What trends did you notice in your 2019 beer and cider coverage?
Even though it’s just a few blocks from the South Slope brewing district, downtown Asheville has become its own distinct region. Lexington Avenue Brewery and Habitat Brewing Co. shuttered in the past year, and in their former spaces are two exciting additions: the CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective’s Collaboratory — the exclusive home of new beers made by Cigar City Brewing mastermind Wayne Wambles with brewers from near and far — and Archetype Brewing’s second location. Add in Noble Cider’s Greenhouse bar and bistro and the newly opened DSSLVR, both in the historic Tyler Building, and there was plenty to cover this year from this vibrant, evolving district alone.
How would you characterize the city based on your beer and cider coverage this year?
Asheville remains home to residents who passionately care about their local beer. Be it celebrating the 25th anniversary of its flagship brewery, Highland Brewing Co., or vocally reacting with disbelief after changes to their beloved Brewgrass Festival and Beer City Festival, it’s clear how deeply invested these craft beer consumers are.
What stories uplifted you in 2019?
As part of a concerted effort to meet more brewing industry folks out in the field this year, I finally made it out to Burnsville late this summer to meet with Homeplace Beer Co. owner/brewer John Silver and tour the business’s forthcoming new location. When I first spoke with Silver a little more than two years ago, right when Homeplace was opening, the town native was upfront about the risk — calculated, but a risk nonetheless — that he was taking by launching the newly wet community’s first brewery. The operation’s expansion and plans for even more growth are proof that his Yancey County neighbors support Homeplace and recognize the numerous benefits it brings to the town at large. I expect to see similar success stories in other small Western North Carolina towns.
Which beer or cider article was the most interesting to research?
My beer section writing partner Tony Kiss and I had fun answering our most-asked question — “Is there room in Asheville for any more breweries?” — over the course of a two-part series. While it was neat to get takes from industry stalwarts, new additions and a handful of connected, well-informed figures, it was even more engaging to explore the phenomenon of new and expanding breweries setting up shop in structures formerly occupied by other breweries. Talking with Hi-Wire Brewing co-owner Chris Frosaker about inheriting Craggie Brewing Co.’s comically quirky brewing system — itself the famed original Highland system, made from retrofitted dairy equipment — was a highlight of this year on the beer beat.
Which story/topic from 2019 do you anticipate revisiting in 2020?
The sale of New Belgium Brewing Co. to Kirin Group subsidiary Lion Little World Beverages is still so new that it doesn’t seem real. The ramifications of going from a 100% employee-owned company to being part of a global corporation will soon play out, and it will be important to report on the impact the shift has on New Belgium’s staff and products, as well as the Asheville community.