One of the AVL Beer Week legacy events that the coordinators are most looking forward to in 2022 is the Just Brew It homebrew festival. The annual fundraiser for the living wage advocacy nonprofit Just Economics was a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 but returned in fall 2021 — albeit at a new location.
After debuting in 2010 at Wedge Brewing Co.’s Studios location, the outdoor event moved to the brewery’s Foundation site in 2018. But with that once derelict part of the River Arts District now thriving and parking difficult to secure, Just Economics Executive Director Vicki Meath felt the time was right for Just Brew It to find more space. Amicably parting ways with the Wedge, she looked for other beer-related Living Wage Certified businesses and found an eager partner in Pisgah Brewing Co., which hosted in October.
“Dave [Quinn], the owner of Pisgah, started as a homebrewer and won a homebrew competition, and that’s really what started Pisgah Brewing,” Meath says. “It’s a beautiful space — a little farther out of town than the Wedge, but there’s more room for the brewers.”
Just Brew It returns to Pisgah on Saturday, June 4, 2-6 p.m., featuring nearly 100 different beers from over 40 homebrewers. Attendees must be members of Just Economics, and nonmembers may purchase general membership for $30 or add a VIP pass for $20 more, which grants access at 1 p.m. and includes a souvenir glass and a T-shirt. Money will not be accepted at the event, so Meath recommends that attendees purchase memberships prior to heading over to the festival site, though they can be purchased last-minute online via smartphone.
Meath notes that the entry requirements have attracted a largely local crowd each year, making Just Brew It a favorite among Asheville-area residents who love beer — and Just Economics’ mission — but aren’t necessarily fond of the crowds of tourists that many other Beer Week events attract. The allure of tasting creations by the immensely talented local homebrewing community likewise remains potent.
“These are unique, incredible beers that you may never get to try again, but there’s also traditional recipes,” Meath says. “And you get to talk with the brewers and hear their stories and learn what it takes to make their beer and why they love doing it.”
That formula has worked well for over a decade, but to improve matters, pours will now be allowed after the awards ceremony. Sampling usually stops before prizes are given out, but this year attendees can try the winning beers after they’ve been honored — as well as others that participants may have already enjoyed or didn’t get a chance to try (as supplies last).
Though attendance was down in 2021, which Meath attributes to pandemic uncertainty and the event being in Black Mountain, she hopes that people will feel comfortable partaking this year. Those who participate may also cross paths with future brewery owners. The 2015 People’s Choice winner, David Ackley, went on to start the Ginger’s Revenge ginger beer brewery, and 2019 champ Heidi Dunkleberg is in the process of setting up Grebleknud Brewing in Waynesville.
“There are a number of beer-related employers that are Living Wage Certified, so it’s a chance to lift them up and celebrate the good things that the industry has brought to the community, like good jobs and economic activity,” Meath says. “It’s great to be back in Beer Week.”
For more information, visit avl.mx/aak.