Bryson brewer named ABA president, hits the road

art frIn the last two weeks, Joe Rowland has soaked in the California sunshine, rafted the Grand Canyon, wandered the Rocky Mountains, gone skydiving and tamed the endless cornfields of the Midwest, all the while cruising the country in a rock star tour bus. 

He’s also been drinking a lot of beer along the way — a lot of beer. 

All that talk of the tourists? True that

op frTrue story. My wife Lori and I were enjoying a delicious, refreshing IPA at the Wedge Brewery on Sunday afternoon, rewarding ourselves after a brutal trail run in the mid-day heat at Bent Creek (brutal, at least, by my estimation; Lori and our dog, Django, were just loping along the entire time, well ahead of me). The brewery in the Asheville River Arts District was relatively crowded and the sun was blazing, so we shared a shaded table with a couple about our age who invited us to sit after making friends with Django.

We soon found out they were from the Charleston area, he an engineer with Boeing and she a public school secretary. More interesting, however, is why they decided to come to the mountains for a long weekend: beer.

When you’re here, you’re family

tg omalleysIt’s about making everyone feel welcome for Lynn Stanberry.

“You get a warm feeling coming in here,” she smiled. “There are college kids, locals, people on vacation. It all kind of mixes and blends well together.”

Magic in a bottle

tg beerIf you build it, they will come. If you brew it, they will come and party.

Brewing the next chapter

art frDuring the last 20 years, the Western North Carolina craft beer scene has exploded. 

While Asheville’s nearly 20 breweries earned it the “Beer City USA” title, a loud rumble has also echoed out of the small towns west of the metropolis. Waynesville, Sylva and Bryson City have all thrown their hats into the craft beer ring.

Waynesville taps into craft beer festival

art beerfestThe inaugural Waynesville Craft Beer Festival will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at the American Legion baseball field in Waynesville.

WNC breweries medal big in beer competition

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.”

Hop, tip and a pump away: Haywood welcomes a burgeoning brewery scene

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

Music & beer: Maggie Valley festival features a winning combination

If there’s one thing Western North Carolina is rooted in, it’s music. The rolling Appalachians were the birthplace of bluegrass, and the region has long been known as a bastion of folk tradition and talent.

Along with music, another industry has recently been finding its roots in the mountains as well. With a bevy of new craft brewers popping up around the region, WNC is making a name for itself in the beer world, too.

So Maggie Valley is taking the chance to celebrate both, kicking off their festival season with the inaugural Americana Roots and Beer Festival on May 6 that celebrates both the craft brewers and down-home musicians who call the region home.

The muse for the event was the storied Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion in Bristol, Tenn., said Maggie Valley Festival Director Audrey Hager.

The idea of a roots celebration was attractive because, said Hager, it’s a concept that has a multitude of facets that can be explored in years to come.

“Roots can be a lot of different things,” said Hager. “It can be rock, it can be punk, it can be folk, it can be a lot of different things so we can go a lot of different ways.”

The festival itself is designed as a companion to the long-running Maggie Valley Trout Festival that will take place the next day, May 7. Proceeds from the beer and music event will go towards water conservation efforts in the area, which is one of the chief aims of the trout festival.

For the fête’s birth year, Hager said they decided to go with a bluegrass theme, in keeping with the region’s heritage.

As for the craft beer, it just seemed a natural fit for an event showcasing acts that are true to their roots. North Carolina is at the leading edge of the craft brewery movement, which values local, grassroots brewing efforts.

“A lot of people are getting into craft brewing as a hobby, and Asheville is really becoming a craft brewing destination, so the craft beers just seem to go along,” said Hager.

And indeed, with the weighty distinction of Beer City USA being bestowed on neighboring Asheville for two years running, the area is becoming a haven for local brewers of all kinds.

Many will be at the event, offering beer tasting and information in a special beer garden section of the festival grounds. Waynesville’s newest brewmaster, Frog Level Brewery, will be on hand, as will Asheville’s Craggie Brewing and Asheville Brewing Company. Other as-yet unnamed beer-makers from around the region will also be offering tastings of their products.

For those not alcoholically inclined, however, music-only tickets will also be on sale, granting admission to the day’s busy lineup of shows.

The main stage will see performances by Balsam Range, well-loved local bluegrass aficionados, as well as Big House Radio, winners of Asheville’s Last Band Standing competition last year.

The Harris Brothers, an Americana duo from Lenoir, will round out the main shows, but according to Hager there will be much more musical.

