Beer Scout: Hi-Wire expands the circus

WALKING THE WIRE: Hi-Wire's new production brewery will focus on flagship beers, like Hi-Wire Lager. Photo by Thom O'Hearn

If someone told you an Asheville brewery was expanding by opening a second location in the center of town, whom would you think of first? Highland would make sense. Or wait, maybe Pisgah? Both of those breweries have been around and growing for years, and they might want a second location closer to downtown.

Yet it was Hi-Wire that just made the move. In conjunction with the Buncombe County Commission, Asheville City Council and the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County, Hi-Wire recently announced it is investing more than $1.62 million in a new brewing facility and equipment and will add about 15 jobs.

“It’s going to be right in the middle of town … though we’re not ready yet to give away the exact address,” says Hi-Wire co-owner Adam Charnack. Still he says it will be large, with about 20,000 square feet of additional space for the brewery.

The plan is for the new brewery to function as a production facility, focusing on Hi-Wire’s flagships and seasonal offerings — the beers that you see around town in bottles and most often on draft. To that end, Hi-Wire will install a much larger brewhouse with 100-barrel fermentors, as well as a new bottling line that will churn out 7,000 bottles an hour.

This will allow the brewery to increase capacity from 4,000 to 17,000 barrels per year for the first full year the production facility is open, with the potential to eventually produce up to 50,000 barrels per year.

In the meantime, Hi-Wire is partnering with Mississippi’s Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. to contract brew some of its flagship beers. “Essentially our kitchen isn’t big enough right now, and so we’re sending our head brewer down there to brew large batches in their kitchen,” says Charnack. “But once we get our new facility online, we intend to bring that production back home to Asheville.”

Once the new brewery is built out and fully functional, which Hi-Wire hopes will be mid-2015, Charnack says it will welcome the public with its own tasting room and unique tours. “We’re excited that we’re moving into another old building. … It means everything about the facility will have a similar look and feel — and a similar taproom vibe — to our space downtown,” says Charnack.

For all the current Hi-Wire faithful that are worried about the company shuttering its popular taproom on Hilliard, Charnack says the opposite is true. The company plans to not only keep the brewery and taproom there open, but make it even better. “We love everything about our downtown location [except the constrained space for brewing], and there will be nothing changing except the type of beer we’ll be making there,” says Charnack. “We’re really excited to let our brewers explore more unique, funky beers as well as barrel-aged beers down there,” says Charnack. “We can’t wait.”

Breweries for the Holidays

Catawba’s Christmas Eve: Biltmore Village is always a magical place during the holidays. This year, Catawba is taking advantage of the neighborhood’s seasonal spirit with a Christmas Story Cookie Swap. If you want to take part, bring about two-dozen cookies and plan to leave with the same amount. The brewery will screen A Christmas Story on the big screen, fill last-minute growlers and offer a variety of games with Catawba swag as prizes. The party starts at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 24, and is expected to go through 10 p.m.

Highland’s Early New Year’s Eve: As Highland Brewing is known to do, it has scheduled an early show to kick off New Year’s Eve. Stop by for some free music from Woody Wood between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.  — then see the next listings if you want to stay out.

Thisty Monk’s Keg Drop: For the second year, Thirsty Monk’s Biltmore Park Brewpub is hosting a two-story keg drop. “New York City drops a ball, Atlanta drops a peach, Miami drops an orange, and in Asheville, we drop a keg,” says Thirsty Monk Vice President Chall Gray. A variety of seasonal beers will be on tap, and Highland’s Cold Mountain Ale will be tapped at midnight.

Oskar Blues’ NYE Hootenanny and CAN’uary 1st Hangover Brunch: Oskar Blues is celebrating its second anniversary with a big New Year’s Eve party at the brewery. Music features headliner The Larry Keel Experience with special guest Jeff Sipe (Leftover Salmon, Aquarium Rescue Unit) as well as Steve “Big Daddy” McMurry, Jeremy Garrett and Travis Book (The Infamous Stringdusters), Mike Guggino (Steep Canyon Rangers), and The Jon Stickley Trio. The brewery will have its CHUBurger truck on site for food and a photo booth as well. The Oskar Blues Trolley will be in action, ferrying folks to and from local hotels and to stops in downtown Brevard. Admission is $30 in advance and $40 at the door, if it’s not sold out.

The brunch will be hosted the next day at the Oskar Blues REEB Ranch, featuring music from Jeremy Garrett and Travis Book (The Infamous Stringdusters), David Wax Museum, Sarah Siskind and Larry and Jenny Keel. Tickets are $80 and include a family-style meal and drinks featuring Mama-mosas and Café con FIDY in addition to the concert. Proceeds from the brunch will go to the Oskar Blues CAN’d Aid Foundation. Information and links to tickets to both events can be found at: http://brew.oskarblues.com/events/

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

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