Beer Scout: Diatribe Brewing Co. anchors west side of Haywood Road

ON THE BOARD: Diatribe Brewing Co. owners Dave Byer, left, and Betty Dunajski opened West Asheville's newest brewery in fall 2023. Photo by Edwin Arnaudin

“I’m known for getting worked up on lots of topics — especially beer,” says Dave Byer, co-owner of Diatribe Brewing Co., which opened last fall at 1042 Haywood Road. “I get very opinionated.”

Long before running his own brewery, Byer was known for his oratorical moments at Asheville Brewers Supply. The shop’s owner, Tedd Clevenger, eventually began advertising his business’s regular homebrewer meetups as featuring “pizza, beer and a rant.”

“It became the thing that people expected,” Byer recalls with a laugh. “And if I came in tired and wasn’t worked up about something, people started prodding me with a topic. Like, ‘Hey, what do you think about this new beer?’”

The long-standing tradition of friends getting opinionated at pubs is at the heart of Diatribe Brewing Co., which Byer operates with his partner, Betty Dunajski. The new brewery is located in the former UpCountry Brewing Co. space — itself the former home of Altamont Brewing, which sold to UpCountry in 2016. UpCountry closed its West Asheville branch in May 2023, focusing its efforts on its Brevard location, allowing Byer and Dunajski to realize their long-held dream.

One-man band

Byer started homebrewing in 2008 and later worked at a number of local breweries, including Sweeten Creek Brewing’s 10-barrel operation, Green Man Brewery’s 30-barrel system and Eluvium Brewing Co.’s 5-barrel system in Weaverville. Starting in 2012, he commuted to these jobs while he and Dunajski, whose background is in graphic design, were homesteading in the Spring Creek area of Hot Springs.

There, they worked 15 acres, grew food and lived off the land as much as possible. They also did extensive fermenting of their produce and, if their property was more conducive to increased wastewater management and car traffic, they might have opened a farm brewery. Their homebrewing experiments included such oddities as wood nettle beers alongside more traditional styles.

The couple moved back to West Asheville in 2021. And when UpCountry — located two miles from their house — became available, they jumped at the opportunity to have a neighborhood-model taproom brewery that wasn’t reliant on production brewing. 

“There’s no change of use in the building, so we didn’t have to do anything. We didn’t have to put in any crazy new sidewalks or anything that’s required by the city,” Dunajski says. “It costs a lot of money to start a business, but not doing the change of use [permitting] really helped keep the costs low.”

UpCountry’s 7-barrel brewhouse came with the building, and though Byer notes it’s not the exact system he would build if given the chance, its volume is close to ideal. “It’s in that sweet spot between all the sizes I’ve done,” he says. “I like doing all the process.”

Exceeding expectations

“I’m a big believer in the evolution of beer,” Byer says. “There’s a reason why German lagers and English session ales lasted for so long, whereas nettle beers died out.”

While Byer is happy to try his hand at newer styles like cold IPAs, the Diatribe tap list is primarily populated by such brews as an Irish Extra Stout, Czech Dark Lager and English Dark Mild.

The brewery also features a LUKR faucet for side pours and a beer engine for cask ales. The latter device’s mere existence at Diatribe is somewhat of an oddity — doubly so when it’s pouring the English Dark Mild.

“It’s funny because that’s a style that breweries are like, ‘Oh, that won’t sell. We don’t want to make it.’ And same with beer engines,” Byer says. “So, I basically got a piece of equipment that wouldn’t sell beer and then put a beer that wouldn’t sell on it. It’s like a double whammy.”

And yet, the combined cask and draft sales of the English Dark Mild have outpaced the Hazy IPA — typically one of the most popular styles in any brewery across the country.

“There’s so much of a beer community, especially in this West Asheville neighborhood, that people come in, and when they see that they’re like, ‘What’s on it?’” Byer says. “They know what it is and they’re so excited because there’s only two other breweries in the city limits doing [cask ales].”

While Byer and Dunajski were disappointed when neighboring business Grata Pizzeria closed in July, they hope another restaurant will move in soon. In the meantime, they plan on having food trucks starting in spring and are turning the outdoor walk-in cooler into a beer garden.

The return of a brewery on the Patton Avenue end of Haywood Road has steadily attracted neighborhood customers. But the owners are also serving clientele from Candler and other folks who don’t want to venture downtown for local craft beer and appreciate a laid-back atmosphere.

“The goal is to have a lot of [beers] around 4% [ABV] or even lower,” he says. “We’ve got cushion chairs and brought back the big bar like Altamont had — kind of get a little bit of an English pub inspiration where it’s people sitting around. It’s not about TVs or blaring music. It’s about sitting around with the community, drinking a few rounds — because it’s low ABV — and talking to your friends.”

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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