It Takes a Village to Make a Beer

You’ve heard the expression: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, in many ways, craft beer is comparable. It takes a community of dedicated, like-minded people to raise a craft beer culture from nothing.

The community in Asheville, NC, has worked wonders in the area. In a few short years, passionate, creative people have transformed this area into a hotbed of good beer. In Asheville, nearly every bar, restaurant, convenience store—even laundromats!—have a sizable selection of locally made beers, and the city relishes in its adopted title “Beer City USA.” Much of that good work was spearheaded by the Asheville Brewers Alliance (ABA), the local trade organization for brewers and related businesses.

Today, the ABA boasts 27 members, each of whom are active participants in growing the area’s beer scene, making them a natural choice to include in our Beer Camp Across America variety pack. There was a time, though, when we questioned whether or not we’d peacefully coexist.

When we were looking at sites to build our new brewery, the robust beer culture in Asheville attracted us, but it was also an area of concern. With such an active beer community, would an outside brewery be an unwelcome addition to the scene? Ken and Brian Grossman made it a priority to speak with the ABA before any exploration of the site. They sat down with members and discussed our plans, ready to hear the questions and concerns of the group. What we received was resounding enthusiasm from the brewers welcoming Sierra Nevada into the community.

In return, we plan to do everything we can to support the Asheville beer community—the local brewers and businesses that have worked so hard to make it a beer destination.

Let’s kick this partnership off in a big way, then; let’s make a beer for the most ambitious mixed pack to date. The ABA elected two emissaries—John Stuart of Green Man Brewery and Luke Dickinson of Wicked Weed—to strike-up the kettles alongside us.

The result is a unique creation, lovingly called Tater Ridge. The name is an homage to the mountainous geography of both Western North Carolina and Northern California and also a nod to sweet potatoes, one of North Carolina’s favorite crops and an ingredient in the beer. The beer style—a Scottish Ale—is also a reference to the region which was settled by Scots-Irish and boasts a highland sensibility.

Once again the Asheville beer community stepped in to help. Several breweries and a local barbecue legend roasted, grilled or smoked more than 1,000 pounds of sweet potatoes to use in the brewing. The beer also features local barley grown and malted by Riverbend Malthouse who used their traditional floor-malting techniques to provide tons of six-row barley for the beer.

At each step of the process, John, Luke and the members of the ABA were there with suggestions, concepts and ideas to make the beer great. It’s a collaboration in the truest sense. We can’t wait to serve it to the Asheville beer community at our brewery’s grand opening: the festival finale of our seven-city Beer Camp Across America tour. We could never tackle a project like this without our brethren behind us—as it turns out, it takes a village to make a beer.

May 19, 2014 - 3:45pm