This past Saturday, February 27th, The Venue in Downtown Asheville was filled wall-to-wall with craft beer lovers, brewers, and entrepreneurs as they hosted the Asheville Beer Expo. The Asheville Brewers Alliance invited about 30 breweries to this variation on a common beer festival.
Beer was poured from multiple different stations located around The Venue while various panel discussions with industry professionals took place upstairs. Each brewery had to select one beer to bring to the event that fit into one of the various categories of beer available, which were separated into; Hops, Malt, Roast, Crisp, Tart & Funky, and Fruit & Spice. Hickory Nut Gap Farm, No Evil Foods, Roots Hummus and French Broad Chocolates were there as well with samples of their delicious product to snack on in between pours.
Attendees also got a chance to interact with other industry specialists, including suppliers of glassware and other merchandise, insurance agents, and contractors. White Labs, who is currently working on their new location on Charlotte Street downtown, and Riverbend Malt House were also on hand to talk about the raw ingredients needed to make the brews we all enjoy.
Each unique session throughout the day gave attendees a fun, informative look at a variety of topics ranging from the history of beer to what it takes to open a brewery. During the first panel discussion of the day consisted of founders and brewers from Highland Brewing, Green Man Brewing, Asheville Brewing Co, and Catawba Brewing Company, the first four breweries who set the stage for the booming beer scene we have now.
Throughout the rest of the first session, panelists from Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, Riverbend Malt House, and White Labs educated a crowded room about hops, water, malt and yeast. The thirty-minute session covered the importance of each vital ingredient as well as how each one can be sourced in our bountiful region. The third panel of the day involved a panel of brewers from Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company, Hi Wire, Sierra Nevada and Twin Leaf had an in depth discussion on their thoughts on the return of craft lagers. The group described the differences between lagers and ales as well as sharing their favorite commercial brands of the style.
Session one ended with a very special rare beer tasting involving Pisgah Brewing, Innovation Brewing, and Nantahala Brewing. Each brewery brought out a bottle of a limited release bottle that a lot of folks in attendance wouldn’t have gotten a chance to try. The theme of this particular tasting was “Big and Bold” beers. Each of the four sessions offered a short time at the end for questions from the audience as well.
After an hour long break, Session 2 was underway. The same great samples of beer and snacks were available while an entirely new series of panel discussions began upstairs. The first panel, titled “Perspectives from Outside Beer City” was precisely as it sounds. Founders, owners, and head brewers of Boojum Brewing, Lazy Hiker Brewing, BearWaters Brewing, and Lookout Brewery were on hand to talk about the growing beer scene, not just in Asheville, but all around WNC.
The sixth panel discussion of the day touched on the influence that the Appalachian terrior offers when it comes to ingredients that go into the local beer we all love. Brewers from Burial Beer Co, Wicked Weed Brewing, and Appalachian Mountain Brewing discussed their passion for using local, native ingredients whenever possible and how that benefits them as well as the community.
The following panel was directed directly to people who are in the process of, or have thought about, opening a brewery of their own. An experienced group consisting of a lawyer, an accountant, an equipment provider, a contractor and an architect covered some of the very important steps involved in opening a brewery that aren’t directly related to fermentation.
A great time was had by all at the Asheville Beer Expo, and we look forward to seeing what is in store for the next Asheville Beer Expo! Stay tuned to the Asheville Brewers Alliance’s Facebook Page and the Asheville Beer Expo’s website for updates on next year’s event!