Haywood brew could make a lasting legacy

Feb 10, 2014

Craft breweries are making news across Western North Carolina, but Haywood County is on its way to marking a milestone that will make it a first.

Local entrepreneur Heidi Dunkelberg, owner of the Coffee Cup Café and H&K Farms, has teamed up with Clark and Jennie Williams of Frog Level Brewing Company to create the first only Haywood County beer brewed with hops grown within the Haywood County.

A week ago Wednesday, the business owners spent the day measuring out ingredients and getting the brewing process started. The key ingredient that made this particular event — and batch of beer — historic is that it uses only Haywood-grown hops.

While it doesn’t take a lot of hops to brew a batch of ale, they are key to defining a beer’s taste. Growing hops is a long and labor-intensive process. It takes three years for hops plants to reach their peak production, and while the plants grow up to 16 feet tall, it takes hours to pick and dry the tiny buds that give beer its flavor. There are hundreds of varieties of hops, and the location helps define the ultimate flavor they will produce.

Dunkelberg has been working with other farmers or would-be farmers in the area to grow a single variety of hops that can be used to produce much larger quantities of beer — and perhaps even a branded product that will be available on a much wider scale.

But each vision starts with a dream, and the steps taken last week are a great beginning.

Since the brewing process is not a quick one, it will be toward the end of February before the beer will be available for tasting. The roll-out party will be an historic event and hopefully the kick-off for a product that will put Haywood County on the map.

Hats off to the two locally grown companies that are making this possible.