Beer Scout: New Belgium’s birthday bash

TOUR DE FORCE: Following three days of events celebrating the grand opening of New Belgium's Asheville operation and the company's 25th year in business, locals will be able to sign up for walking tours of the River Arts District brewhouse. Photo by Scott Douglas

New Belgium Brewing has some big plans in store as it finally welcomes guests into its Asheville production facility this weekend. The Fort Collins, Colo.-based brewery will celebrate both its 25th anniversary and the grand opening of its Asheville brewhouse with three days of festivities starting Thursday, Aug. 25, and culminating with nearly a week of locals-only tours.

On Thursday, Aug. 25, from 5-8 p.m., the brewery will host Brew Talks, an educational networking event for brewing professionals and the community at large, organized by national craft beer industry news organization Brewbound. Brew Talks is a traveling series of discussion panels focused on helping craft professionals connect and learn from each other in a collegial environment. New Belgium co-founder and former CEO Kim Jordan will be a panelist as will general manager Jay Richardson. Also participating are Leah Wong Ashburn of Highland Brewing Co. and Adam Charnack of Hi-Wire Brewing. Representatives from national-scale breweries will also be on hand for the networking event.

Friday, Aug. 26, will see the return of New Belgium’s CLIPS Beer and Film Tour on Roger McGuire Green in downtown Asheville, starting  at 7 p.m., with films rolling as the sun sets around 9 p.m. The evening festival showcases short films curated by New Belgium, including the premiere of a movie featuring some of the local artists who contributed to New Belgium’s Asheville brewery, many of which have studios within a half mile of the facility. CLIPS will also provide attendees with the opportunity to try some rare New Belgium beers. Among the offerings will be the brewery’s coveted sours and selections from its Hop Kitchen series as well as Film Noir, an imperial milk stout offered exclusively at CLIPS events.

The main event, however, is the 25th anniversary CeleBEERation, which will be held 3-11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, on the grounds of New Belgium’s production facility in West Asheville. The party, hosted by former “Saturday Night Live” Kim Kardashian impersonator Nasim Pedrad, will include comedy, carnival acts to honor the site’s history as Logan’s Showgrounds and a few surprises. Admission also includes live musical performances from New Zealand-based electronic music artists The Naked and Famous, 28-piece instrumental ensemble Mucca Pazza and Eastern North Carolina blues-rock band Dark Water Rising.

Industry professionals representing the breweries that contributed to New Belgium’s Fat Tire and Friends collaboration series, including noted national breweries such as Firestone Walker and Allagash, will attend and pour beer. Local food trucks will also be on-site.

But the real draw for most “Beer Scout” readers will be the beer, and New Belgium VIPer Ambassador Adam Mundy supplied Xpress with a truly impressive draft list. Confirmed beers include but will not be limited to:

  • Love Apple Felix, a single foeder sour aged in Leopold Bros. New York Apple Whiskey barrels.
  • La Folie (2016).
  • Transatlantique Kriek (2016).
  • Fruit Fly, a new passion fruit sour hopped with Citra.
  • Tart Lychee (2016).
  • Belgo Belgian IPA, currently pouring exclusively at the New Belgium Liquid Centers in Fort Collins and Asheville.
  • Nitro Oscar Worthy Coffee, a La Folie-based sour aged on whole espresso coffee beans from Fort Collins coffee roaster Bean Cycle for 48 hours, then nitrogenated.
  • Flowering Citrus Ale, Brouwerij De Koninck’s collaboration with New Belgium, brewed in commemoration of the anniversary.
  • Bretta IPA, the newest Hop Kitchen offering.
  • Pumpkick, New Belgium’s fall seasonal.

Mundy was also able to confirm that the Fat Tire and Friends tent will be pouring all five of the collaborative interpretations of New Belgium’s flagship Fat Tire Ale, including Avery Brewing’s Fat Wild Ale, Hopworks Urban Brewery’s Fat Sour Apple Ale, Firestone Walker’s Fat Hoppy Ale, Rhinegeist Brewery’s Fat Pale Ale and New Belgium’s original Fat Tire. New Belgium’s year-round offerings will also be available. “There might be a couple more special offerings than listed; I am unable to confirm those at this second. I hope there are some surprises, too,” says Mundy.

Public access to New Belgium’s state-of-the-art Asheville production facility has been extremely limited thus far, but that is about to change. From Monday, Aug. 29, through Thursday, Sept. 1, New Belgium will offer locals the chance to beat the tourists with exclusive walking tours of the brewhouse and grounds. “We’re excited to finally share this with the community,” says New Belgium communications specialist Susanne Hackett. “We want them to see themselves in this space, to feel like it’s their living room.”

The tours will be first-come, first-served, with registration taking place at the Liquid Center taproom starting at 11 a.m. each day. Online registration for subsequent tours open to the general public is available now and can be reserved up to two months in advance. Tours will be guided by New Belgium’s Liquid Center staff, nearly all of whom were local hires.

New Belgium’s contributions to the local economy extend beyond creating jobs for brewery employees and local artists. The company has been employee-owned since 2012 and certified as a Benefit Corporation since 2013. B Corp status signifies that the business adheres to stringent standards of social and environmental accountability, sustainability and transparency. The brewery’s Employee Stock Ownership Program grants employees an ownership stake in the company after one year of employment, meaning that, over time, New Belgium will become a company increasingly owned by Asheville natives and residents.

About 25 percent of New Belgium’s employees have been inducted into the ESOP program, with 10 new owners from the Asheville facility joining their ranks at a recent event in Fort Collins. Among this year’s inductees was site controller Justin Anders, a Cullowhee native who earned his accounting degree and MBA from Western Carolina University. “New Belgium stands for a lot of the things that I stand for. I’ve worked for a lot of great companies in Western North Carolina, but this is the one that drew me in,” Anders says, explaining that the company’s core values were a natural fit with the culture of Asheville.

Four years after the project was announced, New Belgium’s Asheville brewhouse is already pumping out Fat Tire amber ale, Ranger IPA and Citradelic Tangerine IPA, with Rampant Imperial IPA soon to be produced here. This weekend’s festivities mark the end of a lengthy build-out and the beginning of a promising new contribution to the Asheville economy and beer community that should benefit Western North Carolina for decades to come. So take this three-day party as an opportunity to enjoy the first beer of many with our new neighbors.

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