Beer Scout: Burial Beer enters a growth spurt

CAN-DO SPIRIT: A lone can of Burial's popular Skillet Donut Stout rests in the long-empty halls of what will soon be the company's new taproom. Burial plans to add a new brewhouse, two-story taproom, restaurant and more to its recently acquired property near Biltmore Village. Photo by Kristen Oxtoby

Burial Beer Co. has been teasing a kitchen expansion for months — scaling up the Salt & Smoke offerings from former Bull & Beggar chef Josiah McGaughy — but it turns out owners Jess and Doug Reiser have had much more than that up their sleeves.

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, Burial announced the purchase of a 1.4-acre property near Biltmore Village where the Reisers and head brewer Tim Gormley plan to repurpose the six 1920s-era buildings on the premises into a 20-barrel brewhouse with 60-barrel fermenters, a restaurant (scheduled for 2017), taproom and more over the next few years.

“The growth is something that we always anticipated,” Jess Reiser says. “We thought, initially, that we’d be brewing on the 1-barrel pilot system [at 40 Collier Ave.] forever because we didn’t own the building. Once we were able to purchase it, we wanted to fit a bigger system in because we were struggling to keep up beer-wise.

“We couldn’t fit another tank without going into the taproom,” she laughs. “So, we always knew there would be a second location.”

Though the property is far larger than Burial’s first home, Reiser says the new place will carry on the old vibe.

“I think people can come onto the premises [at Collier] and feel like they’ve stumbled upon something,” she says. “[The new property] is similar in a sense. It’s in a neighborhood that’s up-and-coming, people are visiting, but it’s still not on a main drag. It’s off the beaten path.”

Reiser says they were initially looking at farms outside Buncombe County for the new location, but they’re excited about the new space.

Located at 16 Shady Oak Drive, the property was built in the 1920s and purchased by the U.S. government as part of a New Deal program in the ’30s, when it was used as housing for the Civilian Conservation Corps.

“It provided young men with jobs during the Great Depression so they could send money back to their families,” Reiser says. “It also helped build the Blue Ridge Parkway.”

The property has remained mostly dormant since then, but Burial plans to revitalize it — even securing the original blueprints for a point of reference.

The new taproom will occupy the largest structure, a two-story, 6,000-square-foot building, which Reiser says they will convert into a “lounge of sorts.”

“It’ll definitely be a different type of taproom,” she says. “It’s all wood. It has a very lodge-y feel. You can see all the cubbies where the men used to keep their belongings. It’s really cool.

“We haven’t really figured out the liquor component yet,” she continues. “We certainly don’t want it to be exclusive for 21-and-overs, so we’re going to have to figure all of that out.”

The first building to get the Burial overhaul will be the brewhouse, which they plan to have dialed in by May. The original system at the Collier Avenue location will be dedicated to entirely new wild and sour brews with a new brand under the Burial umbrella.

She says they’re still kicking around ideas, but the new brand is likely to be much less colorful and less illustration-focused than the current lineup.

With the second brewhouse, they expect to eclipse 10,000 barrels annually within the first year (including 1,600 annually from Collier), then ramp up to a 16,000-barrel, self-imposed cap.

“Our goal with growth isn’t to be giant,” Reiser says. “I hope I am met with the decision to expand again, and I hope we say no thank you to the beer market.

“The three of us and our employees want to stay intimate and tightknit,” she continues. “We want to have a really vibrant internal culture, and we want to have relationships with the people who come to drink our beer, and we want to maintain a quality product. Not that you can’t do those things on a larger scale — it’s just that much harder.”

Burial will continue to use Land of the Sky for its canning for now, but eventually plans to add a canning line to the property — and the company will need it as it expands distribution to Georgia, South Carolina and beyond.

Amid all the expansion talk, Reiser reflects on Burial’s humble beginnings with emotion in her eyes.

“We were just so excited to open our doors that first day,” she recalls. “Each milestone has been very surreal. I’m so thankful for the support — the following. [This is] what I hoped for. It’s definitely meaningful. The comments and support from regulars we have … they are relationships I certainly don’t want to lose sight of as we expand and grow.”

The kitchen at the original location is still coming, too. McGaughy has been hard at work outfitting a food trailer to park outside the Collier Avenue taproom, which Reiser says is going to be incorporated into the building using a parking platform where customers can order from the back patio.

“I first met Josiah when I was bartending and lost his credit card,” Reiser recalls. “He had just moved here … and he was so nice and amazing about it.”

From there, they eventually formed a partnership that resulted in the Salt & Smoke pop-up meals five days a week. Up until now, McGaughy has had to cook for donations only, but that will change with the new setup.

“I think that, although potentially not ideal from a financial standpoint, [the donation system] enabled them to connect with people,” Reiser says. “Our regulars have become their regulars.”

Beat the cold at the Winter Warmer

Tickets are still available for the ninth annual Winter Warmer beer festival, where more than 30 breweries will take over the U.S. Cellular Center in downtown Asheville. The $50 admission fee includes a souvenir mug, food from Strada Italiano, live music from The Electric Warmers and The Blood Gypsies and, of course, beer samples.

Winter Warmer heats up Asheville 3-7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23. Tickets are available at ashevillebeerfest.com.

Asheville Beer Expo

Tickets are available now for the inaugural AVL Beer Expo to be hosted in two separate sessions by the Asheville Brewers Alliance on Saturday, Feb. 27. The event will feature beer samples from more than 30 WNC breweries, vendors and educational panels from leaders in the beer community. The $25 ticket price includes admission to one of the two sessions, a commemorative event glass and five tokens that can be exchanged for sample pours.

AVL Beer Expo sessions are 1-4 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, at The Venue, 21 N. Market St. Tickets are available at avlbeerexpo.com.

SHARE
About Jesse Farthing
Jesse Farthing can be reached at beer@mountainx.com.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.