July 31, 2008 issue

For Us, By Us

Boone Brewing Company, LLC Introduces New Local Beer—Blowing Rock Ale

Story by Sam CalhounAfter three years of working nights and weekends and after countless trials to get it just right, Boone Brewing Company, LLC Founders and Principals Todd Rice, on the left, and Jeff Walker introduced Blowing Rock Ale to the High Country last Friday. The new Boone brew is an American pale ale and is currently available at grocery stores, select convenience stores and select restaurants across the High Country, as well as at various establishments in Asheville, Arden, Hendersonville, Silva, Murphy and Bryson City. Photo by Sam Calhoun

Attention beer connoisseurs, beer drinkers and beer lovers of all shapes, sizes and preferences—there’s a new beer in town, and it’s all yours.

Introducing Blowing Rock Ale—the High Country’s new brew. An American pale ale, Blowing Rock Ale is the creation of Boone Brewing Company, LLC and its founders and principals Todd Rice and Jeff Walker. The new Boone brew hit shelves across the High Country and western North Carolina last Friday and already it’s a hit—10 cases of the local libation flew off the shelves at Boone’s Harris Teeter in just one day.

“We’ve created a local brand that we feel captures the essence of the High Country as much as you can with a beer,” explained Rice. “Blowing Rock Ale is very drinkable but it also appeals to the beer connoisseur. We wanted something that would appeal to a broad market. Refreshing, relaxing, recreation—these are part of our everyday life in the High Country and these are the things we want people to think about when drinking Blowing Rock Ale.”

The concept for Blowing Rock Ale was born in 2005 and it evolved through recognizing the demand and the need for a locally recognized brew. Rice, a High Country native, and Walker, an entrepreneur who moved his family to the High Country in 2001, joined forces to create a beer that captures the feel of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Before coming to Boone, Walker worked for an international beer and wine distributor, creating brands and selling products. Rice complements Walker’s experience with a healthy resume of marketing, public relations and sales.

“It took a collaborative team effort to make this work,” said Walker. “We work well together.”

“I think we’ve made a good team with all of this and we both have supportive families,” added Rice. “We balance each other out.”

Finding the perfect balance of hops and malt was a different story, though. Over the past few years, Rice and Walker conducted more than ten taste-test trials. Each trial batch took weeks to mature and tweak.

“The development of flavors takes time,” said Rice. “We’ve worked hard on this thing since 2005 on weekends and nights. There’s a lot of sweat equity that’s gone into this beer.”

Once the last taste test concluded, Rice and Walker hired a local brewer to perfect the recipe and then started shopping the beer around to different contract breweries. A brewery owned by a North Carolinian but located in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. picked up Blowing Rock Ale and agreed to brew it for the Boone Brewing Company, LLC.

“Not just anyone gets a contract for these breweries. It’s highly competitive and the brewers don’t want to take on something they don’t think will be successful,” explained Walker, referencing past work experience with the international beer and wine distributor.

Next, Boone Brewing Company, LLC lined up a distributor. Tryon Distributing Company conducted an internal taste test of 15 new beers in an attempt to decide which one to pick up. Blowing Rock Ale rose above the competition and got the contract.

Now, less than one week after it first hit shelves, Blowing Rock Ale is available all over the High Country and western North Carolina. Blowing Rock Ale is available at Blowing Rock Market, Six Pence Pub, Sledgehammer Charlie’s Smokehouse and Grill, Phil’s Citgo, Gamekeeper Restaurant, Crippen’s, Pssghetti’s, Christopher’s Wine and Cheese, the Mellow Mushroom in Blowing Rock and at all the grocery stores in Boone. Blowing Rock Ale is also available at select establishments in Asheville, Arden, Hendersonville, Silva, Murphy and Bryson City. In the coming months, Boone Brewing Company, LLC will introduce the beer to the Raleigh-Durham market.

“We’ve had an amazing response so far and in all my years in the industry I’ve never had an experience like that out of the gates,” said Walker. “We’ve generated so many accounts in the first three days, and received a warm reception in the High Country area, including Asheville.”

“It’s awesome,” added Rice.

“Any time you’ve worked for three years on something and then reach a goal, it’s a good feeling,” added Walker.

The label of Blowing Rock Ale features a picture of a northwestern peak in Watauga County, and a Boone-based design firm created the label’s design.
“I want people to know that when they are buying [Blowing Rock Ale], they’re buying local,” added Rice. “We hope to reinvest the profits [from the sale of Blowing Rock Ale] into building a brewery here in Boone. That is the endgame; that is the goal.”

Boone Brewing Company, LLC is hosting a kickoff event for Blowing Rock Ale this Thursday, July 31, at Highlands in Blowing Rock at 6:30 p.m. The general public is invited, and the event is free—the beer is not.

For more information on Boone Brewing Company, LLC, click to www.boonebrewing.com. For more information about how establishments can begin to carry Blowing Rock Ale, call Tryon Distributing Company at 1-800-378-7966 or click to www.tryondist.com. For more information on Blowing Rock Ale, email jwalker@boonebrewing.com or trice@boonebrewing.com.