Carolina Beer Guy: Year ends with cider, beer news

ENCORE: Hickory Nut Gorge Brewery has opened its second location inside the former Mars Theatre in Mars Hill. Photo courtesy of Hickory Nut Gorge Brewery

This crazy, crushing COVID-19 year is ending with lots of activity on the craft beverage scene. A new cidery has opened in the Fairview area, a brewery in Mars Hill is working to build its business, and a popular Asheville taproom has shut down for winter to protect customers and crew from the virus.

Farmhouse cider

The new Barn Door Ciderworks has opened with its line of traditional barrel-aged ciders on tap and in bottles, plus beer, wine and small bites. It’s operated by Katie Moore and her partner Dan Fowler, who is also the cidermaker.

Before opening, they produced cider sold at Fairview’s Turgua Brewing Co. Fowler has been making cider for about 40 years, mostly for family and friends.

“The cider that we make is much more traditional,” Moore says. Apples are sourced locally and pressed on-site. Barn Door’s four current house ciders include no added juice, sugar or concentrates, are fermented to be dry rather than sweet and aged for long periods of time. “The ciders that we have right now are all over a year old,” she says.

Moore and Fowler intend to primarily sell their ciders out of the Barn Door tasting room.

Theatrical brews

An old downtown movie house in Mars Hill is finding new life as a brewery. The Mars Theatre has become the second location of Chimney Rock-based Hickory Nut Gorge Brewery.

According to Merri Fretwell, who owns the brewery with her husband, Marc Fretwell, brewing began earlier this year with Dean Atkinson and Jamie Piastuch turning out English-style beers.

Seating has been installed in both the upper and lower levels of the building, which she says dates to 1947 and was built into the side of a hill. Most of the business has been inside, but with almost 4,000 square feet of space, there’s plenty of room for customers to spread out.

Once it’s responsible to do so, the Fretwells plan to purchase a new projector and resume screening films.

East side hiatus

Highland Brewing Co., Asheville’s first craft brewery, is temporarily closing its tasting room as COVID-19 cases to grow in Buncombe County and across North Carolina. Curbside pickup will resume on Wednesday, Jan. 6, and full reopening will occur at a later date.

In a company statement, President Leah Wong Ashburn notes that colder winter weather has made outdoor seating impractical, and management is concerned about keeping its customers and visitors safe. Like many other area breweries, Highland dealt with a bout of COVID-19 when a member of the hospitality staff tested positive in the fall.

“We made this decision to temporarily close out of care for the health and safety of our team,” Ashburn says. “All of our hospitality team members will receive support during this closure including paid time off and shifts available to focus on taproom improvement projects, training courses, and supporting other departments.”


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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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