Carolina Beer Guy: Local breweries juggle multiple locations

TWICE AS NICE: Multiple Asheville area breweries have added locations. Pictured are Hi-Wire Brewing owners Adam Charnack, left, and Chris Frosaker at their Big Top production brewery near Biltmore Village.
TWICE AS NICE: Multiple Asheville area breweries have added locations. Pictured are Hi-Wire Brewing owners Adam Charnack, left, and Chris Frosaker at their Big Top production brewery near Biltmore Village. Photo courtesy Hi-Wire Brewing

As the craft beer scene continues to boom in Asheville, several local breweries have expanded by adding second, third and even fourth locations to reach more customers, make different beers or increase production.

The region’s three nationally distributed craft brands — New Belgium Brewing Co. in West Asheville, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Mills River and Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard — all started in Western states and expanded by building new breweries in Western North Carolina to serve markets in the East.

But it’s not just the big brewers who’ve added new facilities. Asheville Brewing Co. started on the north side of town and expanded to the South Slope along Coxe Avenue, while Hi-Wire Brewing and Burial Beer Co. began on the South Slope and tacked on second locations near Biltmore Village.

Elsewhere, Wedge Brewing Co. has two locations along the French Broad River. Wicked Weed Brewing has its original spot on Biltmore Avenue and the Funkatorium barrel brewery on the South Slope, a production brewery in Enka and a sour beer site in Enka.

Green Man began with a small brewery on Buxton Avenue on the South Slope, then built a big production brewery with another tasting room next door. And Catawba Brewing began in Morganton, then expanded into Asheville with a South Slope brewery and a tasting room in Biltmore Village before recently opening a fourth location in Charlotte.

Many local breweries have kept up with demand by expanding with additional equipment. But in some cases, the original brewing locations did not have enough space to go that route. Such was the case with Asheville Brewing, which dates back to 1998 and its flagship location at the former Merrimon Twin Cinemas. A second location opened downtown in 2005 in a former car showroom, giving the company a pair of venues with their own distinct personalities.

“Our original location is more like a neighborhood pub,” says Asheville Brewing President Mike Rangel. “It’s kid-friendly with the movie theater and game room. Our downtown location is much more brewery-focused. It also has a full bar and a big patio. And being on the South Slope, it catches more tourists.”

All of the company’s brewing and canning is done downtown, where its original brewing system was moved and is now used for small-batch and experimental beers. Asheville Brewing also operates a third takeout and delivery venue on Hendersonville Road in South Asheville. The storefront location offers pizza and other foods as well as canned and bottled beer and growler sales, but no brewing is done within its walls.

Likewise, a longtime player in the Western North Carolina brewing scene, Catawba Brewing expanded its brand into Charlotte with a brewery and tasting room in May. The company first opened in 1999 in Glen Alpine, then moved to Morganton in 2006 and expanded again with its South Slope brewery in 2015.

“In 1999, we were crazy [to open a brewery],” says Catawba co-owner Billy Pyatt. “No one knew what kind of support we would get.” He adds that by moving to Morganton, Catawba could produce more beer and introduce them to new customers. Nearly a decade later, opening a brewery in Asheville made sense because it had become the brewery’s biggest market. “Even though we were making beer in Morganton, we started selling beer [in Asheville] in the early days,” he says.

In expanding to Charlotte, Pyatt says the city’s size was its foremost attractive quality, but Catawba chose to wait until the beer culture there had further developed before making the move. “We believe the wait was worth it,” he says.

A lack of space was also one of the deciding factors in Hi-Wire adding a second location. Co-owner Chris Frosaker says the brewery’s original Hillard Avenue spot “ran out room” to brew within a couple of years after opening in 2013. The production brewery known as the Big Top came online in 2015, allowing the original brewery to be used for sour and pilot test beers. “The taprooms have similar vibes,” says Frosaker, who notes that the offerings at each are nearly identical. “Both locations are pretty laid-back. We want our customers to see the brewing equipment while they’re hanging out.”

Fellow South Slope mainstay Burial Beer has been brewing and serving ales and lagers since 2013 at its original building on Collier Avenue. Its second location near Biltmore Village is in a former Civilian Conservation Corps forestry camp that was used during the Great Depression. Though the new brewery is turning out beer, co-owner Jessica Reiser says the tasting room is not yet open and can’t currently accommodate visitors. She hopes to have the space ready “sometime in early winter” and adds that the second location was always part of the company’s plan. (“We wanted to start small,” she says.) As for the new brewery’s atmosphere, Reiser says it will have its own personality, but for now, she and the rest of the Burial crew are keeping the details under wraps.

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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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