There’s been a big change in the local beer community with the resignation of Kendra Penland, the high-profile executive director of the Asheville Brewers Alliance.
Penland had headed the nonprofit trade group, which represents Western North Carolina breweries and beer-related businesses, since November 2015. In many ways, she was the face of the area’s brewing community, with a strong media presence and frequent appearances at local beer events.
For now, the alliance will be directed by Mike Rangel, president of Asheville Brewing Co., who is one of the organization’s founders. He would not speak about Penland or her work with the group. “We can not comment on personnel issues,” he says.
Rangel adds that as the organization begins its search for a new executive director, it will continue to provide its services with an emphasis on facilitating communication and providing information to members. He also notes that the alliance will still produce such big public events as Asheville Beer Week, the Beer City Festival and the smaller AVL Beer Expo, all of which Penland was heavily involved in organizing.
“One of the things we had gotten away from a little bit was membership services,” Rangel says. “We grew so fast and no one could have expected [that growth].”
When Penland was hired, Buncombe County was home to 21 breweries with more than 40 around the mountains. There are now 32 breweries open in Buncombe County with more than 70 in Western North Carolina. Others are in the process of opening.
Rangel describes the departure as “a sudden change” and says that he will work to “keep the momentum going.”
Penland says she now plans to work as a consultant in the food and beverage sector. Before joining the ABA, she worked in communications and public relations and volunteered and served on boards for many nonprofit groups.
“I have contributed everything I can [to the ABA],” she says. “It was time for me to move on and get back to consulting. I am excited about working in the food and beverage industry and with some entertainment clients.”