I’m sure you’ve all heard the sudsy rumors swirling about two big West Coast based breweries that both are looking at WNC as a potential location for new breweries. But what’s really going on? Let’s look at truth, rumors and my speculation.
Truth: Both New Belgium Brewing and Sierra Nevada Brewing have put this area on their short lists to build and operate a new location.
Truth: Any potential site will require easy transportation options, so distribution will be as simple as possible. Both breweries are looking for spots from which to distribute their beers up and down the East Coast. That means access to a highway and access to trains are important.
Rumors that probably hold a kernel of truth: Yes, Sierra Nevada may primarily be interested in Black Mountain, given the recent decision by the Town of Black Mountain Board of Aldermen to approve a motion requesting an Interstate 40 interchange at Blue Ridge Road. But a motion approval doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. I’ve heard Sierra Nevada may be looking at Fletcher as well, because of the town’s proximity to the Asheville Airport. I’ve heard New Belgium is looking at properties in both Asheville and Swannanoa.
“These breweries aren’t thinking of coming here to squash Asheville,” says Jason Caughman, Pisgah Brewing owner and brewer. “They’re coming to help distribute their beers up and down the East Coast.”
Truth: Ken Grossman, founder and brewer of Sierra Nevada, was in the area two weekends ago with other Sierra Nevada employees. He talked to both Tim Schaller, Asheville Brewers Alliance President, and Caughman.
“I’d welcome them,” Caughman says. “Please come to Black Mountain, Sierra Nevada. It’d bring more traffic to us.”
Schaller notes: “The ABA all feel that Sierra Nevada is a class act. If both breweries come here, it’ll be beer tourism heaven.” That said, Schaller emphasizes that it’s important to the ABA that if these breweries come to the area the jobs they provide go primarily to Buncombe County residents.
“It’s not a job creation program if the business brings in all their people from elsewhere,” he notes.
Speculation: Whatever happens probably isn’t going to happen quickly. Beer lovers will keep watching and debating, and we’ll do our best to keep you up-to-date. In the meantime, drink local.
Seasonals and special releases
Lots of local breweries are releasing yummy fall and holiday brews. Asheville Brewing Company actually has delayed filling cans on their new canning line, because they have too much “do-good” beer to brew. ABC recently released their limited edition Moog Filtered Ale for Moogfest. Part of the proceeds from sales benefit the Moog Foundation. Asheville Brewing also is making its Christmas Jam Ale for the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam. That beer should be released this week (possibly Nov. 1), and proceeds from its sales benefit Habitat for Humanity. Both beers are on draft around town and for sale in 22-ouncers. Beer builds houses, y’all. Look for ABC cans of Shiva IPA and Rocket Girl Lager in the New Year, followed by cans of Ninja Porter and, I hope, Fire Escape Ale.
Meanwhile, Pisgah Brewing is re-releasing its Valdez Coffee Stout, brewed with local Asheville Coffee Roasters coffee beans. The last batch of Valdez disappeared in mere weeks. If you can find a 22-ounce bottle, hoard it (though not for too long, as coffee, even in stouts, tends to dissipate over time). Highland Brewing, has created a coffee beer, too. They’ve just released Thunderstruck Coffee Porter for the first time, made with Dynamite Roasting Company beans, available on draft and in six-packs. Local beans and local brews for the win.
Pisgah’s also currently is brewing up some San Francisco Lager, which is the brewery’s replacement beer for Endless Summer, and a Doppelbock, which will be its holiday beer. No Baptista Belgian this year, says Caughman. But it will be back in the future. Oh, and no more Vortex II Russian Imperial Stout this year, either.
But yes, Highland’s famous Cold Mountain Winter Ale is being bottled and should be on the shelves and in kegs around town the first week of November. This popular holiday beer is no longer all snapped up in hours (because Highland makes a lot more), but it’s still worth buying some quickly — just in case.
The Wedge’s Golem Belgian strong ale came out for Halloween, weighing in at 8.4 percent alcohol by volume. “Scary,” says brewer Carl Melissas. And Wedge Brewing’s Raspberry Imperial Stout will be released around the first week of December.
Next Asheville Beer Masters Tourney
Better start studying soon if you want to be crowned Asheville Beer Master Grand Champion 2012. Anyone can enter the second tournament, which consists of eight rounds of trivia competitions — though you only have to win once to proceed to the semi-finals. The eight first round winners proceed to semis, and the top four go to finals. The purpose of the ABM Tournament is to recognize and honor Asheville beer, the people who craft it and those who consume it. Trevor Reis is the inaugural Asheville Beer Master, and he’ll be on hand to help with year two. The tournament will start in January, and the finals will take place on the Thursday before the Beer City Festival (May 31). For more details, follow the tourney’s Facebook page.
Winter Warmer returns
The fifth Winter Warmer Beer Festival will take place on Saturday, January 21, 2012, from 3 to 7 p.m. It will be held at the Asheville Civic Center’s exhibition hall for the second year in a row. Organizers have planned for more Porta-potties and more food stations after both were a bit overwhelmed last year (first year in a new space growing pains). I hear there will be special tastes from a West Coast brewery whose beers aren’t distributed in North Carolina. Trust me, that’ll be worth the price of a ticket alone. Tickets are on sell now at http://www.brewscruise.com/beerfest for $39 per person, which includes local food. This festival usually sells out early, so buy yours soon.