It’s no secret that Western North Carolina’s beer scene is exploding like an overcarbonated bottle, and it seems as if new breweries pop up almost every other month. We have local breweries winning prestigious awards at the Great American Beer Festival, and bigger, national breweries are looking to make the area their second home.
Now the Fletcher community will take a seat at the WNC beer scene bar when Blue Ghost Brewing opens near Asheville Regional Airport this spring.
Erik Weber, formerly a brewer at Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard, says opening a brewery has been a dream for him since he began homebrewing more than a decade ago. He says his first real experience with craft beer came when a farmhouse brewery opened up near his hometown in Pennsylvania and offered a taste of something different.
“Back then, Yeungling was considered different than mainstream,” he laughs. “Going [to the farmhouse brewery], tasting their beer and seeing the process was really intriguing to me.”
Weber started off with a Mr. Beer kit and fell in love with the whole process. “I really liked the science and art mix,” he says. “I have always wanted to be artistic, but I really suck at drawing or music or anything else, and I decided this could be my art.”
After relocating to Asheville six years ago, Weber says the area’s booming beer scene inspired to pursue brewing as more than just a hobby. “I enrolled in the Brew School [at Blue Ridge Community College], and midway through, I kept bugging Oskar Blues until they hired me as an assistant brewer,” Weber says. He worked there for about two years and ended up managing the specialty beer program.
The constant flow of new area breweries gave Weber the next push — out of Oskar Blues and into the new territory of starting his own brewery.
“I owe Oskar Blues a great deal of gratitude,” he says. “They hired me with no commercial experience, put me on the brew deck in a month and a half, let me brew, put me in charge of specialty beers, and I learned a lot there. It was really good practice.”
Blue Ghost Brewing, named for the blue ghost fireflies in DuPont State Forest, aims to be a family-friendly brewery with a focus on mountain themes and forest preservation. Weber says he plans to have crafts for children and families, family gatherings and possibly even a small farmers market for kids on the weekends once thing get going.
“Fletcher is a fast-growing area for young families,” he says. “We’re one of them, obviously, so we want to provide a location where we can all come together and bond and create that community vibe and do more than just brewing.”
Weber also says that opening in Fletcher will help create a natural “ale trail” for the area — similar to wine trails found in other parts of the country. “I think we can create [a] natural tour section where we can all kind of benefit each other and work together,” he says. “That’s the vibe I get from the brew scene. Everyone wants everyone to be successful, but you do need to create something different, and that’s what we’re aiming to do.”
Blue Ghost Brewery will be at 125 Underwood Road, Fletcher. It is scheduled to open in the spring. Visit blueghostbrewing.com for updates.
Blue Ridge Tap Room starts pouring
Blue Ridge Tap Room, an 18-tap bar underneath New Mountain AVL, had a soft opening on Halloween, but has kept quiet while management worked on settling in and preparing to get the word out.
“We’ve planted ourselves now,” says manager Kyle Sorenson. “Hopefully for a long time. We kind of want to have a neighborhood taproom feel where we’re open every day.”
Though he admits there haven’t been many walk-in customers to the taproom due to its hard-to-spot location, he’s optimistic about the future. The space is currently hosting the downtown Friday night drum circles (held during the warmer months in Pritchard Park), and Sorenson is using his years of event management experience to book local acts and draw in more crowds.
He says he’s looking into hosting a trivia night, a meet-the-brewers regular event and plenty of other features he’s not ready to divulge. “We’re all beer fans — beer fans and music fans,” he says. “It all kind of comes together.”
Sweeten Creek Brewing sails into production
Sweeten Creek Brewing opened in South Asheville on Dec. 14 with little fanfare, a few of its own beers, a sandwich shop and several guest taps.
“We were superfocused on just getting open,” says Joey Justice about the relatively quiet launch. Justice co-owns the brewery with his wife, Erica, and business partner, Chad Gibson. “We didn’t want to overcommit and not be able to deliver.”
The Justices previously worked at Highland Brewing Co. but have been in the process of opening their own brewery for more than a year — doing many of the renovations on their own.“It was a lot of hard work,” Joey Justice says. “But I think we appreciate it more now since we did it ourselves.”
The brewery is a little tricky to find, hidden behind the now-closed Myers Motorcycle. But Justice says business has been good so far, with a steady flow of lunch customers and beer hunters in the evenings.
“The bright spot is, a lot of people have come in and said, ‘I only live a mile from here; this is great,’” he says. “There are a lot of communities down here. It’s been pretty steady. If we can stay focused on making quality food and quality beer, that’ll help.”
The location has the luxury of ample parking — something lacking at many Asheville breweries. And the attached sandwich shop serves everything from Reubens to wraps as well as a few sampler platters to pair with beers — including Sweeten Creek’s own pale ale, black IPA and pilsner. Justice says the beers will rotate in and out for now while he works out the best brewing schedule to keep things available.
Sweeten Creek Brewing is at 1127 Sweeten Creek Road. The taproom is open 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. More details, including the full sandwich menu, are available at sweetencreekbrewing.com.