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.

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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.

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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!