Carolina Beer Guy: Hi-Wire brings its circus to Durham

BULL CITY CONNECTION: Asheville's Hi-Wire Brewing is opening a new taproom in Durham. Dubbed the Fun Zone, the location will have 24 beer taps and focus on recreational activities.
BULL CITY CONNECTION: Asheville's Hi-Wire Brewing is opening a new taproom in Durham. Dubbed the Fun Zone, the location will have 24 beer taps and focus on recreational activities. Image courtesy Hi-Wire Brewing

Another local brewery is expanding to a different city. This time, it’s Asheville’s Hi-Wire Brewing, which is opening a location in the hot beer market of Durham.

The expansion follows similar moves by Franklin’s Currahee Brewing Co., which set up a second location in the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta; Catawba Brewing Co. of Asheville and Morganton, which built its fourth spot in Charlotte; and Asheville’s Thirsty Monk pubs and brewery, which has opened in Denver, Colo., and Portland, Ore.

Hi-Wire co-founder Chris Frosaker says the brewery’s new Durham Fun Zone will not have a brewery, but the tasting room be heavy on recreational activities, including table tennis, shuffleboard and soccer pool.

The Fun Zone will also have 24 beer taps, including some guest brews, wine and cider. The venue, an early 20th-century building that once housed tobacco and textile operations, includes space for a covered patio and beer garden. The Fun Zone will occupy just over 9,000 square feet of the 320,000-square-foot building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The rest of the space will include art galleries and offices, and the owners are looking at some potential restaurant partners as well. “Right outside of the taproom is an original Lucky Strike [cigarette] silo,” Frosaker says.

Hi-Wire beers will continued to be made and packaged in Asheville, with the original South Slope site used for specialty products and the Biltmore Village Big Top site for production beers. The brewery is already selling its entire lineup in Durham.

“The Triangle was the first market we started distributing to outside of Western North Carolina,” Frosaker says. “And it’s grown. We have a nice presence there. People know who we are. We see a lot of similarities between Asheville and Durham in terms of the vibe, the food scene and the arts. We feel at home there.”

Both markets also have similar beer tastes when it comes to Hi-Wire products. Frosaker says Hi-Pitch IPA is the brewery’s best-seller in both cities and competes in Durham with such players as Fullsteam Brewery and Ponysaurus Brewing Co.

“There is some amazing beer down there,” Frosaker says. “Both [the Asheville and Durham] markets are very educated beer drinkers. They know what they are looking for.”

Frosaker hopes to be open in Durham by October.

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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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5 thoughts on “Carolina Beer Guy: Hi-Wire brings its circus to Durham

  1. boatrocker

    What a welcoming space and architecturally cutting edge square brick building
    that looks like every other cookie cutter yuppie brewery that houses married
    ‘bros’ and their yoga wives. The only thing missing in the picture
    is a bunch of unattended toddlers running around screaming and food trucks selling $12 tacos.
    Live music selection (if any) will be of course jam bands, or as locals call it,
    the mayonnaise of music.
    Notice musicians with no equipment or stage playing for audience members like a roving
    mariachi band in the image.

    The recent LTE that asserted developers, breweries and hoteliers come first was so spot on.

    • luther blissett

      It’s in Durham, so, y’know, somebody else’s problem.

      An issue worth reporting beyond press-release stuff is the economics of this kind of expansion. Building or leasing retail spaces is a different business than making beer, and presumably involves borrowing a lot of money. Sierra Nevada and New Belgium set up eastern production facilities because the economics of distribution made sense, but brewery-run bars are different: they’re more like the old “tied houses” or some of the places you find in airports.

      • boatrocker

        “Somebody else’s problem”- true though we have that ugly wart of a brewery here already.
        Much like un-regulated cell growth (cancer) that devours its host and kills it or
        Typhoid Mary or Patient Zero for AIDS, it’ll swing back around
        eventually and this town will scream
        “Whaaaaaaat happennnnnnned to our townnnnnnn we
        never saw it coming?”.
        “Beer Guys” will of course hasten the end for
        clickbait.

        • Brian

          I love gentrification. It’s great. The values of the multiple homes I own have tripled and I can charge 3x the rent. I say bring on the breweries and continue forcing out all the scum and dirt bags that wander around complaining about the terrible decisions they’ve made throughout their lives as if it’s somehow Asheville’s fault.

          And if you think Asheville has just become gentrified, it’s been white as snow for the 40 years I’ve been here. There is no diversity here, never has been and never will be.

          • boatrocker

            Your post is either messing with me for agreeing in a roundabout way
            or else the perfect storm as to why gentrifications is kaka. It’s hard to tell for the over the top assertion.

            Call me selfish, but I don’t think I have made any bad life decisions and
            don’t see the need to pay more rent every year for living quietly, working hard for my money, doing occasional volunteer work and not funding a business owner’s 3rd divorce settlement or coke habit.
            My post also had zero to do with anything racially
            related for your white as snow comment.

            Don’t try to paint me into a corner, sizzle chest.

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