In North Carolina, Asheville’s Highland Brewing Co. is celebrating a ten-year milestone. Highland Brewing was formed by retired engineer Oscar Wong and his then-partner John McDermott, who announced plans for the city’s first modern-day brewery in February 1994, with the first barrels of Highland’s Celtic Ale (now dubbed Gaelic Ale) rolling out the following December. There were tribulations back then, including dumping 6000 gallons down the drain when the beer didn’t come out right. From that point, it took the brewery eight years to break even.
Highland has since grown to become the region’s premier craft brewer, producing about 6,500 barrels in 2003. The beers are currently distributed in the Carolinas, and in a few locations in Tennessee and Georgia. Success has brought competition too; three other breweries have opened in Asheville, more than any other city in the Carolinas. The brewer has struggled for survival in a cramped space, using modified dairy equipment to make its beers. The brewery has outgrew its downtown quarters, and has already outsourced some of its bottling production to Frederick Brewing Co. in Frederick Md. Plans call for the opening of a new 20,000-square-foot local brewery in 2005. McDermott, the original brewer, left in 1998 to make furniture; the current brewmaster, Tim Keck, will soon be departing to open another brewpub in Asheville.