Even before the COVID-19 pandemic crashed into Asheville, many residents were wondering if all of Buncombe County’s 40-plus breweries could stay afloat in a highly competitive scene. Now, the crisis has shown just how tough the business is with tasting rooms closed and draft accounts decimated.
Joining the list of brewing industry casualties is Fermented Nonsense Brewing, Asheville’s smallest brewery, which has shut down for good. Also to close is its sister business, Craft Centric Taproom and Bottle Shop, which opened in December 2017 at 100 Julian Shoals Drive, Unit 40, in Arden, followed by the launch of Fermented Nonsense in the space’s back office in August 2018.
Matt Vaughan, the owner of both establishments, says business was crushed by a lack of cash flow. “We didn’t have enough to keep up the utilities and rent, employees and beer ingredients,” he says. “We were a bar and brewery based on events like our trivia nights.”
The closing came just as the brewery and shop were merging into one business. Vaughan was planning to move the brewery to a bigger location 3.5 miles down the road and turn the existing space into a small craft distillery. Now, all that planning has ended.
“I’m working with some competent attorneys on winding the businesses down,” he says.
Vaughan had signed a lease for a 1,500-square-foot warehouse space on Celtic Drive, just off Brevard Road, that would have housed the new brewery. The original brewery was only 130 square feet with a 2-barrel system.
Prior to the pandemic, Vaughan had an outside investor lined up for the expansion — but that partnership has since dissolved. He intends to remain open with takeout sales until his inventory is sold out. “Mainly, we’ve got a lot of keg beer we’ll be going through with [to-go containers],” he says.
Fermented Nonsense has always brewed a creative lineup of beers, such as its Scoops Ahoy Chocolate Chips Milk Stout and Peach’s Tropical Milkshake IPA. Vaughan credits his head brewer Josh Austin for coming up with unusual recipes.
Vaughan says he’s been thinking about what he’ll do next. “I haven’t squared that away,” he says. “It might be in beer or it might be something different.”
Mason jars of Fermented Nonsense’s remaining beers may be ordered online and picked up curbside.