In the months since West Asheville’s old Altamont Brewing was sold and rebranded as UpCountry Brewing, many on the local beer scene have wondered what new owner John Cochran would do with the place. Cochran is one of the South’s pioneering craft brewery owners, having co-founded Terrapin Brewing of Athens, Ga., and helped build it into a regional beer powerhouse. But in July, a controlling interest was sold to international brewer MillerCoors, and Cochran was ready for a change.
So, in August, he purchased Altamont, which has a great location at 1042 Haywood Road in what has become a zone of West Asheville beer activity leading down to New Belgium along the French Broad River and Wedge just across the river. After the business changed hands, a new brewing license was required, so Cochran used the time to give UpCountry a fresh new look and build the menu at the adjoining restaurant.
Now, the brewery permits are in place, and Upcountry has planned its grand opening for Saturday, Dec. 17, with a full slate of house beers crafted by Jordan Veale. The day will also include food specials from chef Matt Kovitch, plus lots of live music and family-friendly activities.
The new UpCountry brews are Only Always Blonde, Bogey Free Session IPA, Hopped Red, Mandragora IPA and the cleverly named Soon to Be Named Porter. And those are just for starters — more are in the works.
To begin, the only place to get these beers will be at the brewery, but don’t be surprised if UpCountry eventually launches some distribution. Cochran has plans for expanding the brewery and will double its capacity from 400 barrels annually to about 800.
Cochran has said that UpCountry will do easy-to-drink session brews, and the brand will be about the mountains and outdoor activities. And the price will be right — for the grand opening, beers will go for $3 a pint.
You won’t have to wait until Dec. 17 to try them. Each Friday until the grand opening, UpCountry will tap a single keg of a selected brew as a sort of sneak preview of what it’s doing.
For the Dec. 17 event, UpCountry will have live music starting at 4 p.m. with rowdy, old-time band John Hardy Party. The Jerry Garcia Jam performs at 7 p .m., and Josh Phillips and Friends takes the stage at 9 p.m. This all should make for quite a party.
The UpCountry grand opening is just the start of what will be a string of brewery openings on the Asheville beer scene. Both Burial Beer Co. and Wedge Brewing Co. have second locations under construction. And a number of new breweries are being built, including Archetype (also on Haywood Road at Beecham’s Curve), Whistle Hop and Turgua in Fairview, Upbeat Brewing (which will make a ginger brew at its location on the French Broad River)l Hillman Beer (doing lagers on Sweeten Creek Road), Fahrenheit Brewing (with a pizzeria just off Hendersonville Road in South Asheville, Habitat Brewing (which has opened its taproom next to Moog Music on the edge of downtown) and the brewery at yeast maker White Labs on South Charlotte Street.
And those are just the breweries announced for Asheville and Buncombe County. More are in the works elsewhere in the mountains.
Follow Tony Kiss on Facebook at Carolina Beer Guy and on Twitter at BeerGuyTK. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.