By Jesse Wood
With the success of the brewery operation at the Toe River Lodge in Plumtree, the owners are consolidating the lodge, brewery and restaurant brands under the Blind Squirrel Brewery name.
In light of Blind Squirrel Brewery being the more recognizable brand, Zachary Shytle, sales and marketing manager for Blind Squirrel Brewery, said that the company will soon drop the entire Toe River Lodge brand.
Blind Squirrel Brewery signed with Empire Distributors to send its craft beers to the Charlotte and Asheville regions in March. With the demand for its beer growing, the company decided for Empire Distributors to deliver its brews across the entire state in June.
“The brewery really started taking off in the past year,” Shytle said. “We are excited about the growth of the Blind Squirrel brand and excited that people recognize us and enjoy our product.”
If not foreseen, this transition was inevitable with the explosion of the craft beer industry in the U.S. When the Toe River Lodge opened as a bed and breakfast in 1996, craft beer wasn’t on the national radar, but it is today. Once Blind Squirrel Brewery opened in 2012, the onsite restaurant steered its menu away from fine dining towards a more pub-friendly menu for most of the week.
While the brewery didn’t open until 2012, the property, located along the banks of the Toe River, was dusted off and refurbished in the early ‘90s by the Young family out of Greenville, S.C.
In 1992, Cleve Young and his family were driving along Highway 19E in Avery County on vacation and saw an old abandoned building on the side of the road. While Cleve’s wife, Robin, and their daughter, Lindsay, pleaded for Cleve to drive on, the sons, Cleveland, William and Philip, encouraged Cleve to check it out.
Turns out the building was the old T.B. Vance General Store, built in 1919 – and Cleve knew that Plumtree could be a perfect place for a second home in retirement. In 1995 – after spending a few years of weekends fixing the place up – Cleve sold his concrete and construction business in 1995, and the family moved to Plumtree.
In 1996, the Youngs opened the bed and breakfast. In 2001, they opened the restaurant, and after several years of making homebrew, the Toe River Lodge started serving beer in 2012. The old T.B. Vance General Store is home to the lodging facilities of Blind Squirrel Brewery.
About 20 feet away from the old general store is the brewery operation, which is housed in the old Tar Heel Mica Company facility, which was opened by T.B.’s brother, David Vance, in 1909. Tours of the brewery take place on Saturdays at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
While the restaurant moved away from fine dining for the most part, it still offers a farm-to-table fine dining option on Saturdays, when one protein is picked from a local farm and much of the produce is selected from a “very well-established garden” on the property, Shytle said.
Because of the farm-to-table nature of this dining experience, the menu isn’t available until nearly the last minute. Patrons that intend to attend the Squirrels Palate are encouraged to book a brewery tour at 3 or 4 p.m. to enjoy the facilities before dinner.
Recently, the weekly protein has been sourced from North Fork Farm in Zionville (beef); Small Town Pork in Spruce Pine (pork); and Heavenly Getaway in Plumtree (rainbow trout). These special selections, known as the Squirrels Palate, start on Saturday evenings at 5 p.m.
As for lodging, the Toe River Lodge rents out five rooms. Currently, a summer deal is ongoing: $200 for two nights or $300 for four nights. Either deal features cooked-to-order breakfast and a beer tasting for two.
In addition, the Blind Squirrel Brewery company features Brews-n-Tubes on Friday and Saturday. The brewery teams with a local outfitter for tubing rides on the Toe River that exit on the river deck, where patrons can enjoy a brew or lunch and dinner at Blind Squirrel Brewery. Tubers can also purchase a plastic growler to float down the river with.
Also, there is a nine-hole disc golf course on the beautiful riverfront property and a nine-hole tiki disc golf putting course for warm up rounds or just for fun.
Shytles described the atmosphere at Blind Squirrel Brewery as “very casual.” He added that whether you are looking for a nice romantic dinner or are part of the younger, micro-beer crowd, Blind Squirrel Brewery has something for everyone.
For more information, call 828-765-9696 or click to www.blindsquirrelbrewery.com. Blind Squirrel Brewery is located at 4716 South U.S. 19E in Plumtree.
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