Hundreds of men and women work in Buncombe County’s brewing industry in a variety of jobs. But fewer than 40 lead brewery teams, overseeing the production of favorite beers and turning out new creations.
At New Belgium Brewing Co., Asheville’s largest brewery in terms of production, the job falls to brewing manager Alex Dwoinen, who has been on the job since the operation turned out its first batch of beer in October 2015. However, he’s been with New Belgium much longer, having signed up 25 years ago at the brewery’s western location in Fort Collins, Colo.
“It’s been quite the ride for sure,” he says.
Dwoinen had been studying forestry at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and working in restaurant jobs when a neighbor told him New Belgium was looking for help. “I was hired the next day,” he says. “My job was hand-filling bottles and putting on the labels.”
In what he calls being “at the right place at the right time,” Dwoinen became assistant brewer, then went on to brew on his own. “It was such a big step,” he says. “I was overwhelmed, but I learned how to make [New Belgium’s flagship] Fat Tire [Amber Ale].”
Dwoinen continued to gain experience and worked his way through the ranks to become the Fort Collins brewhouse manager. When New Belgium decided to open a second location, he wanted to be part of that growth.
Searching for the new brewery’s home, Dwoinen says the company “looked at the West Coast for a bit” before turning East. “I hadn’t even heard of Asheville,” he says. “Being part of New Belgium for so long, I had to be part of this new brewery.”
Dwoinen helped design the big West Asheville brewery, which he says will turn out some 275,000 barrels of beer in 2019. A total of eight New Belgium brands are made in Asheville, and Dwoinen works with a team of seven other brewers.
“I help out when someone has a sick day or vacations come,” he says. “I want to stay up to speed.”
While New Belgium may dwarf other Asheville breweries in size, Dwoinen sees many similarities between his employer and the smaller brewing companies. “We are all trying to make a product that we are proud of at the end of the day,” he says.