Brews News: WNC beer highlights of 2010

This has been another standout year for Western North Carolina breweries and craft beer. The craft beer industry seems recession-proof, thank Ninkasi!

Here are some of my WNC beery highlights of 2010, in no particular order.

Highland Brewing opens new tasting room
Highland (finally) joined the other Asheville-based breweries and opened a tasting room. The new tasting room is something to behold — spacious, funky and well lit, with a locally harvested wood bar and a stage for live music sets. Highland also added a three-barrel experimental brew room — where the brewers can do their own playing. These small-batch beers are available on tap in the tasting room. As if we needed any icing on this cake, Highland recently announced that starting in Feb., the tasting room will be open Thursday through Saturday, from 4 until 8 p.m., instead of only Fridays. Yay!

Pisgah stage and LAB back room
Since you can’t swing a bucket of hops around here without either hitting a musician or a brewer, it makes sense that the two hang out together — a lot. Pisgah Brewing in Black Mountain has become as much a music venue as a brewery since they expanded two years ago. Now Pisgah has added a huge new outdoor stage behind the brewery. This summer saw some rocking festival-type shows out there, including Del Yeah and Celtic Fest.

Lexington Avenue Brewery also opened—first their gastro-brewpub and then their back room music venue in January. The back room’s an intimate listening space with, of course, a stellar sound system. French Broad Brewing has been featuring great local live music for a number of years now, and one-year-old Craggie Brewing has been featuring local live music regularly. And as mentioned above, Highland’s new stage will offer live sets Fridays and Saturdays. Music and beer: a rocking team round here.


The draught board at Highland’s tasting room — photo by Anne Fitten Glenn

Nantahala Brewing opens
The far Western reaches of WNC finally got their own brewery in late spring and, just last week, a tasting room to go with it. Nantahala brewers/owners Chris and Cristina Collier have been producing some tasty beers and picking up accounts all over Western North Carolina. Try their Eddy Out Stout, if you get the chance.

First Beer City Festival
The Asheville Brewers Association teamed up with the folks who organize annual Brewgrass Festival to hold a new beer fest in June. Beer City Fest celebrates Asheville’s being voted Beer City, USA, in Charlie Papazian’s highly scientific on-line poll. Held in June at the brand-spanking new Roger McGuire Green in City-County Plaza Park, this was a great addition to Asheville’s beer festival roster. Organizers say they’ll do it again on June 4, 2011, whether or not we hold onto the Beer City title. And Charlie Papazian will visit Asheville this year. Stay tuned for details.

Drink beer to help those in need? Yes, please 
2010 was the year our small breweries offered their suds and their space to help others — over and over again. To name just a few such offerings, both Brewgrass and Beer City Fest proceeds went to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Asheville. In addition to donating beer to nonprofits for events, several breweries held fundraisers, including one for MANNA Food Bank at Craggie Brewing, one for A Growing Culture at Pisgah, and a homebrew competition to benefit Just Economics at the Wedge. Also, Asheville Brewing Company brewed both Moog Filtered Ale (for the first time) and the Xmas Jam Beer (for the second year). Proceeds from sales of the former went to The Moog Foundation and the latter to Asheville area Habitat for Humanity. Highland Brewing partnered up with Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy to organize free hikes up the mountains their seasonal brews are named for, held a fundraiser for the group, and put educational facts about threatened mountain flora and fauna on their packaging. Thanks, y’all, for supporting our community in so many ways.

Green Man Brewery changes hands
Dennis Thies purchased the iconic Green Man Brewery from founders Joe and Joan Eckhardt in May. After sprucing up the tasting room, Thies added three tanks (two fermenters and a Brite or storage), which will double capacity. Brewers John Stuart and Mike Karnowski have been producing some really interesting beers, including a rum-barrel-aged Imperial Stout.

Miscellaneous shout-outs
The second annual Oktoberfest downtown was a brew-soaked hit. Highland Brewing celebrated 15 years of brewing, while Pisgah Brewing celebrated five. Craggie Brewing turned one—and started bottling and distributing. The Asheville Brewers Association celebrated a one-year birthday in 2010 also.

Overall, it’s been a damn good year for beer. Cheers!

Send your brews news to Anne Fitten Glenn at brewgasmavl@gmail.com.

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