Longtime local brewery Asheville Brewing Company is making some huge and long-awaited changes over the next few months. First off, the brewery has purchased a canning line and will start canning a few of their best-selling craft beers. New tanks will almost triple their beer production capacity — and a new assistant brewer, Bryan Burac from Big Sky Brewing in Montana, will start work this week.
The brewery has signed a distribution deal with Budweiser of Asheville, making them the fourth local brewery to choose to work with a distributor rather than self-distribute. The other breweries who use distributors are Craggie Brewing, French Broad Brewing and Highland Brewing.
“A lot of my job had turned into sales and marketing,” says ABC President Mike Rangel. “I look forward to turning that over and focusing on creating great, fun beer events.”
According to Rangel, the first beers to be canned will be the Shiva IPA and the Ninja Porter. Soon after that, the Rocket Girl Lager will hit the canning line, probably followed by the Fire Escape Jalapeño Pale Ale.
“We decided to go with cans instead of bottles for a lot of really groovy reasons,” Rangel says. “It’s both an environmental and a business decision.”
Cans are made from 100 percent recyclable materials and are less expensive to make than glass bottles. Also, Rangel cites Asheville’s love of outdoor recreation as a good reason to sell the shatter-proof cans.
“It’s a way to differentiate ourselves in a crowded local craft beer market,” he notes.
This year, Asheville Brewing Company produced about 1,300 barrels (each barrel equals 31 U.S. gallons). With their increased capacity, the brewery may make it to what Rangel calls, “The magic 5,000.” They will continue to make beer in both Asheville locations, but the smaller space on Merrimon Ave. will be reserved for more experimental seasonal brews.
Triangle Brewing out of Durham and Carolina Beer and Beverage are currently two of the few Southeastern breweries that can. However, Mother Earth Brewing in Kinston, N.C., and Catawba Valley Brewing in Morganton have purchased canning lines and plan to put a few of their beers out in aluminum soon.
Get your Brewgrass tickets
Tickets to the 2011 Brewgrass Festival will go on sale on Wednesday, May 25, at noon on the www.brewgrassfestival site. The Festival will take place on Saturday, Sept. 17, from noon to 7 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr Park in Asheville. Although tickets sell briskly on-line, festival organizers say they'll hold back some tickets to sell directly from Barley's Taproom at times to be announced.
Asheville Beer Masters go to semi-finals
Now there are eight — eight Asheville Beer Masters, that is. After the semi-final round on May 25, there will be four. Then there will be only one, and he or she will be crowned the first-ever Asheville Beer Master at the Beer City Festival downtown on June 4.
Those who won a qualifying round and who will move on to the semi-finals representing the restaurant or bar in which they qualified are as follows: Mellow Mushroom: Adam Reinke; Brixx Pizza: Curt Arledge; Thirsty Monk: Liv Ehrhardt; Jack Of The Wood: Trevor Reis; Pack's Tavern: Travis Hartley; Barley's Taproom: Jeff Ehrhardt; The Bywater: Mark Vanderhoff; and Universal Joint: Chad Clinefelter.
While the qualifiers made it to the semis because of their beer trivia knowledge and beer tasting palates, the next round’s winners will need creativity as well as beer wisdom to move on.
The semi-final round will be held at Wedge Brewing Co. on Wednesday, May 25, starting at 6:30 p.m. The format will include opening statements from each of the finalists, a question and answer round, a wild card round and a bring your own beer round. I’ll be judging this round, and I’m excited to see these folks bringing the craft beer fun.
Come support your Asheville Beer Masters at the semi-finals.
Historic beer night
BeerCity USA equals beer education — while drinking great craft brews, of course. On May 26, starting at 6 p.m. at Barley’s Taproom, Better Tours of Asheville will offer a brief history of Asheville and tell a couple stories about Eagle Street and about some of the paranormal events that have supposedly occurred at Barley's. Craggie Brewing will provide one cask or keg of specialty beer to quaff while you’re listening.
From there, Better Tours will lead pub crawls for anyone interested. The optional pub crawl costs $20, although half of that will be donated to the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County.
The pub crawls run regularly throughout the year and focus on the scandalous history of Asheville—from bootlegging to Nazis to poltergeists and more. For more information, visit www.bettertoursofasheville.com.
Beer coaster art contest
Asheville Brewing is holding a beer coaster art contest with cash prizes. To enter, go by either location and pick up four-inch blank coaster. Paint it, draw on it, glue a photo to it — whatever strikes your artistic fancy — then return to ABC by May 31. Prizes are $400 for first place, $200 for second, and $100 for third. (77 Coxe Ave. and 675 Merrimon Ave.).