Western North Carolina has 60+ craft breweries, the vast majority of which are homegrown. With several dozen breweries all its own, Asheville has become the epicenter for our still burgeoning beverage movement. But regardless of their locale, every beer maker in our region is experimenting with far-reaching styles, local ingredients, and their own unique flair.
In anticipation of Asheville Beer Week beginning Friday, May 24, 2019, we wanted to dig into a niche within our craft beer scene. Here are three local beer makers who prove that “farm to keg” is the next big thing in craft brewing.
What is “Farm to Keg” Brewing?
You’ve heard of the farm-to-table movement within restaurants. It’s an initiative that brings together local chefs with local farmers in order to curate a truly local culinary experience. The “farm to keg” (or “farm to pint” or “farm to barrel”) movement within the craft brewing industry proposes to do a similar thing—source local ingredients for small-batch brews. This can mean the addition of local raspberries for a raspberry saison, for instance. Or it could mean “going so far as to build breweries on farmland, sourcing raw materials directly from their property, like farm-harvested yeast and shade-grown barley.”
In addition to supporting local agriculture, breweries employing “farm to keg” techniques themselves benefit from the practice. Local ingredients, especially barley and hops, contribute to the terroir of craft beers, giving drinkers a true taste of the region. Brewing “farm to keg” also helps the brewery stand apart from its competition, an increasingly important strategy for the many breweries of Western North Carolina.
So, which WNC breweries have been most successful with “farm to keg” brewing to date?
Sideways Farm & Brewery
Sideways bills itself as WNC’s only farm brewery—where beer is grown. They have taken craft brewing back in time to when farmers grew their own ingredients and would craft fine artisan ales by hand. As a result, their business model is about coexisting with nature and their surroundings to stay small and agile, and to use in-season ingredients while they are available. Tempt your tastebuds with one or two new limited release beers each week. It doesn’t get more local than that!
Beer to Try: The Ultimate Strawberry is the ultimate choice for springtime sipping. This true farmhouse ale is brewed with Buchi Kombucha for a complex and effervescent body with a slightly tart, rich strawberry taste.
62 Eade Road (off Old 64), Etowah | (828) 595-3445
Fonta Flora Brewery
As you can gather from their name, Fonta Flora Brewery in Morganton integrates the soul of agriculture into their brewing process, with an emphasis on local flora and heritage varietals. In addition to botanical elements, each of their beers contains local malts from Riverbend Malt House in Asheville. The farmhouse brewery was built on a nine-acre farm known as Whippoorwill. Eventually, Flonta Flora hopes to develop the land into a working and educational farm.
Beer to Try: Every beer currently on tap includes local ingredients. For our money, we recommend the Jitterbug, an Appalachian wild ale brewed with local plums. Its mild pink color and tart stone fruit finish are delightful to enjoy on a spring afternoon.
Tasting Room: 317 N Green Street, Morganton | (828) 475-0153
Burial Beer Co.
The term “beer garden” takes on new meaning at Burial Beer Co. in Asheville’s South Slope district! Burial Beer includes herbs, flowers, and other locally-grown ingredients in roughly half of their beers. Ingredients are sourced from local farms, or often, from Burial’s own garden. Their full-service kitchen also features Asheville terroir as much as possible. Plans to expand its Forestry Camp location may include space for additional growing capacity.
Beer to Try: According to the brewers, “the Graveflower brings vibrant life to the dark catacombs of death.” The mixed culture grissette is brewed in part with house microgreens before its signature Oolong tea leaves. The result is a distinctive and verdant earthiness you won’t soon forget.
40 Collier Avenue, Asheville | (828) 475-2739