Innovation Brewing Company
By: Ben Dofflemyer
On this St. Patrick’s Day weekend, which also happened to be one of the first really nice days in Western North Carolina, and I had the itch to take a drive in the mountains with my dog. I called a friend and we quickly came up with Innovation Brewing as the destination. It was an easy decision: the drive is gorgeous, I’d been told they had good beer, and they were a hot topic because of a legal dispute with Bell’s Brewing. My friend, my dog, and I headed West towards the Smokies in search of delicious libations.
The brewpub is a cozy riverside location in the small mountain town of Sylva, NC. There was a crowd of people excited to be imbibing outdoors on the porch, but it wasn’t overly packed from the recent buzz about them. Still, support was obvious. They have a great open outdoor area complete with the Cosmic Carryout food truck. I was surprised to find 22 beers on tap, some “Main Stay Brews” and the “Seasonals And Such,” which all add up to a very diverse selection. Of course, I got a flight, which was delivered on a very cool handmade wood slab. This flight reflected their diversity: an Apple Blonde, a Grand Cru, a Gingerbread Brown, a Dark Saison, and a Barleywine. All of the offerings were tasty, while the Gingerbread Brown and Dark Saison stood out to me among the others.
After all that, as well as spending a long time chatting with the very friendly locals and regulars (and an impromptu dance party with some guys in banana suits), I wanted to see how they handled their hoppy beers… Plus, I had a particular craving for an IPA. Hops and Robbers, a balanced and aromatic IPA was the crisp, hoppy answer to help adjust to the warmth of the sun. I find an IPA to be a good judge of character for a brewery. Innovation’s Hops and Robbers was well-brewed and very complexly hopped, but also smooth, easy drinkin’. They had a DIPA, but sadly it was kicked when we got there, evidently it is delicious as well.
They even had a sour, called Carolina Common Sour, which I was both surprised and excited to see. Though sours are becoming very popular lately, I’m always impressed to see one done by a small, young brewery, since they can take upwards of a year to develop. This one had developed nicely, with a funky aroma and a nice tart blend of ale yeast and wild bacteria. Though it doesn’t fall in a category with the rest, the naturally carbonated ginger ale is also incredibly crisp and delicious.
As I mentioned before, Innovation has currently been involved in a legal dispute with Bell’s Brewing over a trademark. Though it is not their official slogan, Bell’s offers a bumper sticker that says “Bottling innovation since 1985.” I didn’t bother to ask how things were going in light of the situation, I imagine they have probably had to answer that question a million times by now. I know the entire community hopes there will be a time when these silly, frustrating law suits over names are a thing of the past, and that we can look back and laugh about all of it over some delicious collaborations.
Aside from all that, my experience at Innovation was a very good one, I got to take the beautiful drive, drink some good beer, and my dog even made some friends. I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Asheville for the beer, it’s only a short, beautiful drive away. Cheers!