BrewStart: First Asheville conference aims to help budding sake, cider, beer makers


Several significant players on Asheville’s brewing scene are teaming up for a new conference that’s aimed at anyone with an eye toward getting into the craft beer, cider, sake or distilling business. BrewStart will be held Sept. 18-19 in Asheville, with registration open now to between 20 and 40 participants.

The event is sponsored by Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College’s Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast, the Asheville Center for Professional Studies and the Asheville Brewers Alliance. With Asheville’s growing national reputation as a craft beer center (Beer City, USA), this conference will pull in local experts with plenty of experience, and it’s all aimed at helping newcomers.

The new conference is just another aspect of the Craft Beverage Institute’s overall plan to help people get into the business of brewing, said institute Executive Director Scott Adams. The institute set up the first-ever two-year degree program in the U.S. since it opened two years ago, and more than 500 people have gone through its continuing education classes. Now comes the conference, Adams said.

“We’ll be talking about everything from business plan development to legal issues and regulations. We’ll bring in industry people and A-B Tech people and folks from the small business center,” Adams said. “We have incredible support in our partners with the Asheville Brewers Alliance and the Center for Professional Studies.”

More and more of these conferences have sprouted up over the past couple of years as interest in the craft brewing industry shows no signs of slowing, Adams said. Over the past summer, for example, representatives from six colleges and universities across the U.S. came to Asheville to talk with Adams and see his institute.


“What Oscar Wong started 20 years ago with Highland Brewing has grown into a real culture of community in Asheville, which has accepted fermentation in a way that very few places have in the world,” Adams said. “This is now a series engine of economic development, and it’s going to become an even bigger player,” he said, noting recent announcements of local craft breweries expanding.

The other indication of the continuing trend is the “bloom industries” that are beginning to open in Asheville and Western North Carolina,” Adams said. The Country Malt Group is moving its headquarters from Hickory to Fletcher, he said, and distributors like Skyland are growing, while new ones like Empire are opening (along with big new breweries, including Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Oskar Blues.) Other business are looking to open glass-making operations for bottling and canning operations, he said, and the beer tourism industry is exploding.

“The rule of economics will come into play eventually. There will be a saturation number, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stop. The strongest will survive, but there’s plenty of room in a lot of small towns for more brewing operations,” Adams said.

“If you think you have an idea, please come join us. Get this knowledge,” he said.