Owner Tim Schaller expected 100 to 150 patrons would visit on the Friday, May 30, opening in the space in the bottom corner of the Wedge Gallery on Roberts Street in Asheville's River Arts District. Instead, he got about 250 beer lovers eager to taste the WBC's first product, the Iron Rail IPA. The big crowd created a long line in a small space that's designed for a couple of dozen inside, though most people found room on the dock area outside, Schaller said, adding that he's working to make it easier for people to navigate inside, and that he plans to put a roof over the dock to provide shade.
"Given those minor issues, we were more than successful" in the opening, Schaller said.
The brewery, in a former artist's studio, joins a beer-making scene in Asheville that already supports five other breweries -- Green Man Brewing, Highland Brewing, French Broad Brewing and Pisgah Brewing. But Schaller sees room for his new venture, saying he's confident that he's got a good location, with plenty of parking, in a part of town he considers "the last frontier around here that's not condo-ized." He teamed up with "my favorite brewer in town," he said -- former Green Man brewer Carl Melissas.
"I know it's competitive, but everybody in it is doing it because they like what they're doing," Schaller said. "It's a good community. The guys at Pisgah have been helpful. Doug Riley, the brewer at Asheville Brewing, has been really helpful with any questions I've had. My analogy is the Starbucks one -- most people here are educated about beer, so that makes it easy to have more people looking for good beer."
In the meantime, Wedge Brewing will continue to ramp up production. The brewery will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays until the weekend of the June 14 and 15 River Arts District Studio Stroll, when, Schaller said, he plans to be open from 4 to 10 p.m. on Saturday. And after that weekend, the brewery will be open weekdays from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 4 to 10 p.m.
Schaller also previewed his planned schedule of beers. The Iron Rail IPA is currently the only beer on tap, but June 14, he'll add a carob porter. On July 10, a pilsner will go online. And July 17 should bring a Belgian wheat beer, and American pale ale and brewer Melissas' Golem, a Belgian he's made before in Asheville.
Schaller added that folks should mark July 19 as the grand opening of Wedge Brewing. Aside from the new beers on tap, he's planning on showing the drive-in classic Thunder Road outside. The movie, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, starred Robert Mitchum as a moonshine runner going up against rivals and government agents set on thwarting his business. The movie, shot in Western North Carolina, includes a chase that roared right by the Wedge Brewery location.