Wanna go to an all-ages frat-type party but with better beer?
First drive out toward Black Mountain (even better, catch a ride). Pass through the barbed-wire-topped gates into the warehouse complex that once housed a Drexel Heritage Furniture plant. Enter a door marked only “Unit 100,” walk down industrial steel steps, and enter a beer lovers’ wonderland.
Welcome to Pisgah Brewing Company’s brewery taproom, new music venue, and backyard party.
Every Thursday and Friday night, the colorfully-lit space fills with folks drinking Pisgah’s certified organic beers and listening to live music. Art by local artists adorns the walls and a long bar, featuring 24 taps, livens up the room, which otherwise resembles a concrete bunker.
Grab a beer and wander out back to the fire pit, where folks perch on camp chairs, often with their dogs and kids. Or visit the Quonset hut next to the fire, which features a pool table, pinball machine, beat-up comfy couches and a retro-video machine offering games you may remember from your college days.
Last fall, brewmasters and owners Dave Quinn, 32, and Jason Caughman, 30, opened their expanded taproom. They added a stage area with a sound system and lighting—thereby creating a new music venue for the Black Mountain area. The business partners had been serving beer from a couple of taps next to their brewing vats on Thursday afternoons for about a year and a half before that.
But the brew boys realized they needed to expand both their hours and their space to accommodate the thirsty word-of-mouth crowds. Now Pisgah’s open Tuesdays and Wednesdays till 8 p.m., and Thursdays and Fridays until the music stops.
On a recent Thursday evening, Nancy Oliver of Asheville reminisced about Pisgah’s early days. “It’d just be Dave in his pajamas with his dog filling growlers,” she said. Now you can even shoot pool, as Oliver demonstrated. “It’s still laid back here, and these guys really have a gift for making great beer. You can’t beat it.”
Quinn and Caughman met while living in Charleston. After discovering a shared passion for craft beer, they moved to the Asheville area and started brewing in late 2004. On April 15, 2005, they sold their first keg of Pisgah Pale Ale to Barley’s Taproom. Three days later, they sold their second keg to Barley’s.
Today their beers are available in more than 100 restaurants, bars and stores in the Asheville area, as well as in Brevard and Hendersonville. They currently employ five people full-time and a number of part-timers (when the tap room’s open).
In the new tasting room, 12 to 14 of the taps feature Pisgah beers, plus other beers made by regional brewers such as French Broad and Foothills. For the few who might not appreciate the micros, Heineken’s on tap too. There are no TVs but plenty of entertainment.
“Somebody builds a fire for me, somebody gives me free music. All I do is show up and buy beer. Somebody else has done it all for me,” said taproom regular Emily Walsh of Black Mountain. “It’s like Europe where they have these plazas where people hang out and their kids can play while they relax and have a beer after work. We play Bocce ball in the field when it’s warm.”
In mid-March or early April, Pisgah will start opening on Saturdays. The brew boys plan to feature music that night as well. They’ll start March 14 with local indie band Jen and the Juice’s CD release party. That also will be the first time they’ll charge a cover ($5). The bigger Saturday acts may command a cover, Caughman said, but he hopes to keep Thursdays and Fridays free.
Pisgah’s taproom is booked through April, with popular local acts such as dino-themed soul group Secret B-Sides, bluegrass favorites Town Mountain and percussionist Jonathan Scales.
When the weather warms up, the Pisgah guys plan to offer a couple of all-day music events, featuring multi-band lineups. They’ll set up music and beer in the field, a sylvan glade complete with a creek and grassy picnic spots. And mark the calendars for the Halfway-to-Halloween Costume Ball, set for May 30.
“Costume choices can really be limited at Halloween because the weather’s so cold. We’re hoping this will be a party for people to get creative. Come get your freak on,” Quinn says.
The boys were thrilled to be voted No. 1 brewery in Mountain Xpress’ 2008 Best Of WNC, Caughman says. Oh yeah, and while the music, ambience and warmth of the fire are free, pay for your beer in cash. It’s cheaper at the taproom than at most spots in town: A pint of the Brown Ale costs $2, and the bestsellers, such as the Pale and the Porter, cost $3 each. The higher the alcohol content, the more a pint costs—up to $9 for the 13 percent alcohol Dancin’ Hobo.
“Our goal is good beer at good prices,” Caughman says.
Anne-Fitten Glenn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
what: Pisgah Brewing Company’s taproom and music venue, featuring local and regional acts and organic craft beers
where: 150 Eastside Drive, Black Mountain
when: Thursdays and Fridays, taproom opens at 2 p.m. Music starts at 7 or 8 p.m. Taproom open (without live music) Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2 to 8 p.m. Cash only. For more info and the complete music schedule, visit www.pisgahbrewing.com. Upcoming acts: Vertigo Jazz Project, Thursday, Feb. 26; Brushfire Stankgrass, Friday, Feb. 27; Actual Proof, Thursday, March 5; Soul night with Cardeli, March 6; Cary Fridley and Down South, March 12.