Nantahala Brewing’s Eastward Expansion is Just the First Step

Nantahala Brewing’s Eastward Expansion is Just the First Step
Photo by Joe Rowland

Bryson City-based Nantahala Brewing recently launched outposts in both Sylva and West Asheville.

“Our recent retail expansion to Sylva and this expansion into Asheville are a direct result of refocusing on what got us to where we are today,” said Nantahala Brewing co-owner Joe Rowland. “We see our outposts as a way to share the more than 75 different brews we produce with a larger audience who already supports our limited distributed offerings.”

The need and push for the Asheville outpost came from Nantahala Brewing’s increased presence in “Beer City USA.” With its products on tap and on shelves all around the metropolitan area, it became more and more obvious that the brewery needed an “anchor” point in Asheville.

Located on Haywood Road in West Asheville, the two-story outpost was formerly The Anchor Bar. It features a downstairs restaurant that offers a farm-to-table “cosmopolitan country”-style menu. The upstairs taproom serves as a music venue, primarily focusing on local and regional bluegrass and Americana acts.

“After we began self-distributing in 2010, Asheville became the place we sold the majority of our beer in the off-season,” Rowland said. “Over the next few years, as our brewery grew, we slowly changed the craft landscape in our neck of the woods. The majority of our beer was consumed within 45 miles of Bryson City, but we continued to see support from retailers in Asheville.”

Steady growth and development over the last decade is at the heart of the outdoors-meets-artisan brand that defines Nantahala Brewing.

“It’s natural to focus on retail when the distribution market condenses. But it’s also an important path to increased distribution sales,” Rowland said. “The more that craft drinkers can connect directly with your brand, the greater connection they will have with your brand across all distribution points.”

And with the new Asheville outpost buzzing every night with joyous faces from near and far, Rowland can’t help but reflect on the physical and emotional road Nantahala Brewing has taken from a small operation in Bryson City to a regional craft beer powerhouse.

“For us, we’re lucky to live and brew independent craft beer in one of the last untouched wilderness areas in the eastern United States, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and [to connect with] its 10 million visitors each year. And that’s driven our growth,” Rowland said.

Now a stronghold in Asheville, Nantahala Brewing is already looking to the horizon. The goal is to figure out what’s next among its carefully calculated moves that have led to the brand’s continued success.

“Our distribution expansion has helped address part of that challenge when running a manufacturing business. But making direct connections to our customers in a retail environment we own is the smart choice for the long haul,” Rowland said. “Beyond our direct North Carolina local market, we’ve seen huge distribution success in East Tennessee and North Georgia. After we get our outposts flowing along, we’ll look to those areas to put down roots and continue to bring all of our brews to those areas and support our distribution partners in those markets.”

This post is adapted from our annual Welcome to Western North Carolina magazine. Click here to read more online, or click here to order your own free copy.