Travel Features

Pint of passion: WNC brewery sparks camaraderie

Greg and Sharon Wasik Greg and Sharon Wasik

Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Greg Wasik saw firsthand that trademark sense of community at neighborhood taverns around the Motor City.

And that genuine scene of friendship and fellowship is something still deeply cherished within him. 

“Everybody knew each other, and everybody went to that corner tavern in the evening to talk — everyone is welcome,” Wasik reminisced. “And this was the home of the automotive industry. Mostly blue collar. Everyone saw each other all day on their shifts. But, you go to the local tavern and enjoy a couple beers before going home.”

Those Midwestern memories are at the core ethos of Angry Elk Brewing. Located right along the bustling U.S. 441 on the outskirts of Cherokee, the Whittier business has become a beacon of people, place and pints since it opened its doors last November. 

angryelk sign

“This building is on a five-lane highway with 18,000 cars a day going by, and all [right near] the casino — we weren’t going to do another brewery unless it was a perfect storm kind of thing,” Wasik said. 

Related Items

A mechanical engineer in Michigan who eventually found his way down to Florida, Wasik and his wife, Sharon, have been in Western North Carolina for 17 years, ever since they bought a cabin high up on a mountain overlooking Bryson City. In 2014, the couple opened Valley River Brewing in Murphy, a venture that came to fruition when Harrah’s opened its Valley River Casino. 

“I’ve been a homebrewer for a while and I always liked how I could be creative with the taste of a beer, how I could manipulate the flavors,” Greg said. “And, from an engineering standpoint, I enjoy the building of the brewery — putting the equipment all together, remodeling the interior from start to finish.”

Two years later, the Wasiks sold the brewery. And it wasn’t long after that where they had their sights on the current Angry Elk building. Constructed in 1958, the structure was originally a longtime diner, then a Mexican restaurant for several years. 

angryelk glass

“We’ve been trying to get this building for three years,” Greg said, sitting in the depths of Angry Elk. “And I always felt if the right opportunity came along that we’d do another [brewery].” 

In his time between opening breweries, the Wasiks would head up to Alaska every summer, with Greg working as a fishing boat captain. With a Coast Guard tender license in-hand, Greg would take groups deep sea fishing on his 34-foot boat from Memorial Day to Labor Day. 

“I was combining my retirement with the boating experience I had from owning big boats all my life,” Greg said. “We were trolling for salmon, bottom fishing for halibut, catching yelloweye rockfish.”

On the walls of Angry Elk are numerous photos of Greg on his wild adventures along the Alaskan coast. To that, there’s also many nods to the United States military, including an actual Army parachute on the ceiling. With many veterans in his own family, Greg aims to honor those who served, something felt with the brewery’s massive “Thank A Vet” chalkboard wall covered with names and odes to vets. 

Surrounding Angry Elk is a 6-acre property that’s currently being developed into an RV park, with that built-in clientele adding to the “neighborhood” vibe of the brewery. In regards to culinary endeavors, there’s a rotating schedule of local food trucks in the parking lot. 

angryelk taps

Looking at the logistics of the brewery itself, it’s a 3.5-barrel system, with Greg & Co. constantly brewing to keep up with over a dozen styles of ales on tap. 

“Most every brewery has the basics — blonde, IPA, pale ale, dark beers. Sure, the beer is great at these places, but the brewery itself is the attraction,” Greg said. “And each brewery gets into its own creativity to make funky beers. But, for me, it’s also about just having a nice, comfortable place to sit down and enjoy the company of others — family, friends and strangers.” 

So, what about the name, Angry Elk? Well, one summer, the Wasik’s were driving to Gatlinburg and passing by the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A well-known spot to view and admire herds of elk, the Wasiks had to stop and wait for the elk to get out of the road. It was the midst of rutting season and two male elk were butting heads in front of the Wasik’s vehicle. 

“And their antlers were kind of all tangled up, doing this dance that was getting closer to our car,” Greg said. “I said to Sharon, ‘Do you think our insurance guy’s going to believe me when I tell him two elk destroyed the front of our car?’ She laughed and said, ‘Those elk look angry’ — that’s it, that’s what we’re going to name ourselves.”

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.