Brownfields and Breweries: Rising to the Top (part 2 of 3)

Ariel shot of Hollar Mills where Blowing Rock Brewing Company is located in Hickory
Thursday, May 17, 2018 - 2:43pm

Becoming a staple to the North Carolina business landscape are craft breweries as the state boasts the largest number of them in the American South.

Each has its own unique flavor. The brew is exceptional as the environment. One thing that makes a select few craft breweries extra special is that they sit on abandoned, unused, old manufacturing properties that have been recycled into thriving businesses through the North Carolina Brownfields Program.

The North Carolina Brownfields Program works with prospective developers who did not cause or contribute to contamination of an abandoned or unused property they wish to redevelop. Prospective developers of these properties get liability protection through a brownfields agreement. The agreement identifies measures that the prospective developer must conduct to make the property safe for the proposed reuse.

There are eight such breweries across North Carolina. Each is distinct; the commonality is that they were all built on abandoned properties that now add to the economic vitality of their respective communities. 

More Notable Brownfield Breweries in Western North Carolina

The Asheville Tannery, located on Foundy Street in Asheville, is home to Wedge Brewing Co., known as the Wedge at Foundation, along with many other businesses. Historically known as home to the Hans Rees Sons Tannery that was established in 1889, the 13-acre facility for tanning leather hides became the largest leather tannery in the country. Once operations ended in 1954, the property was sold and used for storage of, among other things, livestock, tobacco, chemicals, raw fibers and blankets. Most recently, some areas of the property housed an automobile recycling business. Reimagination of the Tannery began in 2015 when a developer began working with the Brownfields Program to redevelop it, turning it into a key part of Asheville’s River Arts community. The Wedge Brewing Co., established in 2008, added its Tannery location in 2017 in the heart of Asheville’s River Arts District.

Nestled on Biltmore Avenue in what used-to-be a hardware store is Asheville’s Wicked Week Brewing. For many years, the property operated as a gas station, and then was used for automobile sales and repairs. Purchased in 2012, the new owners started the process to redevelop it into a micro-brewery. Working with the Brownfields Program, the developer performed environmental assessment to evaluate and address soil and groundwater. As a result, the brownfields agreement included land use restrictions that enabled Wicked Week Brewing to make the site its home – turning an abandoned eyesore into a brewery flowing with flavor. 

East of Asheville in the quaint town of Hickory is Blowing Rock Brewing Company’s second location –  another brewery that calls a brownfields property its home. For decades, Best Hosiery Mill (later called Hollar Hosiery Mills) operated on the two-acre site. In the 1980s, the site saw many uses including a paper box manufacturing facility, warehouse and oil distribution site. Working with the Brownfields Program, a developer renovated the large brick warehouse for residential and commercial purposes. Following in its flagship’s footprints, Blowing Rock Brewing Company in Hickory offers quality craft beer distinct to the North Carolina mountains.

The last in the series explores three breweries in Charlotte, Greensboro and Rocky Mount, each having a distinct story that incorporates brownfields and brews.

This is a three-part series. Read about the other breweries in Asheville in part I.

Laura J. Leonard