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Breweries hopping in the High Country

Photo+by+Sarah+Weiffenbach++%7C++The+Appalachian
Photo by Sarah Weiffenbach | The Appalachian

North Carolina is home to the most breweries and brewpubs in any state south of Pennsylvania or east of Texas, according to the North Carolina Brewers Guild.

Partially due to the Appalachian State University fermentation sciences department and the already established restaurant scene in Boone and the surrounding High Country, beer-making is popular in the area.

Within the past two years, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Lost Province Brewing Company and Blowing Rock Ale House have all opened and established strong followings with some of their full-time brewers getting their starts in the fermentation sciences department.

“I think everyone is doing a great job of making interesting beers,’ said Seth Cohen, the head of the fermentation sciences department.

To find out what High Country beer has to offer, The Appalachian visited these three breweries and interviewed their brew masters to gain insight.

 

Appalachian Mountain Brewery

Located on Boone Creek Drive and hidden in an unassuming building, Appalachian Mountain Brewery opened in 2012 and serves beers in its tasting room to crowds of Appalachian students, faculty and the community.

A couple of months ago AMB also added a food truck, Farm to Flame, to its patio outside, effectively turning the brewery and tasting room into a functioning restaurant. The truck serves pizzas made with locally sourced ingredients – some infused with beer sauce straight from the brewery.

The brewery itself tries to maintain a local-first mentality, as well. It is a member of High Country Local First, a nonprofit that supports the local businesses and farmers in the area.

“We actually just made butternut squash pumpkin porter with ingredients all from Spring House and New Life Farms,” AMB head brewer Nathan Kelischek said. “In a lot of our Belgian-style ales we have Riverbend malt, which is down in Asheville. That’s the only North Carolina malt that’s around. We try to do what we can with the hops, but North Carolina doesn’t really have the access to hops like the Northwest.”

Kelischek has been with the brewery since its inception and participated in one of Appalachian’s first fermentation science classes. AMB currently distributes growlers – glass and ceramic jugs used to transport draft beer – but Kelischek said the brewery hopes to be ready to distribute canned beer as well in three to four weeks.

AMB’s beers are on tap at various restaurants around Boone including Cafe Portofino and Mellow Mushroom.

Lost Province Brewing Company
 
Lost Province Brewing Company opened in August in the former High Country Press office located on Depot Street in downtown Boone. Owner Andy Mason brewed beer at home for years before opening this brewery.

Head brewers Aaron Maas and Seth Hewitt had been homebrewing for an extended period in addition to working with breweries in the area before joining the Lost Province team.

“I was 20 years old when my buddy got a home brew kit – I was in college at the time at the University of Iowa,” Maas said. “I helped him brew that batch of beer and I’ve been a home brewer ever since then.”

When he moved to North Carolina, Maas began brewing with the family that runs Blind Squirrel Brewery in Plumtree. He also worked at Flat Top Brewery in Banner Elk before meeting Mason, who asked him to sign on with the yet-unopened brewery.

“While at [Appalachian] I took some of the first fermentation science classes and that sort of sparked my interest,” Hewitt said of his start in fermentation. “From there I was employed by the university to brew at the Ivory Tower.”
Hewitt said he met Mason at the High Country Beer Fest when Lost Province was still in its planning stages.

Lost Province currently has ten of its own beers on tap and two guest beers, though they are phasing them out. Its selection mostly features ales of varying style, tasting notes and alcohol content. For the fall season they brewed a “Bumpkin’ Pumpkin” ale with pumpkins from New Life Farm, which is located in Valle Crucis.

Blowing Rock Ale House

Blowing Rock Ale House, located on Sunset Drive in Blowing Rock, attracts less of an Appalachian student crowd than the other two breweries, but has the ability to reach a bit further overall.

The ale house is attached to Blowing Rock Brewing Company – the only brewery in the area that cans the ale house’s beers. The brewing company is small, housing only four tanks for its beers.

The brewery and alehouse opened in 2013 in historic downtown Blowing Rock, but earlier this year, opened a second 6,000 square foot brewery and restaurant in Hickory where all of their cans are now produced and distributed from.

“The alehouse is so beer-hungry that the majority of the beers we produce strictly go there,” said Jim Deaton, the head brewer at the Blowing Rock Brewing Company. “But we do have a small local distribution. We’ve made it all the way down to Wilmington and we have some accounts in Charlotte.”

Deaton described the brewery as a traditional German-style brewery. Currently, the brewers make 13 different beers and “we’re chasing tanks like nobody’s business,” Deaton said.

“Right now all of our tanks are full,” Deaton said. “As soon as we’re running out of [a beer] we’ll brew it that upcoming week and as soon as the tanks are empty we’re usually filling it the next day.”

Overall, the Boone beer scene is much like its food scene – a philosophy of quality over quantity and an emphasis on sourcing ingredients locally whenever possible drives the three breweries The Appalachian visited to near perfection.

Story: Emma Speckman, Intern A&E Reporter

Photo: Sarah Weiffenbach, Intern Photographer 

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