What goes in must come out: that’s the basic premise behind your water and sewer bill. Sewer fees simply mirror the water bills. 

travel beerDieter Kuhn was 4,500 miles from his hometown in Germany when he came across Sylva, a small community tucked away in the heart of Western North Carolina.

“The Great Smoky Mountains are pretty unique, with a lot of similarities of terrain and temperature to the Black Forest (Germany),” he said. “It’s very comfortable here, and being part of this town reminds me of home.”

art beerfestAll five North Carolina breweries west of Asheville medaled in the recent Carolinas Championship of Beer during the Hickory Hops Festival.

 

“It’s a testament that we are all in it for the long haul, that we will strive to get better,” said Clark Williams, owner/brewer at Frog Level Brewing in Waynesville. “We felt the pride that all of Western North Carolina should have for this craft. It’s easy to say we all work hard to make great beer.”

Magic in a bottle

art frIf you build it, they will come. 

If you brew it, they will come and party.

Celebrating the fourth release in their “Trail Magic Ale” series, Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City will host a weekend of music and craft beer on March 22-23. The festivities are all in an effort to showcase the adventurous spirit of Southern Appalachia and the mystical ways of the Appalachian Trail that runs through the heart of Western North Carolina.

Two breweries that nearly found themselves pitted against each other in a trademark lawsuit may soon make amends in the spirit of brotherly beermaker love, but also out of mutual gain.

Beer had been flowing from the taps of Headwaters Brewing Company in Waynesville for just a few months when the bad news arrived — a cease-and-desist letter from another brewery claiming rights to Headwaters’ name.

Victory Brewing Company out of Pennsylvania makes a beer called Headwaters Pale Ale, and while Headwaters Brewery had its name first, Victory Brewing beat them to the trademark punch.

art frFor Clark Williams, it’s all about giving back.

Owner of Frog Level Brewing in Waynesville, Williams is celebrating not only the first anniversary of starting his business on Dec. 14, he’s merging the milestone with the annual “Toys for Tots” drive, which collects donated items for children who might otherwise have a dismal Christmas.

coverIt’s noon on a Wednesday and Scott Peterson already has beer on the mind.

Just beyond the large glass doors and computer paper “Coming Soon” signs, Clark Williams is filling kegs with his flagship brews.

“Getting open is the challenge right now,” Williams said, who is anxious to see people socializing at Frog Level Brewing Company in Waynesville.

Although it is technically a bar, Williams said he wants the brewery to be more — a family friendly establishment. In addition to beer, Frog Level will sell kids’ drinks such as root beer. Since the brewery will not sell food, Williams suggests ordering a pizza for delivery or picking up some Happy Meals to eat while both adults and kids enjoy their drinks.

The brewery also plans to have music Fridays and Saturdays and offer indoor corn hole.

There is no definitive opening date, but when it does open in the next few weeks, Frog Level will be the first brew house in Haywood County — one of three west of Asheville and one of 51 breweries in the state, according to the North Carolina Brewers Guild.

“I am trying to saturate the restaurants (with kegs) first, and that’s proved to be quite hard to do,” Williams said.

The brewery began selling kegs to local restaurants, including Bourbon Barrel Beef and Ale in Hazelwood and The Gateway Club in Waynesville in mid-October. A week later, the brewery had already sold 32 kegs.

Williams said he loves seeing people purchasing his beer. No one is forcing them to drink it or giving them free samples; they drink it because they like what he has to offer.

“That’s a part of this I never thought of,” he said. “It’s damn satisfying.”

For about a year, Williams sampled his various brews at The Gateway Club before settling on three beers — Lily’s Cream Boy, Catcher in the Rye and the Tadpole Porter. Tasters filled out anonymous comment cards that Williams used to figure out which of his concoctions consumers liked best.

Williams’ wife, Jenny, named the beers. Catcher in the Rye, also the name of a famous novel by J.D. Salinger, is brewed with rye, making it lighter than a traditional IPA.

“Ours is so not standard that I hesitate to call it an IPA,” Williams said.

The Tadpole Porter is an English-style ale made with sorghum from Buncombe County, and its name is an obvious reference to the business’ frog-theme.

The third brew has a more personal name. Lily is the mother of Fuzzy, a cream-colored hairless cat owned by the Williams’, hence the name Lily’s Cream Boy. The lightest of its three beers, it is brewed with flaked corn.

“It’s a microbrewery’s answer to a lager,” Williams said.

A beer takes four hours to brew, 14 to 20 days to ferment and another two or three days to carbonate in the kegs. With the exception of the grain, which is currently not grown in North Carolina, all of Frog Level’s beers are made solely with ingredients from within the state or even the county. The brewery buys its hops from Winding River Hops in Clyde.

“I don’t want to be the next Sam Adams,” Williams said. “I want to be the Haywood County brewery.”

In addition to its three regular brews, Williams plans to brew rare kegs throughout

the year. He will sell three rare kegs to area restaurants and one will be available on tap at Frog Level. Possible rare kegs include a banana wheat beer; Autumn Harvest, made with apples, honey and cinnamon; and Bug-eyed Stout, with of espresso beans from Panacea Coffee Company.

Kegs cost $75, while a glass of beer will cost $4. For the same price as a glass, customers can try four 4-ounce samples of Frog Level’s brews.

