He’s only 38 years old, but John Silver has already worked for many of the area’s leading breweries. Now he’s returned home to Burnsville and opened the town’s first brewery, Homeplace Beer Co., turning out both lagers and ales.
Even in the typically tough winter, Homeplace has been drawing steady local crowds to its little taproom in a town-owned building just of the square. Silver plans to start canning soon, and he’s thinking ahead about more expansion. Homeplace has a 5-barrel brewing system and 10-barrel fermenters.
Silver got into brewing in 2000 as a homebrewer right when Asheville’s craft beer scene was on the rise. “It planted a seed, I guess,” he says. “Going to places like Barley’s [Taproom] opened my imagination on how beers could be made.”
Meanwhile, he was learning as much about homebrewing as he could. “I was reading homebrew books like Charlie Papazian’s Joy of Homebrewing, trying to figure out how to improve,” he says. “As far as professional brewing, I learned from Scott Pyatt down at Catawba [Brewing Co.], who hired me as a brewer and turned me loose at their old Glen Alpine brewery. It was pretty much sink or swim. He really taught me a lot about how breweries operate. He showed me the ropes and gave me the experience to be marketable to other places.”
Silver moved on to Pisgah Brewing Co. in Black Mountain as head brewer, followed by a stint at French Broad River Brewery in Asheville. Then the big leagues came calling when Oskar Blues Brewery opened its east coast brewery in Brevard.
Silver signed on and became lead brewer before moving back to Asheville’s Hi-Wire Brewing. “I had a blast there for a couple of years,” he says. But Silver wanted to open his own brewery somewhere and picked his old home town of Burnsville.
“I had that in the back of my mind,” he says. “I wanted to get back into a smaller-town environment. It was a lot of risk. You can run the numbers and make projections, but you are trusting that if you build [your own brewery], they will come. It was a very harrowing first three months.”
Homeplace opened June 2, 2017. Silver says simply convincing town leaders to lease him space in its Burnsville Town Center event space was an effort. “We are still in a very rural, traditional mountain town,” he says. “We have been lucky to have a very loyal local following.”
Beyond the taproom, Homeplace sells its draft beers around Asheville and Western North Carolina. When cans are ready, Silver will get those out into the region, too. The most popular beers have been the Amber Lager, Golden Lager and a session IPA.
With additional employees in place, Silver is able to spend more time with his wife, Emily, and their two young daughters. “We don’t have any grand plans to take over the world,” he says. “We are trying to create a craft culture in our hometown.”