After construction delays pushed back its anticipated opening date by nearly two months, the CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective — whose members include Oskar Blues Brewery and Cigar City Brewing — debuts its CANarchy Collaboratory on Monday, June 10, in the former Lexington Avenue Brewery space.
On tap will be beers made through partnerships with figures from some of Asheville’s legacy breweries, products that Cigar City brewmaster Wayne Wambles (who’s also leading the Collaboratory’s beer endeavors) and his colleagues hope will be the first of many such local projects.
“We’ve been lucky to make those connections with fellow brewers. It’s such a unique part of the world insomuch as all the breweries are really looking out for each other and really want to elevate what the whole region is doing on beer,” says Neil Callaghan, Cigar City’s brand manager. “It’s made a lot of sense to work with some of our friends and folks we admire.”
Intrepid local beer fans may have sampled these collaborations over the past month and a half at the respective Asheville breweries’ taprooms. Among them is Cigar City and Asheville Brewing Co.’s Garyx (6.5% ABV), a dragonfruit American strong pale ale with Barbe Rouge hops. Wambles says the beer is named for a dragon god from Dungeons & Dragons and involved trial and error in learning to add dragonfruit after the heat exchange to maintain its fuchsia color.
Also available is Under Cover of Night (5.5% ABV), a Czech-style dark lager brewed by Highland Brewing Co., Oskar Blues, Cigar City and fellow CANarchy member Perrin Brewing Co. of Michigan. Crafting the beer opened Wambles’ eyes to the potential of adding grain to the whirlpool, an exciting possibility that he plans to explore further.
The third Asheville beer establishment with over 20 years of operation to its name is Green Man Brewery, which made Appalachian Dark Stock Ale (5.5% ABV) with Cigar City. Doubling down on Green Man’s traditional English beer inspirations, Wambles worked with its team to craft a twist on the classic style, using sorghum molasses produced in Tennessee and infusing the beer with sugar maple spirals.
Joining the above creations is Bhramari Brewing Co. and Cigar City’s Uekera (6.3% ABV), a tart IPA with lime leaf and honey, hopped with Strata and Huell Melon. Wambles calls the beer’s brewing process “the most complicated” of the four, one that involved making two completely different beers with distinct yeast strains and figuring out a blend to have “the best balance of acidity.” The result is what he calls “a really beautiful beer,” made with a brewery that’s “sort of the wild card” when compared with the other three businesses that have deep roots in the Asheville industry.
“But the great thing about Bhramari is if you look at their tap list and the way they’re approaching things, in my opinion, they are one of the most creative breweries in downtown Asheville,” he says. “They’re throwing everything at the dart board. I love what [head brewer/owner] Gary [Sernack] is doing over there.”
Also available at the grand opening will be pre-Collaboratory offerings, including Oskar Blues and Hi-Wire Brewing’s Haze Sesh (4.9% ABV), a hazy, session IPA double dry-hopped with Cashmere and Wataku, and Smells Like Freedom IPA (7% ABV), a collaboration between Oskar Blues and DC Brau.
Aaron Baker, senior marketing manager for Oskar Blues, says the Collaboratory interior has grown to 280 seats, part of an overhaul that covered nearly all of the old LAB space, excluding the brewing system’s location. Among the numerous improvements is the addition of a centrifuge to help with stability and clarity on beers.
“Not only is the space going to be better for consumers, but our ability to make world-class beer is going to be even better within that facility,” Callaghan says. “[The centrifuge is] a piece of equipment that you normally see in a large production facility. You don’t normally see it in a brewpub setting.”
The Collaboratory has also added a mill room upstairs, which allows its brew team to mill pretty much any grain and significantly opens up the supply chain. There’s also a grist case, which improves efficiency with milling grain and mashing in the beer; a recirculating infusion tank that allow the brewers to infuse fruits, wood, vegetables, spices and more ingredients into beers — which Wambles says has been highly successful at Cigar City; and a hop-dosing system that allows brewers to recirculate dry-hopping after they infuse the hops into the fermenter.
“There are quite a few really cool things we’re adding on that will allow us to approach things in such a way that, if we wanted to scale them up, we could move them to our production facility,” Wambles says. “That’s part of the goal, too. Not just make great beer there, but also approach it in such a way to where if it seems to be successful, we can put it in more markets.”
Furthering the possibilities inherent in its name, Baker notes that the Collaboratory’s partnerships will extend beyond beverages. He says to be on the lookout for a variety of community events that incorporate Asheville’s vibrant arts and food sectors, solidifying the space as one dedicated to bringing creative minds together.