Following up on our last post, the second local brewery that we hit while in North Carolina was Innovation Brewing, also located in Sylva not too far from Heinzelmännchen. We were actually pretty lucky with this surprise find because they had literally just opened a week or so prior to our visit.
The whole scene was really cool and laid back. If I had to call it anything, I’d call it mountain modern: a little bit rustic with the old garage doors, but a whole lot of modern, open space and natural light. There were a few high-tops as well as some booths with special skinny tables (just enough room for one or two flights of beer!) and the bar-top itself featured the signature Innovation Brewing logo created out of various hops. One of their Brewmasters was behind the bar and she was more than happy to talk to us about the beers and what she put into them to make each one unique.
Just like with Heinzelmännchen, we ordered another flight to see what Innovation had to offer and we weren’t let down! We even got to talking food a bit with the Brewmaster which, of course, inspired another beer pairing menu:
Their MAPLE BACON SMOKED PORTER was so on-breakfast-point that I’d call it the Bloody Mary of beers. You really could pick up on the hints of maple and bacon and the smoky goodness that makes it a great morning beer. I’d pair it with a stacked cranberry waffle with an antelope roast confit and a chargrilled pineapple slice (all topped with a smoked vanilla cinnamon syrup).
The CRANBERRY-POMEGRANATE WHEAT had some really nice floral tones to it, which made me think it would taste well with poached sea bass and mussels in a green tea jasmine fumet topped with fried coconut and served with white sweet potato fried plantains and sprinkled pomegranate seeds.
A surprise treat on their draft list was the PEACH-A-PENO. It honestly was a perfect balance of peach and jalapeno that came out at different times but worked well together as a pale ale. This brew could really bring out the flavor in something like a tangy citrus pulled pork pot pie with rhubarb and jalapeno.
If the porter was the Bloody Mary of beers, then the BREAKFAST STOUT was definitely the espresso of beers. It had such a rich, deep coffee flavor that pairs well with (obviously) breakfast but also a heavy dessert. I’d serve it with a caramel banana pie pancake drizzled with a chocolate blackberry syrup.
The BELGIAN TRIPEL was expectedly heavy, which makes it a great beer to pair with pan seared lobster medallions served over scallion potato cakes and topped with an anise maple syrup and sauce choron.
I probably don’t have to say much about the HOP BOMB. It was an interesting IPA that tasted very citrusy at first, but the Brewmaster explained that it was just the unique brand of hops and not actually any fruity additions. It would really open the flavor in a Mediterranean spiced filet with a cauliflower carrot puree and a cardamom cumin orange au jus.
We’re looking forward to visiting Innovation Brewing again when we’re in town, especially to see how they’re doing and try their new seasonal brews (Jess is pretty bummed to have missed their Pumpkin Chai Five ale). They had a great patio too that I’m sure would be an awesome place to hang, drink beer, and look out over the river during the summer.
It was really cool to find such exceptional brews hidden in a sleepy mountain town like this. Not that WNC doesn’t have great breweries — just look at Asheville! — but it was neat to find some microbrews in the smaller communities outside of the big city. Just goes to show that craft beer is making its way into communities everywhere. Be sure to check out Innovation and Heinzelmännchen next time you’re in the area!