Asheville’s Oldest Brewery, Highland Brewing Company, to Expand

Friday, September 26, 2014

Highland Brewing Company announced expansion plans to add 15 jobs and invest $5 million in new equipment and facilities over the next three years.

The expansion, which includes tanks and a new bottling line, will increase its brewing capacity to over 60,000 barrels, or 828,000 cases, and enable the company to expand their distribution over time.

Highland was Asheville’s first brewery after Prohibition and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The origin of Asheville’s thriving brewery scene arose from a hobbyist’s passion for good beer in 1994 when a three-person Highland crew rolled out their first barrels of Celtic Ale from the basement under Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria downtown. The founder, Oscar Wong, has been credited as the Godfather of craft beer culture in Western North Carolina.

Today Highland Brewing Company has 47 full-time employees and is Buncombe County‘s largest brewery. The metro area totals 19 breweries and counting in a fast-growing cluster that yields a growing regional economic impact in increased jobs, a developing supply chain industry, and boosted tourism.

Highland’s current distribution covers nine states from Florida to Washington, D.C. This milestone expansion represents two decades of continuous growth to meet the demand for its popular flagship beers like Gaelic Ale. Notably, Black Mocha Stout has won Silver Medals at both the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup in Denver, Colorado.

Beyond Asheville’s brewing industry, Oscar Wong has built a reputation of unparalleled generosity focused on supporting the community’s needs, protecting our mountains and nurturing a sustainable, values-driven business culture. A few of the numerous organizations that have benefited from Highland’s support include: Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Adopt-a-Stream, Manna Food Bank, RiverLink, The Arc of Buncombe County, LEAF, Red Cross, and many others.

“We are proud that Asheville is the home of Highland Brewing. We have a deep appreciation for the positive impact Highland Brewing has had in the development of a vibrant economic cluster throughout North Carolina and well beyond our state’s borders. We appreciate the confidence that Highland has shown in our City as the place they plan to grow their business,” said Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer.

Chairman of the Buncombe County Commissioners, David Gantt commented, “Back in 1994 when Oscar started brewing his first batch of beer down the street, I couldn’t have imagined the vital role he would play in jumpstarting the craft beer movement in Western North Carolina. We’re so proud of his successes and the impact this industry has on Buncombe County’s economy.”

“We’re so thankful for the ongoing support from fans, fellow brewers and our beloved Asheville community, as well as the City of Asheville and Buncombe County. All inspire us to give our best to brewing beer and enable us to contribute to many great causes that enhance quality of life in Asheville,” said Leah Wong Ashburn, Oscar’s daughter and heir apparent of Highland Brewing Company.

“Highland Brewing is Asheville’s gold standard for creative entrepreneurism. Oscar’s focus on quality innovation with integrity, along with his support for the broader brewing community, is a leading example of how high-growth entrepreneurs drive the critical mass necessary to bring talent, capital and ideas together in the 21st century economy,” remarked EDC Chairman Paul Szurek.

“Oscar’s passion for Asheville and beer is without equal. Every pint we drink in Asheville is a toast to Oscar Wong and Highland Brewery,” said Tim Schaller, owner of The Wedge Brewery.

Since its founding in 1994, Highland Brewing Company has focused on quality, with owner/founder Oscar Wong weaving his philosophy of honesty, integrity and respect into every aspect of the company. Wong has been called “The Godfather of Craft Beer in Western North Carolina,” having led Asheville from a zero-brewery town to a brewing community that has garnered national attention, including being named “Beer City USA” four consecutive times in a nationwide poll. Highland’s goal is to be the craft brewery of choice in the Southeast, measured not by size, but by quality of beer and a responsible culture that is sustainable for employees, customers and the environment, and by maintaining strong ties to the local community.

The Economic Development Coalition (EDC) for Asheville-Buncombe County is a public-private partnership committed to: creating and retaining high quality jobs, community leadership, and being a resource for better business decisions. The EDC accomplishes this mission through its four core services: business retention and expansion, small business and entrepreneurship, research, and marketing and recruitment. The EDC is funded by Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, the Town of Weaverville, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the AVL 5×5 Campaign. Visit www.ashevillechamber.org/economic-development.

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce is a member organization with over 1,800 member businesses and organizations. Chamber members collaborate with community organizations and coalitions to support the community and each other with the mission of building community through business. The Chamber is home to a 4,000 square foot Visitor Center which welcomes over 200,000 visitors per year. To get active in the Chamber, visit www.ashevillechamber.org.