Andy Cubbin, head brewer for Southern Appalachian Brewery, is this week’s brewer on the hot seat in our ongoing “Know your local brewer” interview series. He and wife, Kelly Cubbin, opened Hendersonville’s first brewery and tasting room about a year ago, after a number of delays, which included lobbying to actually change city laws. But since that opening day, the brewery, which previously had homes in both Rosman and Fletcher, has flourished and is packed with beer lovers from Wednesday to Sunday every week.
Here’s what Andy Cubbin has to say about his beery journey:
Who do you brew for and how did you get there?
I am the Head Brewer at Southern Appalachian Brewery in Hendersonville. My wife and I were living in Chicago and looking for careers more rewarding than that of starving photographers. After considering attending The Siebel Institute to study brewing, I realized I could buy a small brewery for the cost of a formal education. I found one in Rosman, NC, and somehow managed to convince my wife it was a good
idea. (Ed note: The Cubbins would move the brewery from Rosman to Fletcher and then to Hendersonville).
How did you first get into brewing?
Home brewing and lots of “research.” Luckily, Chicago is home to some of the greatest beer bars in the country.
When did you drink your first beer and what was it?
I was probably 7 or 8 when I had my first sips of beer while bringing cold cans of Stroh’s out to my Dad and Uncles at my Grandparent’s house in Michigan. Their beers were always open when I brought them, and they got less full as I got older.
When was your craft beer epiphany and what beer were you drinking?
It was probably at an event called Beer School at the Map Room in Chicago. The night featured beers from around Belgium, some rare, some sour, all new to me – my mind was blown. It was definitely one of those “things are different now” moments.
What are the top three favorite beers you’ve brewed in the past year and why?
Our Special Original IPA is one my favorites because of how much people seem to enjoy it. It’s our original IPA recipe brewed with Simcoe and Amarillo among other hops varieties, so we can only make it when we get those hops, which are in very limited supply these days. The Pilsner that we just released is something I’m pleased with because I believe it is pretty true to a real Bohemian Pilsner and it was my first attempt at a lager at the brewery. Our newest beer, a yet to be named Belgian style amber ale, is a very challenging beer to formulate and brew. It will be fun to play around with different mixes of Brettanomyces to finish the beer and get some great funky sour flavors.
What’s a style of beer you haven’t brewed that you’d like to try brewing?
I’m pretty excited to start our barrel-aging program. We plan to do some bourbon barrel-aged dark beers and throw some of our Belgian styles into wine barrels. A good barleywine is something I am excited to make as well.
What’s the biggest brewing snafu you’ve experienced (that you’re willing to talk about)?
A pipe on a glycol pump got knocked into and broke, causing a cold and very expensive mix of water and chemical to rush from the broken pipe connected to a 75- foot run overhead. As we tried to catch the liquid in buckets old school fire brigade style, I hit a pipe on the adjacent pump, and it broke. Two pumps were spewing hundreds of gallons of liquid, threatening to flood our neighbor’s shop and there were no emergency shut-off valves. We now have emergency shut-off valves.
What do you like to do when you’re not brewing?
When we used to have time off my wife Kelly and I enjoyed hiking and camping, and I like to pretend I will one day have time for fly-fishing. Someday I will more actively pursue my love of cooking, and I swear I will have a black and white darkroom again.
If you were a style of beer, which style would you be and why?
I think I might be a Geuze. Not because it has been remarked the aroma of a Geuze can be reminiscent of rotting flesh, but because it is complex, it takes a long time to figure it out, and it changes as it slowly warms in your glass. It is an enigma.
If you weren’t brewing, what career(s) would you pursue?
Real world: I was pretty close to going to law school. Fantasy: ProDarts Tour, or mid-inning relief pitcher.
Is there a question you’d like to ask other brewers?
Only technical questions, every day there is a new challenge when you are largely self-taught.
For more information, visit sabrewery.com.