Beer scout: Men on a wire

GROWTH SPURT: Hi-Wire Brewing owners Chris Frosaker, left, and Adam Charnack, right, are increasing distribution by 75 percent. Photo by Alicia Funderburk

When Hi-Wire Brewing opened last summer, it pretended a circus was coming to town. The owners made sure that everyone who kept an eye on the beer scene knew something was about to happen, but they didn’t give much away ahead of time. Then, after weeks of hype, Hi-Wire revealed its big surprise: It would package its beers in 12-ounce bottles, just like Highland and Green Man, and sell them in six-packs right out of the gate.

That was bold news for a brand-new brewery, but the owners announced it just months after Wicked Weed opened with almost two dozen beers on tap, from West Coast IPAs to barrel-aged sours. What creative offerings would Hi-Wire bring to the already booming Asheville beer scene?

A pale ale, an IPA, a brown ale and a lager.

While those four offerings sounded like more of the same at first, once you looked a little closer they made sense. It’s hard to call yourself a brewery in Asheville without a signature IPA or pale ale. Then there’s the lager, which stood out — and still stands out — as the only local lager you can grab a six-pack of besides Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Yella Pils.

What about the brown? “Our brown has been the dark horse,” says Chris Frosaker, part-owner of Hi-Wire. “We thought our lager would be our flagship, but the brown became more and more popular as people discovered it. It’s lighter than you’d expect. … It’s just supereasy to drink.”

Thanks in large part to that drinkability and the consistency of its core beers, Hi-Wire has been running at capacity. So for the one-year anniversary, the owners bought the brewery two new 30-barrel fermenters and a brite tank with the help of a loan from Mountain Biz Works. “This expansion will help us catch up. … We’ll be able to increase our beer in distribution by 75 percent,” says Adam Charnack, part-owner of Hi-Wire. “And it should set us up to expand even more later this year, so we can get our bottles into the larger grocery accounts like Ingles.”

While the brewery is growing fast, the expansion will put it at just 3,500 barrels per year—or about a tenth the current size of Highland. Yet the owners say to expect six seasonal releases in bottles this year — from Strongman Coffee Milk Stout to Man Eater Double IPA. They also said they will start releasing the Ringmaster Reserve Beers, like their wine-barrel-aged Belgian IPA, about four times per year. “We want to keep giving our brewers a spotlight for their best, brightest ideas,” says Charnack.

While no party has been planned to celebrate the first anniversary, Hi-Wire invites everyone to stop by during the World Cup, which runs through July 13. “We’re huge soccer nuts,” says Charnack. “We’ll be opening at noon every day to play the World Cup games.”


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

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