“I mean, look at this place — it’s beautiful,” he smiled.
Alongside his wife, Judy, the couple bought their home in Andrews in 2004 after over two decades of living in New Hampshire. They were looking for a place in Southern Appalachia that was not too far from family, but far enough to where they could build their own existence.
“The weather is perfect, the people here are great, and the community interactions are all positive when we decided to start our businesses,” Judy said.
“Businesses” is in reference to the three companies the Carlson’s run. Initially, they created Websites.com (which helps develop key web marketing strategies), but that soon changed when they relocated to Cherokee County. Looking for ways to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Western North Carolina, and also “get some exercise,” they began growing different grape varieties on the property. That action ultimately molded itself into Calaboose Cellars, a three-acre winery the couple built from the ground up in 2007.
“We get customers from Raleigh, Atlanta, Charlotte, and everywhere in-between,” Eric said. “For whatever reason they may have, wine lovers will travel great distances to explore a winery — it’s also becoming that way with craft beer.”
The Carlson’s saw the current craft beer boom overtaking Western North Carolina. Having a longtime love of wine, they also had a deep interest in craft beer. So, in early 2013, they launched Andrews Brewing. Just last year alone, the brewery had an output of around 400 barrels, with the winery producing 7,200 bottles. With their array of beer selections — from pale ales to stouts, blondes to ambers — the brewery has made a fast name for itself around Southern Appalachia by pouring quality, handcrafted liquid gold.
Now that both alcohol businesses are hitting their stride, Eric recently purchased an old 6,000 square-foot grocery store in downtown Andrews. He’s currently in the process of putting in a full-time offsite brewery, one that will allow the original property to focus more on tasting rooms and live entertainment. When the summer months roll around, Andrews Brewing hosts its “Patio/Lawn Chair” music series, where bands from around the region play the front porch on Fridays and in the nearby band shell on Saturdays.
“All of this has been enjoyable for me,” Eric said. “I love starting new things, and meeting the daily challenges of what it takes to make a business work.”
“We want visitors to leave here knowing that it was worth looking for, because we can be hard to find in these mountains,” Judy laughed. “And really, for us, it’s about the people, that they come here to relax and enjoy themselves.”