Beer Scout: Green Man’s Mike Karnowski to open brewery

Mike Karnowski has been brewing at Green Man, on Asheville’s South Slope, for the past seven years. He started what’s arguably Asheville’s oldest sour program in barrels on Buxton Avenue, and for the last two years, he’s brewed nearly everything but the flagships next door to the large brewery on the same street.

Yet Karnowski is leaving the red-hot Slope to build a brewery of his own with his wife, Gabe, in Weaverville.

“My brewery will be in a cool old firehouse right behind Main Street [at 8 Merchant Alley],” says Karnowski. “It will be fun to bring it back to life … but I was also excited to find a building that already had sloped floors and floor drains. Those cost a lot of money to put in.”

It turns out that the space is not only practical, but oddly suited to the unique facility Karnowski’s planning. It will be the area’s first brewery that plans to sell its beer in bottles only and without the conventional tasting room.

“The last time I vistied Chicago, I was amazed at how many small breweries don’t have tasting rooms. I thought to myself that we have so many good bottle shops here in Asheville and throughout North Carolina, I think I can do the same thing here,” says Karnowski.

With just 1,500 square feet, Karnowski plans to devote much of the space to the 7-barrel brewery and to the bottling and storage of beer. While there are no plans for a tasting room, there will likely be select hours for what Karnowski calls a winery-style sampling space. It would be more of a showcase for the beers and a chance to try before you buy than a normal pub or hangout.

The beers themselves will also be a bit different right out of the gate. Karnowski plans to focus on farmhouse-style beers, sours, brettanomyces (wild yeast) beers and historical recipes. Every beer will be bottle-conditioned, meaning it will be unfiltered and naturally carbonated with yeast or wild yeast right in the bottle. He says to expect 30-40 new beers per year, including Berliner Weisses, saisons, grisettes and barrel-aged beers.

“I’m not going to have any flagships,” says Karnowski. “And if I even brew an IPA, it will be something like an 1800s version, which means it will be aged with brettanomyces.”

While Weaverville currently has one brewery — inside Blue Mountain Pizza — Karnowski thinks the area has room to grow. “It’s such a nice town and so close to Asheville, I’d be surprised if there aren’t three to four breweries in Weaverville in a couple years,” says Karnowski.

For now though, Weaverville will have to wait a bit longer for brewery No. 2 — even the name of it. Equipment is on order, but Karnowski says he’s working on the name trademark, permitting and everything else that comes with the territory.  “I’ll be leaving Green Man next month, and hopefully I’ll have the name secured soon. But as far as getting up and running, I’ll be happy with sometime before the end of the year,” says Karnowski.

Beer events to buy now

Just Brew It kicks off Beer Week on Saturday, May 23. For those who don’t know about the event, it is one of the best beer days of the year and it always sells out. At least 50 homebrewers pack the lot outside of the Wedge Brewing Co., serving upward of 100 beers. And in Asheville, homebrew is serious business: Expect creative, commercial-quality ales and lagers. Admission is secured by buying a membership to Just Economics (starting at $25), so the money is well-spent too. For more information, visit: justeconomicswnc.org/just-brew-it

Another event that’s sure to sell out is Funk Asheville, a celebration of sour and wild beers. Admission starts at $80, however, the beer is as rare as it gets in Asheville, and it’s also a fundraiser for Pints for Prostates. This year, the event will be held on Saturday, July 18, with tickets going on sale on Etix.com starting Friday, May 15. The venue will also change from the Funkatorium to the wooded outdoor space at Wicked Weed’s new production brewery in Candler.

Highland to release new seasonal

Lately, Highland has been turning out more specialty beers than ever. It’s hard to believe that Lost Cove will be the brewery’s first new seasonal beer release since 2013. Like Highland’s other seasonal beers, Lost Cove is created in partnership with the Southern Appalachian Highland’s Conservancy, an organization that works to permanently protect over 68,000 acres of land in North Carolina and Tennessee. Each beer is named for a specific place — Lost Cove is a legendary ghost town on the Nolichucky River, abandoned in 1957. The beer itself is a unique take on the pale ale according to Highland, with Pilsen malt and Cascade and Hallertau hops. The debut celebration, For Love of Beer and Mountains, will take place 4-9 p.m. Friday, May 15, at Highland with live music 7-9 p.m.

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

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3 thoughts on “Beer Scout: Green Man’s Mike Karnowski to open brewery

  1. Elwood

    Wow, that’s great news. I have been drinking Mike’s specialty brew for many years and it is fabulous stuff. The beer from his new brewery will surely be exemplary!

  2. Appalachian Vintner

    We can’t wait Mike, your beers are amazing, congratulations!

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