The Beer Boom
“During the early years, Highland had visits of beer aficionados from nearby metropolitan areas. ... Over time, this trickle has turned into a flood.” —Oscar Wong, Highland Brewing Company
Owner Oscar Wong and his daughter, Leah Wong Ashburn, who serves as the company’s vice president
Since its humble beginnings in a basement in 1994, Highland Brewing Company in east Asheville has seen steady expansion, including a tasting room added in 2010
The crew at Innovation Brewing in Sylva doesn’t let their relatively small size restrict their variety. Depending on the season, the brewery produces 20-some beers at a time.
Small operations like Innovation Brewing in Sylva and larger ones such as Asheville's Highland Brewing coexist in WNC.
Though Joe Rowland of Nantahala Brewery runs his operation from Bryson City, as head of the Asheville Brewer’s Alliance, he’s still committed to working closely with area brewers to establish the region as a beer destination.
“We’re all interested in helping each other grow. The more people learn about this area, and the better beer we make collectively, the more traffic will come.” —Joe Rowland, Nantahala Brewing
Copper-clad kettles at Sierra Nevada’s new brewery in Mills River
The Mills River brewery is Sierra Nevada’s new East Coast base of production and distribution. It’s slated to produce 350,000 barrels per year—more than all other North Carolina craft brewers combined.
“The love and the culture of craft beer is a big reason why the major breweries end up locating here.” —Ben Teague, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce
The Thirsty Monk in Asheville is boosting homebrewers with its new brewery, Open Brewing, which serves as an incubator for do-it-yourselfers. Thirsty Monk VP Chall Gray says it’s all about fostering inclusion in the local beer scene.
A growing number of WNC breweries have made the move to canning and bottling, a sign of the growing industry.
The Wedge Brewing Company, which opened in Asheville’s River Arts District in 2008, is as popular for its expansive outdoor patio as it is for its beers. At present, there are eight original brews on tap, including the varieties shown opposite.
With an emphasis on Belgian and West Coast-style hoppy ales, Wicked Weed opened with a bang in late 2012. This October, the company opened a second Asheville location called the Funkatorium.