for the restaurant are still evolving, though Katechis says it will definitely feature a meat smoker, as the company’s restaurant in Longmont does. The restaurant, Home Made Liquids & Solids, offers Southern home cooking (including North Carolina-style barbecue) to Coloradans, notes the Alabama-born and bred Katechis. The restaurant also features 43 taps of OB and other craft brews. Which sounds kind of like heaven.

When I asked Katechis the all-important question of whether he prefers mustard or vinegar-based sauce, he diplomatically responded that he likes both.

He notes he’s looking forward to spending lots of time here, although the father of four probably won’t move to the area — at least while the kids are still in school.

OB also will offer some special beers just brewed here, including a collaboration with Asheville Brewing Company. Katechis and ABC head brewer Doug Riley knew each other in high school, and Katechis says he can’t wait to brew with Riley.

Waynesville brewery update

Tipping Point Tavern in Waynesville has started brewing — their first two beers are in the tanks — an Amber and an IPA — so they should be pouring in a couple of weeks. Tipping Point joins Frog Level Brewing and Headwaters Brewing in Waynesville. All three are newly opened, making the town a fun place to visit for craft beer.

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