For 13 years, Bruisin’ Ales bottle shop has been a showcase for local beers and difficult-to-find ales and lagers from around the world. It has served locals, tourists and out-of-market customers who use the shop’s online ordering system to ship beer around the country.
But Julie Atallah, who opened the store with her husband, Jason Atallah, says it’s time to move on. The decision is partly due to increased local competition, plus the decline in sales of higher-priced beers as consumers have begun to favor more affordable brews like New England IPAs and hard seltzers.
“It became very hard for us to carry all those great English and Scottish ales and German and Belgian beers,” she says. “It’s a different customer than it was years ago.”
However, the shift in the local market isn’t the lone factor informing the Atallahs’ decision. “It’s our 20th wedding anniversary [in 2020], and we just thought it was time to make a change,” Julie says. “We knew in the fall  what we were going to be doing, so I think for us — emotionally — we had a couple of months to prepare for it. We’re looking forward to having some time off.”
Atallah adds that she and Jason will continue living in Asheville, but they don’t know what their next project will be. The shop remains open but will close in late February as its existing stock is sold off. The Attalahs also own the building in which their business is housed at 66 Broadway.
Bruisin’ Ales was Asheville’s first dedicated specialty bottle store. In addition to elevated competition from subsequent local bottle shops, most of Asheville’s larger supermarkets and many convenience stores are now well stocked with craft beers.
“Bruisin’ Ales can take as much credit as any single brewery for helping Asheville become Beer City,” says Mike Rangel, co-owner of Asheville Brewing Co. and former interim executive director of the Asheville Brewers Alliance.
“It’s not just the bottle shop, but the dynamic force of Jason and Julie,” Rangel says. “They put Asheville on the [beer] map. They brought more beer luminaries to town than anybody has. They brought in [beer author] Charlie Papazian, [Dogfish Head Brewing Co. founder] Sam Calagione and [Brooklyn Brewing Co. brewmaster] Garrett Oliver. We were very proud to have our beers there.”
The closing “feels like the end of an era,” says Leah Wong Ashburn, president of Highland Brewing Co., the city’s first craft brewery. “I so appreciate that they opened their doors to small [breweries] in town. I found it really helpful that they shipped beer. We referred customers to them often because we don’t ship beer. They’ve probably had every one of our beers in there.”
Ginger’s Revenge founder David Ackley says “it meant a lot” to have his company’s products in Brusin’ Ales. He cites the rise in breweries doing their own package release events as a likely contributing force to the store’s decision to close.
“One of the trends right now are these hard seltzers, which are pretty inexpensive to make,” he adds. “The price point on those is pretty low.”
Leah Rainis, current executive director of the Asheville Brewer Alliance, says the store “was at the forefront of Asheville’s rise to prominence in the beer world,” though she believes the market remains strong for quality brews.
“Asheville craft beer is still as innovative and appreciated as ever,” she says.