And within a stones throw of the 2nd and Chestnut Street intersection resides Hoppy Trout, a craft brewery that’s headlong into its first full year of operation.
“To be honest, I really wanted to do something to bring the town back, because the community has really been struggling to have anything happen,” said Tom Rodeck, Hoppy Trout co-owner and brewmaster. “We want to try and be the catalyst for others to get the town moving again. In the last year or so, we’ve already had two new restaurants open in downtown — things are changing.”
There’s about one-square-foot of space inside Hoppy Trout Brewing Company for every resident in the town of Andrews. And that’s not saying much seeing as the town is home to around 1,780 residents. But, for Hoppy Trout, that just means you’d better get there early enough to grab a seat, a place within a business dearly needed and already greatly beloved in downtown Andrews.
“When we opened on New Year’s Eve this year, there were people lined out the door,” Rodeck recalled with a smile. “And like anywhere in the mountains, it was slower in the late winter and early spring, but we survived to where now you can’t find a place to sit on Friday and Saturday nights.”
Born in Indiana, Rodeck and his family relocated to Andrews when he was 5 years old. His father, Tom Sr., started Accent Awnings, a company he and Tom Jr. still run to this day in Andrews. With that business and analytical foundation, the younger Tom headed off to North Carolina State University, where he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering.
And it was in Raleigh when Tom began to discover craft beer. Whereas most of the usual collegiate endeavors revolve around domestic brands (ie: Budweiser, Coors, etc.), he soon transitioned into more exotic flavors, with a curiosity about homebrewing not too far down the line for him.
“Once you try these flavorful craft beers, it’s really hard to go back to the domestics,” Rodeck said. “Everywhere I go these days, I find the local breweries and try what they’re creating. It’s a really great way to get to know a community and what they’re about.”
After returning to Andrews, Rodeck befriended Jake Wentzek. The two found a common bond for craft beer, with the duo spending every weekend homebrewing, always experimenting with different flavors and ingredients, tweaking recipes and slowly honing their chops. It was also a fun way for Rodeck to apply his engineering skills into a whole new realm of possibility.
“You see a lot of engineering backgrounds in the craft beer industry, and that’s because it’s the perfect mesh between science and art,” he said. “There’s a lot of technical aspects to brewing beer and perfecting recipes, and there’s also a lot of creative ones, too.”
Right around 2014, the idea bubbled up that Rodeck open a brewery in his hometown. He was apprehensive, at first, but with the encouragement from his family and his wife, Kristin Spradling, he decided to launch Hoppy Trout.
“This place had been a pencil and paper thing for almost a year in planning,” Rodeck said. “It was nerve-wracking that first day being open, but we stayed calm. I remember putting the last $150 I had into the register for change [laughs].”
Now eight months old, Hoppy Trout is finding solid ground in its dream-turned-reality. As the Andrews Brewing Company is also right down the road, the town is truly embracing the notion of being a craft beer destination on the ever-growing map (and interest) in Western North Carolina. With Andrews Brewing already hosting weekly concerts and tastings, Hoppy Trout hopes to ideally complement, and build upon, those first steps taken to ensure the future of the community.
“Growing up, Main Street was dead after 5 o’clock, and now we’re open and people are coming out, being part of their community,” Rodeck said. “Craft brewing is an art form, and we look forward to showing people the craft, and what it is we’re doing here — it’s a great feeling to be able to put our efforts back into the town.”