Expansion Plans for Hi-Wire
Hi-Wire Brewing recently announced plans to increase their capacity by 75%. By adding two new 30 barrel fermenters and one new 30 barrel bright tank, the brewery hopes to meet the state’s ever increasing demand for great beer. I spoke with co-owner Adam Charnack last week about the expansion and about the brewery’s first year in business. Hi-Wire Brewing is celebrating their one year anniversary this month and it’s been a big year for the circus-themed beer maker.
When Hi-Wire Brewing opened its doors last June they flipped the traditional model for opening a small brewery on its head. Typically, small brewers start by selling their beer to their tasting room customers and offer a few kegs around town. As they grow, they might sell kegs to the next town over and only after years of business do they consider bottling. Hi-Wire signed on to have their 12oz bottles distributed throughout North Carolina from day one. When asked why they would go against the conventional wisdom of starting a brewery, Adam told me the bottles just made sense. “This is how I buy beer. If I’m exhausted at the end of the work day, I want to be able to take a six pack home. It’s super labor intensive, but it’s important to fill that need.”
It looks like the plan worked. Hi-Wire estimated 800 barrels of production in year one. They produced 2000. “We thought that we were going to be going door to door begging bars to sell our beer. That didn’t happen. We’re pretty much on year four of our business plan,” said Adam. In fact, the brewery’s beers have been so popular they’ve had a hard time keeping up with demand. The additional tank space will allow Hi-Wire to produce an estimated 3500 barrels a year, roughly equal to Black Mountain’s Pisgah Brewing. That beer will stay in North Carolina for now, and the brewery hopes to expand bottle sales to grocery chains like Ingles by the beginning of next year.
While the availability of Hi-Wire’s bottles has certainly helped boost sales, the beers themselves are what set the brewery apart. Hi-Wire won North Carolina’s Best New Brewery of the Year from ratebeer.com, a total surprise to the owners. “I honestly thought it was a joke,” said Adam. “I remember checking my email and seeing ‘You won’. I figured it was a scam from some third world country. You know, ‘Please send us your passport to claim your prize!’ But, as I kept reading I realized they were serious. To be recognized that way so early on was mind blowing.”
For now, Hi-Wire plans to continue with their four year-round staples as well as six seasonals. Their Uprisin’ Hefeweizen will go on sale this Friday on draft and in bottles. The traditional German wheat beer features banana and clove character from the yeast, and all of the wheat used to make it was malted by Asheville’s own Riverbend Malt. The Ringmaster’s Reserve series will also continue with four barrel aged limited edition releases each year.
Before I left Adam, I had to ask who his money was on for the World Cup. “You can’t print that!” He told me. He later conceded, “The Dutch… I like the Dutch…” You can join Adam at Hi-Wire every day starting at noon to watch all of the World Cup action.
For more from my interview with Adam Charnack about the future of Hi-Wire, check out the News and Education section at brew-ed.com.
On Burial Beer’s expansion: Q&A with Jess Reiser
Burial Beer is celebrating its one year anniversary this month and just recently announced an expansion from their tiny one barrel (31 gallon) brew house to a sizable 10 barrel system with plans to include canning and establishment of draft accounts around town. Jess Reiser, co-owner of Burial Beer, was kind enough to talk to me about the past year and Burial’s plans for the upcoming expansion.
BREW-ed: After a year in business, what reality of owning a brewery was the most different from what you imagined, good or bad? Jess: In all honesty, I knew it was going to be tough. Running your own business, let alone a fast paced one with high demand, is challenging. The day to day, keeping up with that demand, the big picture of expansion, local reputation and beer reviews are just a few factors that play into our everyday. Just like any thing in life– Some days you feel on top of the world while other days it just feels like things aren’t going your way. I call our brewery my “third child” as there are challenges we face every day and every day is new and different–but it is so worth it.
BREW-ed: You guys have been on the hunt for a farm for a long time, but you recently bought a 10 barrel for the current location? What changed? Are you still looking for a farm?
Jess: We have always envisioned having two locations and that has not changed. We just decided that instead of having one of those locations operate on a one barrel system, it will operate on a 10 barrel system. We are still actively looking for a farm. However, due to our dedication, sacrifice and hard work we were able to make this 10 barrel happen which will help us transition more smoothly to a full production brewery. It will also allow us to brew just as often but make 10 times more beer! No brainer! Still on the hunt for a farm, but one step at a time.
BREW-ed: Once the new brew house is in place, what are the plans for the next year? Seven day a week tasting room? Draft around town/ the region? Packaging? Jess: Plans for next year… Expanded taproom hours for sure- probably not 7 days a week, at least not to start. We will certainly be increasing our wholesale and will start with several Asheville accounts and a few in Greenville, SC, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham. We plan on packaging. We will be using a mobile canner on the 10 barrel and plan on packaging our Scythe Rye Pale Ale and Skillet Donut Stout in 16oz cans. We have not decided on the availability and frequency of the packaged beer at this point. To start, it would remain somewhat limited until we can assess the production versus consumption on the 10 bbl. We will also do more special bottle releases that will most likely be very limited runs of barrel aged beers.
BREW-ed: With the bigger system, will Burial establish flagship beers that are always on offer or will we continue to see a different line-up each week?
Jess: Even as a small 1 barrel brewery, we try to find that balance. Inherently, we like to experiment with new styles and adjuncts and we certainly plan on keeping the 1 barrel system around to make those happen as frequently as possible. I think you will continue to see a different line up with some staples as well. We will have 12-15 taps once we expand which will allow for a combo of variety and flagships such as Scythe Rye Pale Ale and Hacksaw Dark Lager. Yes, we plan on lagering on the new system. We actually plan on making that the first beer we brew. Can’t wait!
Neither can Asheville. Burial quickly established themselves as a great brewery and locals hang out off the beaten path in the South Slope of downtown, but their limited production capacity made it hard for them to keep up with demand. Burial expects the new system to come on-line this August. Significant expansions to the tasting room, including an outdoor beer garden and urban farm, will be made before the end of the year.
Cliff Mori is the owner and operator of BREW-ed, which offers brewery tours and a variety of beer training in Asheville. He was the first Certified Cicerone in Western North Carolina (the beer equivalent to the wine world’s sommelier), then began working for the Cicerone Certification Program by traveling around the U.S. proctoring exams. Cliff also teaches a variety of beer-related courses at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.