We took a drive through the Smoky Mountains after leaving Knoxville to spend some time checking out the scenery, then made our way over to Asheville, NC on Friday, 2/21/14. For four years (2009-2012) Asheville was voted “Beer City USA” with a national poll, and our first stop there was to Burial Beer Co. This small yet ambitious brewery was started on June 15, 2013 by Doug & Jess Reiser and their friend, Tim Gormley.
After meeting in Seattle (although none of them are actually from there), the trio began planning to open up a brewery in Asheville because – to name just of few of the reasons – they love the community, the people in town are very supportive of local businesses, the size of the city is perfect, and the available resources including water are great for a brewery. Planning took nearly 5 years before opening Burial Beer Co., and the name was one of the last things they figured out. ‘Burial’ is just an abstract concept that seemed to fit into multiple cultural beliefs of theirs and they like the imagery that goes along with it. Something that sets them apart from most other breweries is the fact that they started small with a 1 barrel system, which allows them to be intentionally inconsistent and do a lot of experiments. By testing the waters with multiple different styles on a small scale, they will be able to take in feedback from their patrons, helping them prepare for the next stage of full on production.
Burial’s grand vision is to become a farmhouse brewery, so they are looking for land to purchase just outside of the city where they will build a barn-like structure for the brewhouse. In addition, they will use the land as a place to grow hops and other vegetation that will be ingredients in the beer; Doug and Jess also plan to live on the same property. The goal is to have a 30 bbl system but, since they want to stay true to their roots, they’re working on a way to make sure they have as much freedom as they do now with the 1 bbl system once they upgrade to the larger equipment. As of right now they only have four fermenters which limits their production, so although there are times where Tim brews four times in a week, that typically leaves no room to brew the next since all of the fermenters are in use.
Doug, Jess, and Tim all have a say in what will be brewed and they have a meeting every Monday to figure out what their upcoming brews will be. After each of them provide their input, Tim gets to work making those obscure thoughts a reality, and approximately 80 different batches have been brewed since opening less than a year ago. Burial Beer Co. has created several different beer series which gives them insight not only into the brewing process, but also into the adjuncts, infusing, yeasts, hops, and more. Typically the series have a base beer offered in three variations, so that people can try them side to side and offer their opinion on which was the best. For example, we had the opportunity to try out variations 7, 8, and 9 in their Pollination Series – a series of Saisons with different flowers, honeys, and teas added – but enjoyed the three of them equally so our feedback was quite useless. They also gave us insight into some other series they have done, like the Coffee Saison Series where they made a base Saison, split it into three batches, and put a different brew of Counter Culture Coffee into each them. One of them did so well, it became a full batch and they are thinking about turning it into one of their canned beers when they go to full production next year. Other series include, but are absolutely not limited to, the Single Hop Series which utilizes one hop per batch, Inoculation Series which introduces a new yeast per batch, and Gastronomy Series in which they use a base porter and treat it with different food adjuncts, such as smoked shitake mushrooms, ginger & peach, and coconut & raspberry.
Burial Beer Co. has also done multiple collaborations, all of which have been created on the other brewery’s equipment so far but they will absolutely reciprocate once they upgrade to their larger system. Some of the breweries they have collaborated with include Oskar Blues, Hi-Wire, Altamont, and Asheville Brewing Company. The taproom is currently open 18 hours a week, and the trio is barely able to make enough beer for people to drink there since they are busy from open to close. Big thanks to Tim and Jess for spending time to speak with us, even after a crowd of people came rushing through their doors as soon as they opened!
Author: Michael Roberts