Small sips for Thanksgiving: Catawba changes directions, fall seasonal beers roll out and more

JUST BEING CATAWBA: All hail Catawba Brewing’s rebranding (drop the “valley” and just ask for Catawba) and its beer lineup, including the new seasonal, King Winterbolt. image courtesy of Catawba Brewing Co.

After 14 years of brewing in Western North Carolina, Catawba is on the move. This month, the company is rolling out completely new branding and a new winter seasonal. “There's unprecedented growth in our industry across the country. … The market is getting more crowded, [with] more choices than ever before,” says co-owner Billy Pyatt. “We realized we needed to be more cohesive in our lineup [for the people that] knew us as the Farmer Ted guys or the White Zombie guys."

In addition to redesigned cans, which are rolling out now, Catawba is rebranding other public-facing components of the company — including the name, which has been shortened from Catawba Valley Brewing to Catawba Brewing because "people ask for Catawba anyhow," according to Pyatt. The Catawba website has also been redone from the ground up. Unlike the old website, it has an up-to-date listing of the beers for just about every product Catawba makes, as well as a new "find my beer" component and a calendar, both of which Pyatt says will be kept current.

Catawba couldn't properly toast the branding without a new beer. King Winterbolt comes from new head brewer Kevin Sondey. According to Pyatt, the beer is a traditional winter warmer on the malty side, with plenty of coffee, toffee and roasted flavors. However, it has a dry-hop kick from Sorachi Ace and Cascade hops that's all-American. “Kevin has 20 years of experience at places like Dogfish Head, Stoudt’s, and Highland. … He's a great recipe guy and a great beer guy," says Pyatt. "I've fallen in love with this beer.” King Winterbolt is available now on draft at area bars and in cans where Catawba beer is sold.

Last but certainly not least, Catawba's satellite brewery in Asheville has come to a crossroads. "We've had permit problems for the better part of a year. We're at the point where we have to start looking at a plan B. … We're still committed to Asheville and committed to a brewery in Asheville," says Pyatt.

Thanksgiving beers and beyond

• In Black Mountain, Lookout Brewing has been pushing beyond the pale ale with some of its specialty beers. According to owner John Garcia, the highlight of the season is Lookout’s Jive Turkey IPA. The beer is brewed with six specialty ingredients: pumpkin, cranberries, ginger, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. “It tastes like Thanksgiving dessert,” says Garcia. He also says Lookout will soon be releasing another unique beer, a Champagne-like ale called Hoppy New Beer, for New Year’s celebrations. 
• Asheville Brewing and Burial are about to release the second beer in the Asheville Afterlife series (the first was a big West Coast Black IPA called Black Ink). The next beer is rumored to be an imperial French saison, and it will hit both breweries’ tap rooms on draft and in 22-ounce bottles this week or next.
• Burial’s collaboration with Hi-Wire, Firebreather Bourbon Barrel Belgian Strong, is also about to be released — in early December, according to the breweries. It will be available on draft and in bottles.
• Of course, what would a fall seasonal update be without Cold Mountain? The Highland favorite is already making its way around town. Since demand can make it tough to find the beer, a beerlanthropist has set up a Twitter account to help out fellow fans: @ColdMtnTracker will be reporting and retweeting sightings.
• A Big Brevardiversary: Looking further out, Oskar Blues has just put tickets on sale for its big New Year's Eve party, which is also the brewery's "Brevardiversary." The celebration will start at 7 p.m. at 342 Mountain Industrial Drive and include food, beer and music from The Hackensaw Boys and Packway Handle Band. Since the brewery has added yet more tanks, this year’s celebration will take place on the patio, which will be walled in for the event. Kids 16-21 years old are allowed with a ticket and a responsible adult. Proceeds will benefit the CAN'd AID Foundation, a nonprofit started in September to help victims of the Colorado Floods. Tickets are $25 and available at
• Can't make the New Year's Eve event? Oskar Blues will be partying on Thursday, Dec. 12, as well. It’s the anniversary of the brewery’s first North Carolina mash-in. Since then, Oskar Blues has sent out 9.2 million cans and produced 40,000 barrels of beer in the state. The celebration will include a book signing with John Holl (The American Craft Beer Cookbook), music from This Mountain and Soldier's Heart, a bouncy house for kids and more. There are no tickets or cost to attend the event — but you'll probably want to bring some money for beer.

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