Carolina Beer Guy: WNC beer industry developments in 2020

DOWNTOWN RETURN: Highland Brewing Co. aims to open a new taproom this spring in the old S&W Cafeteria building downtown. Pictured is Highland president Leah Wong Ashburn. Photo courtesy of Highland Brewing Co.

You don’t need a crystal ball or tarot cards to know that the local craft beer industry will continue to boom in 2020. Steady growth has been happening since Highland Brewing Co. was founded more than a quarter century ago, and more is on the way over the coming months:

New Origin Brewing Co. is under construction in East Asheville, not far from Brouwerïj Cursus Kĕmē. Brewer/owner Dan Juhnke moved to Asheville from Minnesota, where he worked at Junkyard Brewing Co. in Moorhead, just over the state line from Fargo, N.D.

“I wanted to be in a place where we could be part of a beer community,” Juhnke says. “We will be somewhat of an experimental brewery. We want to do some things that are a little less traveled in Asheville.” Those goals include different takes on IPAs, stouts and sour beers, which he expects to debut midyear.

Hillman Beer is working toward opening its expansion in Old Fort, a McDowell County town that is otherwise dry. A 2019 change in state law allowed makers of beer, wine and cider to sell their products at the production site. “The first of the year, we will be building the tables and the bar,” says co-owner Brandi Hillman. “We hope to have the brewing equipment in February.”

The 10-barrel brewery, taproom and restaurant will go into the former Parker Hosiery building. It could be open to the public by May, though Hillman acknowledges it might take until midyear.

Homeplace Beer Co. of Burnsville will open its new location in late January or early February, according to brewer/owner John Silver. The expansion is at 321 W. Main St. at the site of a former lumber business, not far from Homeplace’s current location at 6 S. Main St. Silver says the new space will house a production system, small-batch pilot equipment and a small kitchen.

Catawba Brewing Co. debuted Twisp Southern Hard Seltzer in October but is getting ready to share it on a wider scale. “We’ve only got it in the [Catawba] taprooms right now, but come January, it will be out for distribution,” says co-owner Billy Pyatt. Packaging will take place at a large new canning operation in Charleston, S.C., at the Catawba-owned Palmetto Brewing Co.

Highland Brewing Co., which famously began brewing in the basement of Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria in 1994, will return to downtown with its first off-site tasting room in the old S&W Cafeteria building. “It’s coming together,” says Highland President Leah Wong Ashburn. “We are really excited to have a modern place that honors the history and significance of that building.”

There won’t be ­beer brewed on-site, but Highland will have 24 taps — a dozen each on the main floor and the mezzanine. “We might do special beers that are only at the S&W, along with Highland favorites,” says Ashburn, who is targeting a spring opening date.

Asheville Brewing Co. is pushing ahead on its downtown expansion next to its brewery and restaurant on Coxe Avenue. It could be open on a day-to-day basis by April in a lot that was previously a Wells Fargo drive-thru bank. The addition will become a multiuse entertainment center with music booked by The Orange Peel and will also host live theater, outdoor movies, sporting events, beer events, and family and children’s entertainment.

“The Orange Peel is a 50-50 partner,” says Asheville Brewing President Mike Rangel. “But live music will be only one part of it.” He expects to present up to a dozen music shows annually for a maximum capacity of 3,500 people.

The venue’s name has not yet been announced, and to hold down the noise, events will conclude by 10 p.m. weekdays and 11 p.m. weekends. The old bank building will be transformed into a concessions area, serving beer and other alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. Full-time construction starts later this month.

Archetype Brewing will open a rooftop deck space at its original West Asheville location. Owner Brad Casanova hopes to have the new space, which can fit around 30 people, open this spring. He says the deck will be used for private events and will be “open on certain days so the neighborhood can enjoy the views.”

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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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