The long commute is over for Kyle Williams, owner and brewer at Brevard Brewing Co.
He opened the business six years ago, and for nearly four of them he lived in Erwin, Tenn., and drove to downtown Brevard each day. His wife, Elizabeth, was in school at East Tennessee State University, so the couple lived a short drive down I-26 from the school while he made the 150-mile round-trip drive to the Transylvania County brewery.
Elizabeth Williams has since graduated with a doctorate in psychology, and she and Kyle now live with their children in Brevard, about two miles from the brewery. “The drive sucked, but I did what I had to do to make it work,” Kyle says. “I knew it was temporary, and I never wanted to go back to working for someone else. I wanted to be my own boss.”
Brevard has boomed along Main Street since the brewery opened. “Now you can’t find [an unoccupied building] anywhere,” he says. “The economy has been doing a lot better.”
At first, Brevard Brewing was the only craft beer producer in town. Now, it’s joined by the big Oskar Blues Brewery and the more modest Ecusta Brewing Co. Next will be Peaks & Creeks Brewing Co., which will have its grand opening Saturday, June 2.
While the scene has changed, Brevard Brewing’s dedication to crisp, cool lagers — a rarity in an industry where most brewers focus on ales, which take less time to make — has not. Williams also still runs the business and brews the beer himself, but he’s hired a full-time brewer who’ll start working with him soon.
Also on the horizon for the brewery is the addition of a canning line, which Williams hopes to implement by late June or early July. “Overnight, it’s going to double my output,” he says of the machine, which will turn out 60 cases an hour. “For the first year of packaged beer, we will easily do 2,000 barrels, maybe more.”
The brewery distributes through Budweiser of Asheville, which will place the beer in stores throughout Western North Carolina. Williams will can his five core offerings: American Premium Lager, Bohemian Pilsner, IPA, Red Ale and Munich Dunkel. He’s also looking to hold the line on consumer costs.
“My prices will be better [than many competitors],” Williams says. “When I look at craft beer, it’s hard to find [a six-pack] under $10, and most of them are going for $11. I’m going to try to keep mine for nine bucks or under, especially in major retailers like Ingles.”
He adds that he’s keeping prices low by using preprinted cans and buying his own equipment. “And I work my ass off instead of paying two guys to do what I can do myself,” he says.
Williams grew up in Spartanburg, S.C., and got his start in the brewing industry working at a brewpub chain called Hops. He was then hired at the Smoky Mountain Brewery in Knoxville, Tenn., and later at Pisgah Brewing Co. in Black Mountain before setting up shop in Brevard — though he did scout Asheville for potential locations.
“I actually looked at the building where Wicked Weed [Brewing] went,” he says. “But it was a little too big for me and out of my price range. I remember thinking at the time that Asheville didn’t need another brewery. Brevard didn’t have any breweries.”
Williams says fears he initially had about Oskar Blues’ move to Brevard and a potential increase in competition soon proved unfounded. “They’ve been nothing but awesome,” he says.