The second stage will give up-and-coming talent who find their roots in WNC a place to demonstrate their abilities. New acts will perform for the crowd and a panel of judges, who will both cast their votes for the top new talent. The winners will get $500 in prize money, with the possibility of more, depending on ticket sales.

Other attractions on the afternoon will be a few craft booths as well as food and drinks from area vendors. Alcohol sales will close at 10 p.m., but the music will keep pumping until 11 p.m. To encourage responsible drinking, a shuttle will run continuously from the festival grounds to various locations around Maggie Valley from 4:45 until 11:45 p.m.

Hager said that, in the run-up to the festival, response has been strong and positive from local and regional partners, and she hopes that will translate into enthusiasm from festival-goers.

“ Maggie’s never had anything like this, so we hope the community supports this event” said Hager. “We’re excited about it and I think they’ll find this is something we want to grow into a regional event going forward.”

Bryson City craft brewers keep it small and personal

The very beginning of the Nantahala Brewing Company story began — appropriately — at a local bar.

Mike Marsden had long thought the 1,200-square-foot warehouse adjacent to Across the Trax, the bar he owns in Bryson City, would be perfect for a brewery.

While enjoying a drink at another local establishment, a bartender friend introduced him to a couple sitting at the other end of the bar. It was Chris and Christina Collier, award-winning home brewers who had long dreamt of someday opening their own brewery.

By the end of the night, the three were excitedly sketching out details on a cocktail napkin. With Joe Rowland and Ken Smith signing up as partners along the way, the Nantahala Brewery has finally opened its doors for business a year later.

At this point, the brewery is serving up five varieties of beer. The Colliers — who are nationally certified beer judges — say their aim is not so much to appeal to a mass audience as to please the “beer geeks.”

The company is offering the Nantahala Pale Ale and the Eddy Out Stout, but its two most popular brews so far have been the Bryson City Brown, a smooth brown ale, and the Noon Day IPA, which carries a heavy West Coast influence and a hoppy, grapefruit-inspired taste.

This summer, the Nantahala Brewery is also brewing batches of Depot Street Summer Wheat, a spicy German hefeweizen with hints of cloves and bananas. Nantahala Light, a crisp and easy German pilsner, is on the way.

The brewery is already selling its offerings at an increasing number of restaurants and bars in Bryson City, Sylva, Waynesville, Asheville and Murphy, along with a few grocery stores and at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Rowland says his company is hoping to churn out 600 to 1,000 barrels of beer this year, even though its equipment can produce a much higher output. Chris Collier says he’d like to see the Nantahala Brewery maintain a personal touch rather than become large-scale.

“It appeals to me keeping it small, keeping it simple,” said Chris Collier.

According to Marsden, Nantahala’s craft beers thus far have gotten a great response at Across the Trax. More visitors are looking for local brews, and Asheville’s status as a nationally recognized beer town hasn’t hurt.

“The biggest thing about it is it’s fresh,” said Marsden. Many breweries produce quality beer, but by the time it’s delivered, it’s already a few months old. Nantahala’s brews, on the other hand, arrive less than two weeks after they’re ready, Marsden said.

Those who enjoy sampling the fresh local beer at Across the Trax are often invited to see where the magic happens next door. It’s not often that people can get that close to their brewers, but Christina Collier would like to see that change.

“I think every town should have a local brewery,” said Christina Collier. “It should be like a local bakery.”

Right now, Nantahala Brewing Company gets most of its hops from the Pacific Northwest. It hopes to gradually get more from Western North Carolina to use late in the process, which helps create a stronger aroma in the beer.

The Nantahala Brewery’s tasting room is in the process of being set up, but the space is generally open to anyone who wants a tour.

Though the fledgling company has worked hard to renovate its warehouse space, most customers don’t immediately recognize the progress that’s been made when they walk in. They only see a gaping space with brewing equipment and nowhere to sit.

But even getting that huge equipment up and running was a challenge for the newcomers.

“This was just a shell before,” said Christina Collier, who spent a chilly winter helping paint the 30-foot walls inside an inviting blue.

By the time the tasting room is set up and retailers move into adjacent spaces within the warehouse, though, Nantahala Brewery hopes to become a popular destination in Bryson City.

According to Christina Collier, other breweries in the area probably won’t mind the competition. There’s more cooperation than competition among brewers, she said.

“Everybody wants everybody else to succeed,” said Christina Collier. “It looks bad for small-town microbreweries to fail.”


Want to try?


Check out to find out where you can sip some of Nantahala Brewing Company’s offerings. The brewery also offers growlers.

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