Archived Arts & Entertainment

This must be the place

art theplacePouring its first pints in October 2013, Innovation Brewing in Sylva was created by Nicole Dexter and Chip Owen. The couple has a deep love for the craft beer, one that developed over the years through various jobs in the industry. 


Eventually, their dream of running their own operation molded itself into a special place within Jackson County where locals and visitors alike congregate.

“Sylva is really this hidden gem. It has wonderful people and a really strong community feel, and you have that in bigger cities, but it’s more centralized here,” Dexter said. “Here, everybody just really pulls together and supports each other — it’s incredible. Everybody feels really genuine and are themselves.”

Each day, locals and visitors alike mill about the space. Some line the counter while countless others soak in the Appalachian sunshine on the outdoor patio. Smiles, handshakes and laughter are commonplace, while live music permeates the atmosphere from a nearby corner. And as their business grows and flourishes, Dexter and Owen always bring their philosophy back to the foundation of Innovation — making quality brews for beer lovers.

“We’re trying to make the best beer we can, trying to always improve our processes and play with our ingredients,” Owen said. “Being here hasn’t sunk it yet, and it kind of doesn’t feel like it’s our place sometimes. We created it, but also the community created it, too. We’re happy it’s a place people want to hangout in.”

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Smoky Mountain News: How did you get involved in the craft beer industry?

Chip Owen: I grew up in Michigan and was a home brewer for about nine years. I started off making Belgium ales because they’re really expensive to buy in the store.

Nicole Dexter: I’m originally from Western Pennsylvania and started working at the North Country Brewing Company there for four years, then at Asheville Brewing for four years. I’ve just always been interested in the industry. I bought a homebrew kit with my tax return and started brewing.

SMN: What do you love about this industry?

ND: It’s kind of a unique industry. While it is competitive, it really has a family feel. Everyone works together, everyone supports each other — it’s just this really great community in itself.

CO: I love everything involved with making a beer, but also the mechanic side. I have a mechanical engineering background. All of our equipment I welded myself, pieced it together and designed it. 

SMN: What about the culture of craft beer?

CO: It’s a very community feel. Everyone is your friend. If we have a problem with something and want to bounce an idea off of someone, we call another brewery and ask what they think. People are openly sharing information and that’s a great feeling.

SMN: What is your mission?

ND: For now, just to be the neighborhood pub, the local watering hole in Sylva we felt was needed. We’re about craft beers, and using local ingredients whenever possible. We don’t do any production, we’re a craft brew pub. We make small batches and are able to experiment. So, when we do get to the point of being a production brewery, we’ll have things dialed in and know what our best sellers are.

SMN: What’s it like for you to stand in the brewery on a busy night?

ND: One thing I really like that I notice a lot are the friendships forming here, with people that may not have normal interacted with each other. We see these unique relationships forming and it’s pretty cool. We’re excited for summer, for when Sylva comes alive, which we can’t believe would be anymore crazier than it already has been. It’s even better than we could have imagined.



Hot picks

1: The Trail Magic No. 7 Release Party will be March 14-15 at Nantahala Brewing in Bryson City.

2: My Highway will perform at 9 p.m. March 8 at O’Malley’s in Sylva.

3: The Highlands Annual Chili Cook-off will be from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, March 15, at the Highlands Community Building.

4: Cutthroat Shamrock will perform at 9 p.m. March 7 at No Name Sports Pub in Sylva.

5: Summer McMahan and Darren Nicholson Band will be performing at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at Jackson County Courthouse in Sylva.

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