For now, the bar will only have four frog leg-shaped taps —three for the flagship beers and one for rare brews — but Williams hope to add a fifth “guest” tap that will feature beer from other North Carolina breweries.

Pulling from his surroundings — a creek and its tree-covered banks out back — Williams brings that same earthy, rustic feel inside his brewery.

A painted river runs along the floor, flowing into a giant pool. The walls are red brick or red-painted plaster, featuring pieces for sale from Ridge Runners Naturals. The bar itself is about four feet tall with a wood top and corrugated sheet metal around the base.

Behind the bar, Williams’ office door reads “Dawg,” a nickname his wife calls him.

Through green, glass doors a wood porch with picnic seating affords a view of Richland Creek that runs through Frog Level.

“Look at this place. Why wouldn’t you want to brew beer here?” Williams said, calling Frog Level the local underdog. His goal is to bring more life to the area, he said.

During the day, Williams, 37, works at down the street at Giles Chemical. Nights and weekends, he spends at the brewery, making beer and prepping for its imminent opening. The retired Marine has lived in the area his entire life and brewed beer for the last four or five years.

His vacations have always included breweries, Williams said, but it wasn’t until his visit to New Mexico that he decided to open one of his own.

“I want to get up early and love to come to work,” he said.

 

Hours:

Monday thru Wednesday 2 to 6:30 p.m.

Thursday thru Saturday 2 to 8:30 p.m.

 

Other stops on the microbrewery trail west of Asheville

• Heinzelmannchen Brewery, Sylva on Mill Street

• Nantahala Brewing Company, Bryson City on Depot Street

 

From no breweries to three:

Two other breweries are planning to open in Waynesville in the next year.

• HeadWaters Brewing Company

• Tipping Point Tavern

Beer brewing in Bryson City just took on a whole new look this weekend when Nantahala Brewing Company threw open the doors of its brand new tasting room. The town’s fledgling brewery welcomed friends and fans into its front room on Depot Street, which they’ve transformed into a rustic, high-ceiling tasting room – a beer bar to accompany the brewing operation that’s been cranking in the back for some time now.

Joe Rowland, head of the company’s marketing and part owner of the business, said that they’re thrilled to be able to serve their own brews. In fact, said Rowland, it’s the key to their business model, along with the self-distribution plan they’ve been working in the area.

“We want to be the beer destination in the area,” said Rowland, and with their tasting room just across the street from the Great Smoky Mountains Railway, they hope to pull in the droves of tourists that flock to the town in warmer weather.

For now, they’re pulling four of their own taps – Noon Day IPA, Appalachian Trail Extra Pale Ale, Bryson City Brown Ale and Eddy Out Stout – as well as a couple of guest spots reserved for brews from neighboring Greenman Brewing in Asheville. But Rowland says that they hope one day soon to be serving upwards of 20 different beer varieties, some of their own mixed with the plethora of other local brewers in the region.

And the region is replete with hometown craft breweries, a product, said Rowland, of the friendly environment North Carolina offers breweries.

Though the brewery taxes are high, he said, this is one of the only places in the country that affords beer-makers the right of self-distribution, allowing them to sell and send to restaurants, bars and stores themselves, cutting out the costly middleman.

Still, said Rowland, opening up in such a small location that’s so reliant on seasonal tourist traffic hasn’t been an easy proposition for the company, owned by himself and brewer Chris Collier.

“The brewing community is a very small community,” said Rowland, “and most of our friends thought we were insane.”

But sanity notwithstanding, they’ve been successful so far, getting their products into stores and restaurants from Weaverville to Murphy and even scoring places in Charlotte and Winston Salem.

Rowland said he was thrilled by the local response to the tasting room’s opening, too; they welcomed more than 120 visitors on Friday night alone, with only a few days’ notice.

“It’s been pretty huge,” said Rowland of the response, and with the opening comes a solution to one of the company’s perennial problems — regular hours.

When it was just a brewery, it wasn’t always easy for eager customers to catch someone at the warehouse. Now, those in search of a good beer and a good time know just when and where to come for them.

And for such a small community, Rowland said the regional response to their product has been pretty impressive.

“There’s a huge appetite for it here,” Rowland said.

This doesn’t really surprise Paul Gatza. He’s the director of the Brewer’s Association, a national organization that pretty much lives up to its straightforward name.

“All the consumer trends are pointing to a bright future for craft breweries,” said Gatza, which is good news for locals like Nantahala.

Technically speaking, a craft brewery is small, independent and brews their product in line with traditional beer-making techniques.

And those are qualities that appeal greatly to younger American consumers, even in this slouchy economy. While the major domestic breweries have shown a downturn in profits, the craft-brew revolution has meant a spike in profit for craft breweries, even in the most dire recession years.

“I think especially with the younger legal-drinking-age adults, they’ve been able to discover the world of craft beers themselves,” said Gatza. “There’s qualities of the small, local, independent that they can identify with in themselves.”

And with North Carolina being one of the most craft-brewery friendly states in the nation, it’s no wonder that last year, Asheville snatched the annually bestowed Beer City USA title from Portland, Ore., long crowned the nation’s best city for finding good brews.

Rowland and his company are happy to ride that craft-brew wave, and he’s confident enough in their product that even if the wave crests, they’ll still find an audience willing to shell out for the taste and experience that no other shop in the city can offer.

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