As the options for beer aficionados in Western North Carolina have increased, so have the options for music lovers. And if you happen to like both, well then, life is good in this part of the world.
If Beer City USA is nearing its saturation point, its neighbors to the south are quickly making sure that they, too, will be well hydrated with hops. And following in the footsteps of Asheville breweries like French Broad, Highland, and Pisgah, that means more stages to highlight the local music scene. “I feel like the breweries support the music,” says Erika Jane of the band Red Honey. “It’s all sort of connected and growing, and a beautiful thing.”
Southern Appalachian Brewing was Hendersonville’s first taproom when it opened in summer of 2011, and according to owner Kelly Cubbin, there was never a question of whether she and husband Andy wanted to have music. “We’re from the Detroit area, which has great music, and we had lived in Chicago, which had great music. We’d listen to live jazz, blues, indie music, whatever we could go to,” Cubbin recalls. “So when we opened the brewery we knew we wanted to support that culture and the musicians. And we’ve gotten great feedback from our customers and our musicians about how it’s been a good fit.
“People come in to experience the whole thing — the craft beer, great food, and free music. It’s an inexpensive way to have a good night out, and pretty low key and casual. And it’s family friendly, too. It’s just a real laid-back vibe. We’re getting a nice audience of craft-beer fans, and maybe they’re hearing music that they never would have known about. And vice versa — we’re getting people that are coming to a brewery to hear a band and probably don’t know anything about beer. They’re coming back because they enjoy that vibe and appreciate local music,” says Cubbin. “It’s all part of the whole package: local beer, local music. We also hear from musicians that the craft-beer audience is respectful and appreciative.”
Saluda-based singer/songwriter Aaron Burdett has played numerous shows at Southern Appalachian, and recently brought in the New Year at Sanctuary Brewing, the first downtown brewery in Hendersonville. “More often than not, the breweries have a little more of a family vibe than a straight-up bar does,” he says. “It’s usually more of a family-friendly atmosphere. The demographic is a little bit different. Dog friendly, mostly kid friendly. The shows are a little bit earlier, too. It’s several clicks up from a straight-up bar.”
Southern Appalachian Brewery offers a fairly eclectic blend of music — the first week of February features noted Brevard drummer Bill Berg, jam-band favorites Big Block Dodge, and jazz guitarist Dan Keller — while Sanctuary Brewing now posts a full music calendar featuring acoustic acts Thursday through Saturday.
And if all goes as planned, two new breweries will open with live music in downtown Hendersonville in 2016 — Stag’s Head Brewing on E. Caswell St., and Basic Brewery on 3rd Avenue West.
Sierra Nevada Brewing is promising more and more live music at its new Mills River taproom — free shows on their Back Porch, and regional touring acts in the outside amphitheater. And in nearby Transylvania County, good sounds and suds are coming out of Brevard Brewing and Oskar Blues.
“Music has always been a part of what Oskar Blues does,” says Aaron Baker, marketing manager for OB’s North Carolina brewery in Brevard. Several restaurants owned by Oskar Blues, as well as their taproom in Colorado, feature music. “It was definitely in the cards from the beginning to have live music in the taproom here, and we’ve expanded on that.”
Oskar Blues hosts a popular old-time jam on Mondays, and local and regional acts during the week in their Tasty Weasel Taproom. They host larger events with live music at Reeb Ranch — they’re planning a Food Truck competition for April 16 (“Loaded Up and Truckin’”), and the Burning Can Festival will take place July 15 and 16. “That’s our signature event, and celebrates everything that craft beer in a can stands for — there will be biking, running, paddling events, and camping, and it’s a two-day music festival as well.
“There’s just something about listening to a great band and cracking open a can of Dale’s Pale Ale or whatever beer you’re drinking,” Baker says. “In terms of marketing, it’s great to build those experiences for our customers. When they’re drinking a beer the next time, they can remember the good times they had at the festival, or listening to a band in the tap room.
“Craft beer is about quality, and wanting big flavor, and not wanting to just settle for what people are telling you to drink. Craft-beer drinkers and music lovers are always seeking out new stuff and wanting the best, and trying to find good experiences, so we want to build those experiences into what we’re doing here at the brewery.”
Oskar Blues Brewery and Tasty Weasel Taproom, 342 Mountain Industrial Drive,
Brevard. 828-883-2337. www.oscarblues.com
Brevard Brewing Company, 63 E. Main St., Brevard. 828-885-2101. www.brevard-brewing.com
Southern Appalachian Brewing, 822 Locust St., Hendersonville. 828-684-1235. www.sabrewery.com
Sanctuary Brewing, 147 1st Ave. East, Hendersonville. 828-595-9956. www.sanctuarybrewco.com
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, 100 Sierra Nevada Way, Mills River. 828-681-5300. www.sierranevada.com