Sideways Farm and Brewery to open in Hendersonville
When it comes to craft beer and brewing, Henderson County, NC is having a “hopslosion!” Three breweries are in various stages of construction including Dry Falls Brewing Company (see recent interview and article), Triskelion Brewing Company, and Sideways Farm and Brewery. All of which are slated to open in the coming months. In addition, downtown Hendersonville will see the opening of two new restaurants/taprooms, each promising a wide selection of local and regional craft beer. There are even rumors of several interested buyers in the recently closed Basic Brewery.
I spent a recent sunny Saturday afternoon touring the grounds and tasting beers at Sideways Farm and Brewery – a 10 acre sustainable family farm and brewery located in Etowah. Owners Jon and Carrieann Schneider have spent the last two to three years at work cultivating the land, planting, and harvesting herbs, vegetables, berries, flowers, produce, and hops. Carrieann has already been busy selling their flowers, and Jon while working on the farm, has continued to refine his brewing techniques. After the tour I was lucky enough to enjoy a couple of his recent creations.
Like many tales it all started with a gift. Jon grew up outside of Orlando in a rural agricultural town. He has his degree in computer science and engineering. Carrieann hales from Buffalo, NY and was a teacher for many years. It all started about seven years ago while the two were living in Florida. Carrieann bought Jon a starter homebrew kit. According to Jon his first attempt at brewing was terrible. Rather than giving up, the combination of stubbornness and his engineering background made him determined to learn to be a good brewer. He spent the next few years researching, studying, and refining his craft.
“Carrieann is the expert when it comes to the farm” insists Jon. “Really the whole farm is a family affair. Carrieann’s parents live next door and are part of this, and our two teenage children help out as well.”
Other than the fact that you are located on a farm, what makes Sideways different?
“First of all we specialize in crafting artisan ales using the farm fresh ingredients grown right here on the property. We’ll use Riverbend Malt House, White Labs Yeast, and local hops including our own if and when possible. Many of the herbs, berries, vegetables, produce, and flowers we grow here may all find their way into different beer recipes.”
What inspired you to practice this type of brewing?
“Ronald Pattinson’s book on vintage beer styles was a big inspiration for me. Much like we have heirloom vegetables and plants growing on the farm, I’d like to see heirloom beers resurrected. Brewers used to brew with what they could find in their local region. Much of that was lost with the advent of modern transportation and the mass migration of people to cities. On a local level, Mike Karnowski and what he is doing at Zebulon Artisan Ales, is very inspiring. The experience at Sideways will be much like Zebulon, or a local winery for that matter. Folks will come by for tastings and can purchase a bottle to enjoy on the premises or to go. Carrieann and I are also inspired by cooking techniques and cookbooks. We’d like to bring some of that culinary experimentation to brewing.”
Tell me about the brewhouse and tasting room.
“As you can see the brewhouse and tasting room are still under construction. I think it will be going up pretty fast from what you see now. We will start with a 3½ barrel system with room to expand to a 7 barrel system. The building itself will be 2,400 square feet, and of that about 550 square feet will be the tasting room. From day one we are going to bottling only. Each beer will be bottle conditioned using local honey. We will brew based on what is in season and what is fresh. I don’t believe in styles so much. Don’t expect your typical brewery experience. For example, we want people to come in and smell the lavender we used in their beer, feel the grain we cultivated, and feel the overall sense of calm and serenity of the farm. We want them to see what we used in the beer they are drinking. Much like ‘farm to table’ restaurants, we want to be a ‘beer to table’ brewery.”
Wait, feel the grain? Do you plan on growing your own grain?
“Of course we’ll rely on Riverbend for much of that, but we do actually plan to grow some barley next season. We were able to obtain six packets of barley seeds from the USDA. These are barley varieties that historically were planted in this region but have not been grown in over 100 years. That’s what I call heirloom grains!”
I recently read an article about terroir that you reposted. Can you tell me what that is?
“Sure. Terroir is the environment that affects a crops character, including factors like the soil, topography, and climate, and how all these factors can give wine, hops, and heritage wheat its unique flavor. I think the same can be true for beer and that’s exactly what we are trying to do here at Sideways.”
As we continued the tour through the towering rows of hops Jon pulled one off and broke it open with his hands.
“Smell that! That is a Nugget hop. Those seem to have done well this season. The Chinook did well too. Over here are my babies – Saaz which are from the Czech Republic.”
I inhale the heavenly hop aroma. Can you tell be about your CSB project?
“I am sure you have heard of CSA or community-supported agriculture right? Well we are going to use the same concept but with beer. We haven’t worked out the details and pricing yet, but it will work much the same way as a traditional CSA does. Instead of seasonal fruits and vegetables, we’ll have seasonal beers boxed up and ready for pick up.”
Will you have your beer available at any other locations?
“We are talking with a few local bottle shops but plan to be very selective. We would never want to see someone purchasing a bottle of our product that was sitting on a shelf and sold long past its fresh date.”
“And this will be the centerpiece of the new brewery. It is a corn crib that dates back more than 150 years. I actually will have the corn crib attached to the façade of the new brewery. Note the sideways lean of the structure. It all ties with our name and even appears on the logo.”
Speaking of which, how did you come up with the name Sideways?
A big smile forms on Jon’s face, he answers and sings a few lines.
“It’s from the Citizen Cope song Sideways. They’ve been knockin’ me sideways. They’ve been knockin’ me out babe. Whenever you come around me, these feelings won’t go away.”
“It sums up how I felt with brewing right from the beginning. Now let’s taste a couple of my recent brews.”
We first sample his blueberry lemongrass ale. It comes in at 6% ABV. It has a dark violet color, a blueberry nose, and a nice balance of the blueberry sweetness and lemongrass citrus and tartness. We then taste his latest beer made with Thai basil, squash, zucchini, and Celtic sea salt. It comes in at 5.2% ABV and while I was skeptical at first, with its hearty gourd flavors and light Gose-like saltiness, I quickly moved from a taster to a full pour!
Sideways Farm and Brewery is located at 62 Eade Road in Etowah, NC. The best way to keep track of their progress is on the Sideways Farm Brewery Facebook page. And stay tuned for their next open house/meet & greet at their farm.