Asheville and the Start of an Idea

The origin of Autumn Arch Beer Project was the first homebrew that my brother and I made back in 2014, but it took a trip to Asheville, NC the following year for one of us to utter the words “we should start a brewery”.

Kathryn and I had heard that Asheville was a great beer town, and there happened to be some stellar mountains in the vicinity (and the Biltmore too), so we picked a gorgeous spring weekend to head down there for a few days.  And we loved it.

We were totally floored by the vibrant beer scene - I had never been to a place where breweries outnumbered people (only a slight exaggeration). I distinctly remember walking into the first brewery that day, High-Wire Brewing, which occupied what looked like a small airplane hanger.  Kathryn and I were two of only a handful of customers on a Thursday afternoon, but just off to my left, the brewer was raking grains in a horizontal dairy tank.  All the doors were open since the day was warm and pleasant, but there was still a strong malty aroma emanating from the brew area, which was literally right next to where I was sitting.  We ordered a flight and proceeded to opine on the beer quality and plan where we wanted to head next.

All the breweries in Asheville had their own unique atmosphere, but the ones that really impressed me were the places I could drink my beer directly next to the tank in which it was made...as in, I could touch it if I wanted to (which of course I did).  

Later, we found ourselves just down the street at the Wicked Weed Funkatorium, and this is where we had our first truly great sour beer - Genesis.  Think what you will of Wicked Weed’s departure from the world of independent craft beer, but the quality of their sour beer program was top notch.  As we were sitting among happy strangers enjoying tart and subtly fruity beer, we asked ourselves “why the hell isn’t there something like this near us?” An informal setting with a strict focus on the art of brewing - I couldn’t think of anything like it nearby.  We should do this in Delaware. An idea was born.

We booked a walking brewery tour around Asheville the next day.  Our tour guide was a Cicerone and Asheville native, both of which complimented his tour since it felt like a beer and history lesson all-in-one.

I asked the guide how so many breweries could sustain themselves in town, and his obvious reply was that they all make great beer and bring in out-of-towners like myself.  He also mentioned that a brewery recently went under, but the likely root-cause was poor beer quality. Good to know.

I think this is one of my favorite parts of Asheville - all the breweries in town absolutely have to bring their A-game, respect the art of brewing, and focus on quality product to the point of fanaticism.  Otherwise, the the place next door will put them out of business. That’s a victory for the beer consumer.

We reluctantly drove home the next day, but a good portion of the nine hour drive back was consumed with discussion on what it would take to start our own brewery.

Jimmy Vennard