By Bobby Bush
Jonas Rembert left his brewing job in July 2000. As brewer for Green Man/Jack of the
Wood pub, Jonas spent over three years perfecting his rendition of classic European,
mostly UK, style beers. From this tiny, behind-the-kitchen Asheville, NC brewhouse came
wonderful ales, lovingly designed, carefully crafted. Never a hophead, the laid-back
brewer left his delicious beers - Everyman’s Gold Cream Ale, Rat Alley Red, Wee Heavy
Scotch Ale, Green Man IPA, ESB and Porter - behind in order to pursue a bigger goal.
Dealing with all the tedious realities (red tape, licenses, inspections, boiler
certification, etc.) of life in the brewing world, Jonas has been assembling a microbrewery
in a south Asheville warehouse since he left Green Man in July. Partner Andy Dahm, who
runs Asheville Brewing Supply, and assistant brewer George Reeves have helped, but
Jonas has had the day to day responsibility.
So it was with much zealousness that French Broad Brewing Company fired up
the brew kettle for the first time on December 19, 2000. Anxious to be brewing again
after the six month lay-off, Jonas wasn’t fazed a bit when the original mash took four
times longer than expected. Ben the Beer Guy, a former South Carolina (Downtown and
Reedy River) brewer and Jonas’ friend, was there to assist and drink celebratory beer.
The 15 barrel brewhouse, purchased from a Brooklyn concern, worked pretty much as
expected. Eight fermenters (flat bottomed, which makes harvesting yeast difficult), two
bright tanks and a walk-in storage cooler will take the first brew, French Broad Extra
Special Bitter, to completion.
Never one to get excited, Jonas was adamant about French Broad. “I just happy
to be back brewing,” he exclaimed, biding time while fermentation worked its wonders.
Look for French Broad beers on tap in the Asheville area.
And just fifty miles down the road in lovely, dry Glen Alpine, Scott Pyatt has been
extremely busy this past year. His 18-month-old microbrewery, Catawba Valley
Brewing Company (CVBC), has been suffering growing pains, the good kind of pain.
Scott spent most of 2000 re-investing in the brewery he owns with his brother and
sister-in-law, Billy and Jetta Pyatt. A concrete-lined pit was the big project. Dirt was
removed, wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow, to enable placement of two 20 barrel
fermenters inside the low ceiling basement brewery on Highway 70. And ingenious Scott
did most of the work himself, assisted by friends and neighbors when necessary.
Catawba Valley produced 300 barrels of Buffalo Nickel Ale, Brown Bear Brown
Ale, Indian Head Red and Firewater IPA last year. These beers have found regular spots
in bars and restaurants from Hickory westward. With the addition of a new grain mill and
auger, a glycol coolant system, a second walk-in cooler and, thank goodness, a real
bathroom, the keg-only micro’s annual capacity was upped to 1200 barrels. It’ll take
more than Scott can do alone to reach that level, but the sociable brewer is not beyond
CVBC just polished off their very first Limited Production brew. Unlike most
winter-time beers, usually ales, Pyatt created a beer for what has been, the past few years,
a relatively warm Christmas season. Regardless of his meteorological miscalculation,
Indian Summer Lager is very mellow and smooth, free of rough edges, from start to finish.
Even without Yuletide spices, the Indian Summer has been well received in the dead of
winter. (Check Ham’s on 321 in Hickory, as well as bars in Asheville and Black
Scott is also particularly pleased that CVBC just took on sponsorship, in
conjunction with Barley’s Taproom, of the Asheville Iguanas. If there’s one thing a rugby
team can do, it’s drink beer.
Like many in the beer business, Scott Pyatt and Jonas Rembert have become good
friends. Though their breweries may compete, eventually, for the same bar tap space, each
has gone out of his way to help the other, loaning equipment, ingredients and advice.
Similarly, Highland Brewing head brewer John Lyda and Asheville Pizza brewer Doug
Riley have also provided helping hands to the younger Catawba Valley and French Broad
Friendly competitors, these brothers-in-brewing have taken a positive outlook
toward their businesses. There’s plenty of business for everyone. And life really is too
short to drink bad beer. Besides, the real competition is imported beer and the
budmillercoors mindset. Whatever their reasoning, whatever their concerns, French Broad
and Catawba Valley Brewing are helping to keep craft brewed beer alive in Western North
Support our local brewers.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush