By Jesse Wood
June 25, 2013. Nearly five years after the journey began, Blowing Rock Brewing Company is now utilizing its own brewer and equipment to brew and serve award-winning beers in the Blowing Rock Ale House and Inn in downtown Blowing Rock.
Yesterday, the Blowing Rock Ale House and Inn held a soft opening, inviting guests, supporters, town officials and media to “test drive the kitchen and work out any kinks” before the official grand opening of the brewery, restaurant and lodge takes place on Thursday and on into the weekend, according to BRBC co-founder Todd Rice.
The Blowing Rock Ale House and Inn is the former Maple Lodge, a historic bed and breakfast that was built in the ‘40s and purchased last year by Rob Dyer and Lisa Stripling, co-owners of the nearby The Inn at Ragged Gardens and Best Cellar.
While BRBC will operate the brewery, Dyer and Stripling will run the operations of the restaurant and lodge, which features eight bedrooms and is a block from Main Street.
Dyer said that not only will the Blowing Rock Ale House and Inn compliment the Best Cellar and The Inn at Ragged Gardens with a lower price point and overflow for weddings, parties and other gatherings, but it will also compliment downtown Blowing Rock in general.
“We are really proud of this property,” Dyer said. “It’s going to be great. Blowing Rock is already a walking town where you can walk into shops and walk into restaurants and have lunch and everything is within a one-mile loop.”
Before the former Maple Lodge became the Blowing Rock Ale House and Inn, a seven-month long renovation took place. Involved in the renovation process was architect Larry Greene. Cliff Baldwin of Baldwin Builders was the head contractor, and Gaines Kiker of Gaines Kiker Silversmith built all the copper bars in the restaurant and pub.
Nearly two years ago, Dyer and Stipling began discussions with Rice and Jeff Walker, the other co-founder of BRBC, about the brewery concept and joint venture at the former Maple Lodge, and today the Blowing Rock Ale House and Inn opened for its first lunch.
“We are ecstatic,” Dyer said, adding that last night’s successful soft opening was a “huge relief.”
This has been a long time coming for the Blowing Rock Brewing Company, which was established by Rice and Walker as the Great Recession endured.
For years, the Blowing Rock brands have been brewed in Pennsylvania and distributed to the High Country and elsewhere, something the local company took flack for from local beer connoisseurs.
But the two, who have lived in the High Country for a longtime and are raising families here, had a long-term business model in mind and knew all along that the company would brew beer locally eventually.
“All from the beginning, we set out to get our distribution rolling first and then open the brick and mortar second. A lot of people do it the other way around and when they open the brick and mortar, no one has ever heard of them,” Rice said. “We decided to get the brand established first and then open.”
Because Blowing Rock Brewing Company supplies more than 500 stores across the state including Harris Teeter, Walmart, Whole Foods, Lowes Foods and more, the company, like many other brewers, contracts with another brewer to handle large-scale commercial accounts of its Legacy Series, which features a competing price point.
Currently, the Blowing Rock Brewing Company is brewing its own beer with its own equipment in Lenoir, and Ray Hodge, who has a “long history as a respected brewing trailblazer,” is the company’s brewer. But soon the brewing will take place in the back of the Blowing Rock Ale House and Inn – as soon as the company receives its federal brewing permit. Rice expects that to arrive in the next four to six weeks.
The Ale House Series, which Rice dubbed “more artisanal,” will be produced in Blowing Rock, using local ingredients where possible, and will change with the seasons for different beers at different times of the year. It will be brewed with a five-barrel system and double batched in a 10-barrel system to double production. Rice said many regional and local restaurants and pubs have already expressed interest in acquiring the local series.
Rice said half-gallon glass jug growlers will be for sale for folks to take to tailgate parties, camping and so forth. Also, kegs will be for sale for other restaurants that want to put its beers on tap or for individuals having a gathering.
Eight beers are on draft currently, and Rice said they are building up to have 12 rotating beers that fit the seasons.
The Blowing Rock Ale House and Inn is now open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. all days of the week except for Wednesday and features a menu that evolves with the season and features entrees, desserts and a family-friendly menu. Graduates of the Texas Culinary Academy, Erick and Jenny Virt are the chefs.
“I think as you will find from the feedback from yesterday – the food is outstanding, the service is excellent and the beer is outstanding, all in a fun, warm atmosphere,” Rice said.
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