Beer Scout: A bold move in Asheville

APPLES WORTH THE EFFORT: Brian Shanks (left) and Greg Nix look over the apples Bold Rock is currently trucking to Virginia to press. Photo courtesy of Bold Rock Hard Cider Co.

You could say they came for our apples.

Virginia-based Bold Rock Cider recently announced it was making two new varieties of cider: Carolina Apple and Carolina Draft. Bold Rock describes Carolina Apple as “a crisp and light craft cider,” while draft is “a smooth and mellow sessionable variety.” However, as a proud resident of the great state of North Carolina, the biggest question might be:  Just who is this Virginia company making Carolina brand ciders?

“I’ve been making cider and in the cider industry for more than 30 years,” says Brian Shanks, president and cider master at Bold Rock. In the 1980s, Shanks turned his apple orchard in New Zealand into a cidery. It continued to grow for about a decade, and he eventually sold majority ownership to H.P. Bulmer.

Once he joined Bulmer, he advised on his own company for a while, then helped establish a cidery in China. (Oh, and if Bulmer sounds familiar, that’s because the company also owns the Woodchuck and Strongbow brands of cider.) Since 2012, Shanks been working with partner John Washburn on building Bold Rock, a new independent cidery.

It takes a high-quality apple to impress Shanks, but apparently Henderson County apples have what it takes. When Shanks got a taste of the apples from Apple Wedge Packers & Cider, a fifth-generation apple-growing operation run these days by Greg Nix, he was smitten. “The apples are just outstanding,” says Shanks. “We’ve already started trucking them up to Virigina to press.”

Since Bold Rock was outgrowing its Virginia facility, the team made the decision to plan its second location around the apples its team members fell in love with. “We’re cider makers, though, not magicians,” says Shanks. So while the company plans to build a state-of-the-art facility in Mills River, where it has already bought about 10 acres, it is making interim plans as well.

Bold Rock is currently trying to secure a temporary Asheville-area facility so it can start pressing cider for the North Carolina and South Carolina markets by May 2015. Until then, Bold Rock will continue to ship North Carolina apples to Virginia for pressing and fermenting, then ship Carolina Draft and Carolina Apple ciders back south.

Those ciders are just now rolling out around WNC and can be found at many Ingles and Whole Foods locations in bottles, according to Jeff Liebhardt, Bold Rock’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. Liebhardt says Bold Rock is building draft accounts as well and can currently be found at The Orange Peel, Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria, Jack of the Wood, Biergarden, the Yacht Club and Southern Kitchen.

Sit, Stay, IPA

For the past year, Foothills, out of Winston-Salem, has been releasing an IPA of the month. The brewery’s theme for the first year was vintage pinup girls, and a new girl was featured on each label. The company is shaking things up for the second year of the series: The new models will be dogs.

For the next 11 months, Foothills will be searching through its social media channels to find 11 dogs fit for next year’s labels. (One of the models will be Foothills’ own brew dog, Barley.) If you’d like your dog to be considered, visit Foothills on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and use the hashtags #FoothillsIPAdog and #BarleysBuddies.

Race to the Taps

Highland Brewing recently hosted its first Night Flight race, and Asheville Brewing sponsors the annual Superhero 5K, so many of us here in Ashville have already paired running with a beer after the race.

Asheville Radio Group and Kick It Events are taking that pairing to the next level in 2015 with a six-pack of road races that all start and/or end at breweries.  According to the companies, each race will be four miles, and the goal is to highlight some of the unique features of the breweries’ neighborhoods as well as the beer.

April 25 will be the first race day with Highland Brewing Co. hosting a race in the afternoon followed by another race at Pisgah Brewing Co. in the evening. On July 18, Asheville Pizza and Brewing on Merrimon Avenue will host a morning race. On Aug. 8, a South Slope evening race will feature Catawba, Green Man, Twin Leaf and Wicked Weed. The last two races will take place outside town: On Oct. 3, Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard will host, and on Oct. 31, Sierra Nevada in Mills River will host.

All races will have a party atmosphere at the finish, with music, food trucks and beer. Prizes will be awarded to the top three male and top three female finishers, and there will be additional prizes in masters and grandmasters divisions.

Participants can register for single races, but there is an advance six pack ticket available Nov. 28 to Dec. 31. All races will be limited to 750 runners. Find out more at



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About Thom O'Hearn
Thom O’Hearn is a writer, book editor and homebrewer. Twitter: @thomohearn

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One thought on “Beer Scout: A bold move in Asheville

  1. Tammy Daniels

    First ciider I ever hard. Very smooth,and excellent taste. The apples were grew on my old stomping grounds, Hendersonville. Happy Halloween !!!

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