There’s been a big changing of the guard in local beer. John Stuart, longtime brewer at Asheville’s Green Man Brewery, has decamped to Bryson City’s Nantahala Brewing Co., where he is brewmaster and director of brewing operations. Tom Walsh remains as Nantahala’s head brewer.
Stuart had been at Green Man for a dozen years and is one of the region’s best-known brewing personalities. In a scene where brewers often move around, Stuart had quietly stayed the course at the legacy brewery as it expanded into a regional beer powerhouse.
“I had taken Green Man as far as they had really wanted to go,” Stuart says. “Twelve years is quite a run. There are definitely some people I’m going to miss from that operation, but I had pretty much reached a ceiling with them.”
Stuart adds that his close friendship with Nantahala owner Joe Rowland led to the new job, talks for which began last summer.
Nantahala has made some big expansions itself, opening a taproom on Haywood Road in West Asheville last summer with another now under construction in Sylva. The primary Bryson City operation is also about to grow. “We’ve bought a new brewhouse twice as big as the one we have,” Stuart says.
Nantahala turns out a wide array of beers, including flagships Bryson City Brown and Dirty Girl Blonde. “And Noon Day IPA is very important to us as well,” Stuart says.
For now, Stuart is making the drive from Asheville to Bryson City. “Out here, the branding is very outdoor-oriented,” he says. “I love outdoor sports — paddling and kayaking and camping. It fits in with who I am.”
Stuart is a Texas native whose first job was at a Dallas brewpub. He later worked for an Atlanta brewery and eventually joined Green Man.