Following Sale to MillerCoors, Terrapin Co-Founder Purchases Asheville Brewery


John Cochran, who last month sold Terrapin Beer Company to MillerCoors, is diving headfirst back into the beer business with a new craft brewery venture in Asheville, North Carolina.

Using proceeds from the sale of Terrapin, Cochran said he has purchased the assets of Altamont Brewing and will rebrand the company as UpCountry Brewing.

Recall that at the time of Terrapin’s sale to Tenth and Blake, MillerCoors’ craft and import division, it was announced that Cochran — who co-founded the Athens, Georgia-based brewery with Brian “Spike” Buckowski in 2002 – would leave the company to pursue a new opportunity.

Specific financial terms of the most recent transaction were not disclosed, but Cochran’s purchase includes Altamont Brewing’s 7-barrel brewhouse and an adjacent restaurant formerly known as Nona Mia, he told Brewbound.

“I am passionate about craft beer and it is very important to me to keep my hands dirty and stay involved,” he said. “There is something about a smaller venture that is really exciting.”

Cochran will retain Altamont Brewing’s staff — including brewer Jordan Veale and general manager James Mayfield — and plans for the new brand include producing “beers that are sessionable, thirst-quenching and easy drinking,” according to a press release.

Cochran said he plans to keep distribution mostly limited to the Asheville area and he’s already informed employees that the beer will never be sold outside of the Carolinas.

“The brewing industry is becoming more and more localized and this brewery is going to reflect that,” he told Brewbound.

Cochran, now the sole proprietor of the UpCountry business, said his first experience with the former Altamont brewery was during a vacation last December.

“I fell in love with the place,” he said.

He later learned that Gordon Kear, who founded Altamont five years ago, was looking for an exit and began exploring a purchase.

Ordinarily an entrepreneur in Cochran’s position wouldn’t be allowed to immediately get involved with a new venture following the sale of a business in the same industry. But MillerCoors reportedly included a “carve out” that granted Cochran permission to purchase the Altamont brewery without violating any other non-compete stipulations, he said.

“I am really grateful to them for letting me do this,” he said. “It is great to be hands on and down and dirty again with something that is really small. It is a lot of fun.”

Cochran said he plans to open the brewery and taproom this month and, pending TTB approval of brewing permits, begin producing beer under the new label shortly thereafter.

Additional information is included in the press release below.

ASHEVILLE, NC – A new addition to the Asheville brewing scene, UpCountry Brewing, takes over the spot formerly operated by West Asheville favorite Altamont Brewing.

Staff at the brewery includes new owner John Cochran, Brewer Jordan Veale, General Manager James Mayfield, Assistant GM Nicole Flynn and Executive Chef Matt Kovitch.

UpCountry Brewing plans to make beers that are sessionable, thirst-quenching and easy drinking. Mayfield said, “Our customers are active folks who want to come in after a ride and enjoy a beer that cools them down, but doesn’t womp them with high alcohol content.”

Cochran has 21 years experience in the world of craft beer including being co-founder of Terrapin Beer. Cochran says, “I fell in love with the Asheville beer scene and wanted to be a part of it. Altamont is a locals bar and anchor of the West Asheville scene. We look forward to continuing to serve everyone who works, lives and enjoys the scene here.”

As part of the new brewery, UpCountry is refitting the adjacent restaurant space, formerly Nona Mia. A limited menu is available in the bar area until the the restaurant refit is complete. The menu features what Chef Kovitch calls Southern Appalachian Eats.

The brewery is located at 1042 Haywood Road and will also feature a game room with pinball and arcade games.