Whether raising a stein at a boisterous hall in Munich or perched atop a bar stool at your local watering hole, beer in the belly has a way of uniting us all. In brew-happy Asheville, North Carolina, craft brewers are taking beer's communitarian qualities a step further. Brewers are benefiting, even thriving, from artisan-based collaborations, especially as they team up with coffee roasters and chocolate makers who help build fruitful, creative, and business-savvy partnerships.
Wicked Weed Brewery
Deep River Brewing Company's 4042 Stout
Tim Gormley and Doug Reiser of Burial Beer Co.
Taps at Burial Beer Co.
“We do lots of collaborations with local places, where it’s not just a brewery-to-brewery collaboration,” says Walt Dickinson of Wicked Weed Brewing. Walt, and his brother Luke, who won the 2013 StarChefs.com Carolinas Rising Stars Brewer Award, recognize the passion of the artisans for which Asheville, North Carolina, is known. “I think Marshall [Hance] at Mountain Air Roasting is so good, and I think he sees coffee the way we see beer,” says Walt.
Fellow StarChefs.com Rising Star Hance, an engineer and former bicycle mechanic turned rogue coffee roaster, got his start roasting with a hot air gun and a vacuum cleaner motor, all in search for that perfect cup of coffee. In a collaboration forged in mutual respect, the Dickinson brothers and Hance came together to create a citrus- and chocolate-flavored saison by combining big, citrusy hops and Hance’s lightly roasted Conga coffee beans that he hot brews over ice and adds to the beer. The result: balanced bright hops and chocolatey, roasted coffee personality.
Around the corner from Wicked Weed sits Tim Gormley and Doug and Jessica Reiser’s Burial Beer. Beer collaborations have developed into an important part of the brewery’s identity and growth projections. For some of their brews, Burial Beer Co. works with Riverbend Malt House to source locally farmed, heritage seed malts. They work with French Broad Chocolate, who also collaborates with Wicked Weed, to incorporate hand-harvested cacao into various treatments for their beers. “Everything in the tap room is locally sourced,” says Jessica. “The wood used in the construction came from a neighboring lumber company, and the ceilings were sourced from local antique stores and old barn roofing. We also work with local artists.” Burial invites local artists and craftsman to use the space to exhibit and sell their original works or products, letting them keep 100 percent of the proceeds. They also use local Hawcreek honey in their brews and roasted beans from a nearby mom-and-pop called Biltmore Coffee. Burial even provides beer for a glaze on Vortex Doughnut’s Rotating Tap doughnuts, pouring Skillet Dougnuts Stout with a Vortex doughnut hole—a perfect pair if ever we’ve had one.
Only a few hours away in Clayton, Paul Auclair of Deep River Brewing Company collaborates with Videri Chocolate Factory for his creamy 4042 Chocolate Milk Stout. “When we started the brewery, we knew one of our beers needed to have chocolate,” says Auclair. Back when he was a home brewer, Videri was also just getting its footing. Auclair scored some samples from the budding Videri, and the rest is collaboration history. For his newest release, Auclair is working with Broadslab Distillery. Broadslab grows its own corn, which Deep River will brew for a “post Prohibition” beer he’ll start pouring on December 5, the day Prohibition was repealed.
The best product of these collaborations may not even be the beer itself. By recognizing each other, these companies are naturally encouraging growth for the craft movement. Plus, the cross-branding that comes from companies sharing products is good business. An act as simple as pouring a glass of beer supports their large network of farmers, artisans, and regional brewers.