Beer Scout: Motorcycles and beer — a different kind of taproom

THE WHEEL DEAL: "We have to find a balance [between taproom and repair shop]," says Moto Vicious owner Hunter Crombie. "There are only two of us working on bikes here. We’re not trying to make a million dollars. We’re just trying to stay balanced."
THE WHEEL DEAL: "We have to find a balance [between taproom and repair shop]," says Moto Vicious owner Hunter Crombie. "There are only two of us working on bikes here. We’re not trying to make a million dollars. We’re just trying to stay balanced." Photo by Jesse Farthing

Hidden behind The Orange Peel, nestled close to all of the South Slope breweries, sits Moto Vicious — a little motorcycle repair shop with a secret. After dark, a neon sign lights up and proudly proclaims, “The bar is open.”

“I like motorcycles, and I like beer,” says owner Hunter Crombie when asked why he decided to open a taproom in his shop last month. Moto Vicious has been open as a motorcycle repair and restoration shop for a little over two years, but Crombie wanted to add the taproom from the start. “I just wasn’t sure it was something you could actually do,” he says.

“I’d looked at the [zoning laws], and I didn’t see anything that said I couldn’t do it. I went down to the city and said, ‘Hey, I want to put a bar in my motorcycle shop,’ and the lady I was talking to kind of looked at me funny and said, ‘I don’t think you can do that.’”

Motorcycles and beer, while both awesome things, are an odd combination for a storefront. But Crombie was right — there weren’t any rules saying he couldn’t do it. And Asheville is home to other retail shops/taprooms, such as the Conspiracy beer and wine bar at Black Dome Mountain Sports on Tunnel Road and the taproom at Beer City Bicycles downtown.

Moto Vicious hosts four taps right now — Crombie says he’ll probably expand that come springtime, but he started small to get the wheels turning.

“We do mostly local beers,” Crombie says. “There’s a ton of good beer in Asheville.” But he keeps one tap rotating because “there’s good beer in other places too,” and he says he tries to seek out beers you don’t see very often.

The taproom doesn’t open until the shop itself has closed and Crombie has moved all the bikes out of the way. There’s no drinking on the clock.

“Motorcycles and beer, as nice of a combination as it sounds, do not mix in that regard,” Crombie says. “We have a very strict shop policy about when you work on bikes and when you drink, and they’re not the same. A lot of guys will work on their bike in their garages with a beer in their hand … but that’s your own bike.”

Right now, that means the taps flow Wednesday-Saturday from 5 p.m.-midnight — or as late as 2 a.m. if the place is jumping, says Crombie. “But I have to get up and work on bikes in the morning, so that makes for a long night,” he adds.

And as for the obvious dangers of drinking and riding motorcycles, Crombie says the clientele so far has been a responsible bunch. “We have a pretty good bike night on Wednesdays, but most people actually bring their cars,” he says.

“If someone is out of line and we think they can’t ride, we’ll definitely let them know. Most of the people here are pretty level-headed. They’re not the Wild Bunch crowd that most people think of when they think about guys on motorcycles.”

It’s a small space right now, but Crombie says he hopes to expand in the future and put the grassy area outside the building to use by constructing a deck with outdoor seating and a pass-through window from the bar.

“It’ll never be done,” he says of the process of gradually enhancing the taproom. “It’s like working on an old motorcycle. It always needs something.”

Moto Vicious is at 99 S. Lexington Ave. 

Sanctuary starts brewing

Sanctuary Brewing Co. opened back in August, anticipating a quick turnaround on federal permits, but that ended up not going as well as co-owner Joe Dinan had hoped.

“We’d initially heard two months,” Dinan says. “The more we looked into it, it seemed four months would be more realistic. But here we are just shy of six months … which is just insane. It’s [a] worst-case scenario.”

Now the permits are in, and Dinan is hitting the ground running.

“We’ve got all sorts of things in the pipeline,” he says. “We’ve got a kolsch coming down, we’ve got two different saisons, two pale ales, a stout, a coffee stout and a porter on the way in the next couple of weeks.”

Although it was a slow process getting to this point, Dinan says opening as a taproom was the right move.

“We’ve enjoyed supporting the local scene,” he says. “It’s been nothing but North Carolina beer — mainly Western North Carolina beer — so I’ve been able to get a lot closer to all the distributors, local breweries and brewers that I wasn’t [close to] before. So, I think it’s been a great experience and allowed us to get our sea legs as far as running the front of the house and getting everything together.”

Sanctuary expects to have several of its own brews on tap by Friday, Dec. 18.

Sanctuary Brewing Co. is at 147 First Ave E., Hendersonville. For more details, visit sanctuarybrewco.com.

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About Jesse Farthing
Jesse Farthing can be reached at beer@mountainx.com.

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