Beer Scout: Beer bars

RAISING The BAR: After losing its lease at its original West Asheville location, Pour Taproom seized the opportunity to move to a much larger space in Biltmore Village. The new facility features a total of 60 draft lines and a full kitchen serving food from North Asheville restaurant HomeGrown.
RAISING The BAR: After losing its lease at its original West Asheville location, Pour Taproom seized the opportunity to move to a much larger space in Biltmore Village. The new facility features a total of 60 draft lines and a full kitchen serving food from North Asheville restaurant HomeGrown. Photo by Scott Douglas

Pour Taproom’s journey to its new home in Biltmore Village (not Park) was a challenging one. Leaving West Asheville was hard for owner Nate Tomforde, but the decision was largely out of his hands. The self-service beer bar’s lease was up in October, and despite its successful run at the original Haywood Road location, the landlord refused to continue renting the space to Pour.

“I still live in West Asheville, and we got our start there, so it was emotionally difficult,” says Tomforde. “But I think sometimes in life things are meant to be, and it gave us an opportunity to get a bigger space and to build out a kitchen, to combine the love of food and beer together by partnering with a local restaurant. I feel like we made the best of a difficult situation.”

Seizing the opportunity, Tomforde signed a 10-year lease on a much larger location on Hendersonville Road, installing a full kitchen and partnering with North Asheville restaurant HomeGrown in the process. But the clock was ticking as Tomforde continued to pay his employees during the taproom’s hiatus. So the West Asheville bar was dismantled, permits were secured and, after the holidays, he and a crew of dedicated contractors and staff spent three weeks of sleepless nights building out the new facility.

Pour is now open and fully operational, with 48 draft lines of craft beer (and an additional 12 of wine and cider for those with gluten sensitivities) available for guests to sample at their own pace, and a full menu of Southern comfort food designed and executed by HomeGrown on offer for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

The Biltmore Village location is substantially bigger than its Haywood Road predecessor, with an expansive bar area, 75 seats for indoor dining and a 1,500-square-foot, pet-friendly outdoor patio. The new site also addresses the issue of parking that plagues many bars and other businesses in town, with more than 40 spaces available in the evenings.

Despite the expansion, the bar still feels like the original Pour. Coffee tables made with wood from Asheville Hardware were shaped by local woodworker Fatie Atkinson, who used a distinctive natural staining process to obtain a slate-black finish. Antique games, including a 1940s shuffleboard table purchased at the nearby Antique Tobacco Barn, provide plenty of distraction for patrons between pours. A woodland mural painted by Gary Ball echoes the design aesthetic of the previous bar, as does the industrial facade of the 30-foot walk-in cooler adorned with the iPads metering Pour’s self-serve Perlick flow-control taps.

The draft system inside the cooler is a meticulously organized, high-efficiency direct-draw setup installed by Arden-based Divinity Beer Systems. Short, 4-foot draft lines simplify cleaning, and a McDantim gas blender maintains an 80/20 ratio of CO2 and nitrogen. The nitrogen is essentially inert when in contact with beer, allowing the system to push liquid without over-carbonating the beer.

A computerized flow-metering system, which Tomforde compares to those found in gas pumps, ensures that customers with no draft experience can achieve a perfect pour and are never charged for foam. The result is a dialed-in system that minimizes waste. According to Tomforde, industry standard waste on a keg is 15-20 percent, while Pour is operating near 1 percent.

For Tomforde, Pour is about people. Though the business has locations in Greenville, S.C., and Santa Cruz, Calif., those bars are operated by his brother-in-law and childhood best friend, respectively, and were opened to include his loved ones in his success. Beyond the bottom line, Tomforde’s objective is the creation of employment opportunities within his community — positions with a pay scale well above industry averages. Although Pour is currently fully staffed, the demands of the restaurant may necessitate future hires.

“I’m passionate about employing people; that’s one of my greatest joys as a small-business owner,” Tomforde says. “We’re not a robot bar; we’re not eliminating jobs. Our staff operate in a host capacity, providing customers guidance and an interactive experience. For me, it’s always people first.”

Pour Taproom is at 2 Hendersonville Road. Visit pourtaproom.com for details.

Metal up your glass

The cross section of beer lovers and metalheads in Asheville is larger than you might expect — a heavy-metal-themed beer bar has quietly opened in West Asheville, and its reception has been impressive. The Black Cloud is located in a basement adjacent to The Hop at 723 Haywood Road. But owner Brett Morgan is quick to point out that, despite its underground location, it’s anything but a dive bar. His protestations are understandable, considering the bar’s sleek, industrial interior and carefully curated beer list.

Ten taps run the gamut of styles, focusing on North Carolina breweries. Draft offerings are augmented by bottle and can selections, but there is no wine or liquor. The next keg to rotate into a draft position is listed on the menu beneath the current offering, a nice touch indicative of an attention to detail aimed at pleasing both those in the industry and beer lovers in general.

The Black Cloud seems poised to become the new local beer industry hangout, as the grand opening was attended by professionals working for Burial, Hi-Wire, Wicked Weed, New Belgium, Wedge, Twin Leaf, Highland, Bruisin’ Ales, Tasty, Hops & Vines and Tryon Distributors. Response was unanimously and enthusiastically positive.

LPs from some of metal’s greatest bands are played from beginning to end, and classic horror movies are screened on the bar’s lone TV. But Morgan emphasizes that the bar’s appeal reaches beyond headbangers. When asked about the idea behind The Black Cloud, Morgan defies attempts at categorization.

“I would rather not try to describe the concept or direction in words,” he says. “I would rather each person formulate a description for him or herself.”

The Black Cloud is at 723 Haywood Road. Hours are 5 p.m.-midnight. 

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