Where everybody knows your name: Tipping Point Brewing celebrates five years
It all started in a boat. “Dan [Elliot], Jon [Bowman] and I were fishing on Wolf Lake,” Doug Weaver said. “And we started kicking around the idea of having our own place, and here we are today.”
Sitting around a desk in the basement of Tipping Point Brewing in Waynesville one recent morning, the trio laughs and reminisces like a band of high school chums at a reunion. They’re longtime friends, and they’ve created something special in this flourishing downtown of arts, small business and culinary delights.
“Some might see five years as a milestone or resting point, but we don’t,” Weaver said. “Everything is constant for us. You never rest. It’s ongoing, always changing and evolving.”
Though Weaver may downplay the company’s recent birthday, what does remain is a social and economical centerpiece within a community growing leaps and bounds in the last few years. When Tipping Point first opened in December 2011, the brewery scene in Waynesville was nearly nonexistent (there are four breweries currently in town). Add that into a lack of spaces for late-night music or casual food and beverage, and you have a need for something to shift, to change — a “tipping point” if you will.
“At the time, there really was a need for a place like this,” Weaver said. “O’Malley’s had just closed a few doors down and that left a huge hole in the nightlife of this town. Waynesville was in need of a change, and now look how far we’ve come as a community in the last five years.”
On any given night, one can saunter into the Tipping Point and feel welcomed by the establishment, which has become an ambassador for the town and greater Western North Carolina. Either you know every friendly face you cross paths with or you will by the time you leave the building.
“Everybody that comes in here, if Doug doesn’t know them, then I know them, and if I don’t know them, then Jon knows them,” Elliot said. “Everyone is friends with everyone in here, and that’s a great thing.”
“When we were going into this we wanted to create a place like those great old bars you might see in a city like Milwaukee,” Weaver added. “That place your granddad went to, a multi-generational spot, with pictures of grandkids on the wall and that guy named ‘Bill’ who always sits on the same barstool — it’s a family here.”
Weaver is quick to point out the blue-collar nature of the business, where it’s not about throwing piles of money at something to make it work. Far from. It’s about the day-in-day-out blood, sweat and tears of hard work and determination that stands as the foundation for the Tipping Point.
“We’re not a group that’s coming into this with millions of dollars to invest in a production brewery and go big, we’re coming into this as working class men who invest in our business as we go along — a hundred dollars here, a thousand dollars there,” Weaver said. “And we’re building at such a slow speed that folks might think we’re not growing, but we are. We’re chipping away at our dream.”
And it’s also that laidback, devil-may-care attitude of the business that perfectly compliments the ever-changing menu and high quality craft beers. Initially, the idea of a brewery was a cherry on top for an already-successful restaurant. But, as their tasty selections took off, and the owners honed in their longtime love of craft beer and home brewing, it was decided to expand their operation. They bought new and better equipment, spent years perfecting recipes and even hired another brewer (Chris Perella), with the end result being an entire tap takeover by their own products this past year.
“You brew what you like. I spent almost two years working on our India Pale Ale and I’m still tweaking it. If you make the beer you love then you’ll attract others who also like those styles and flavors,” Bowman said. “Our blonde beer is for the masses so we don’t mess with it, where the amber and IPA are straightforward and to the point.”
“We’re no frills kind of people at our core, and I think our beer speaks to that,” Elliot added.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. We’re just trying to make good beer,” Weaver went on to say. “It’s not about ‘what’s trendy and cool this week.’ It’s about what John Q. Public wants — great, quality beer.”
Looking beyond the first five years of operation, the Tipping Point feels it’s at its optimal size and pace. Literally, they’re out of physical space to expand the brewery and restaurant. Figuratively, they’ve reached their threshold of what they can and want to manage. But, that doesn’t mean the work is done.
“I feel we’re finally settling in to what we envisioned in the beginning,” Elliot said. “And you have to have a progressive vision, one that doesn’t get complacent or else you blink and two years have passed and you haven’t moved ahead.”
“We’re looking to the future of Waynesville and what more we can do to make this town even better,” Weaver added. “For a long time, the mindset was to get butts in the seats, and now it’s about achieving quality in your staff, your product, and your customers. We’ve spent all of this time trying to get people to come to our community, so now let’s keep pushing ahead into the next chapter of Waynesville.”