The intersection of U.S. 276 and U.S. 64 in the mountain town of Brevard is a bustling hub for local, commercial, and tourism traffic.
Heading west on U.S. 64, you enter Brevard, a place of independent businesses, academic institutions, small cafes, and farm-to-table restaurants. If you head north on U.S. 276, the Pisgah National Forest and all its natural beauty unfolds before your eyes. And cell phone service is immediately lost.
At the intersection sits Ecusta Brewing Company. Opened in August 2016, the brewery has emerged as one of the finest operations in the massive craft beer industry currently at the core of Western North Carolina business, culture, and tourism.
“We’re about traditional beers. The flavor is meant to be crisp, clean, and well balanced,” said Josh Chambers, brewmaster at Ecusta. “It’s all about balance, and we like to taste the malts with the hops. It’s all about variety, too—we brew a lot of different styles.”
“What I am consistently amazed at is the complexity of craft beer,” said Bill Zimmer, co-owner of Ecusta Brewing. “You think wine is complex? Dive into all different areas and styles of craft beer and you’ll see that the possibilities are as endless as there are different palates of what people want or want to experiment with.”
A longtime rafting guide in the region, Chambers started out as a homebrewer. But, it wasn’t until he crossed paths with Zimmer, a Raleigh financial advisor at the time, that the trajectory of Ecusta Brewing began to take shape. An avid outdoorsman, Zimmer was looking for a change for himself and his family just as the idea for a brewery occurred to him once he befriended Chambers.
“I was sitting in my office in Raleigh one day, just looking out the window. And I started thinking, ‘Will I wake up one day five or six years from now and wish I had gone out here to help build that brewery?’” Zimmer reminisced. “Life’s too short. So, my family and I left Raleigh and decided to start a new life in Brevard.”
The word “ecusta” comes from the Cherokee, meaning “distant place.” The area now known as Brevard was originally referred to as “ecusta” because the tribe would travel to the area to hunt and fish, far from their home near the current Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“And we’re heavy on fly fishing, mountain biking, rafting, camping, and hiking. It’s not only part of our brand, it’s who we are and why we wanted to move here and call this place home,” Zimmer said. “When we started seeing the Asheville craft beer scene exploding, and being well aware of the outdoor recreation opportunities here in Brevard, we knew there was room for us—and room to grow—in this town.”
Now crossing over the two-year mark in business, Ecusta Brewing has become a social hotspot for locals and visitors alike. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in an artisan craft, all while within reach of the depths of Mother Nature.
“We will have people call and ask, ‘Where are you guys located?’ And we say, ‘You know Pisgah National Forest? Well, you walk right out our back door and you’re right in the forest,’” Chambers smiled. “For us, you can’t make good beer, you have to make great beer. And we also saw the need for food trucks and camping locations, which are all next door to us. People don’t want to just come here and have a great craft beer, they also want to come here for the whole weekend and have a real experience with nature.”