BRYSON CITY, N.C. – Marking a major milestone in the expansion of the brewery’s leadership team, on Monday, February 4th, Nantahala Brewing Company welcomed John Stuart as Brewmaster and Head of Brewing Operations. He will takeover leading the company’s talented and dedicated production staff from the founder, Joe Rowland, who has been overseeing production for a number of years.
John began his craft brewing career more than 30 years ago at Reinheightsgabot Brewing Company in Plano, TX, America’s 6th micro-brewery and one of the US’ first-wave craft breweries. Stuart started at the bottom, working on the bottling line and soon after in the brewhouse. From there his passion for brewing took him to Addison Brewing Co in Addison, TX and eventually to Florida where he spearheaded the construction, development and growth of The Mill Brewery & Eatery, that would become a collection of nine brewpubs in the Southeast for the next seven years. He eventually settled in Atlanta, GA in 1996, where he operated the largest of those brewpubs. Stuart traded Atlanta for Asheville and the Green Man Brewery in 2007.
“I was really, really tired of the city, and I wanted to move to the mountains.” Stuart says.
After a twelve year stint with Green Man where he helped grow production from 600 barrels in 2007 to over 12k barrels today, it was time to move on to his next and likely final challenge.
“I heard about a great brewer in Asheville who was willing to share his knowledge and experience. So, I decided to seek him out in 2009 just before we opened. His willingness to share his passion introduced me to the collaborative spirit of the craft brewing industry. I was hooked,” Rowland, says.
From their early discussions their friendship grew and eventually John, also a founding officer of the Asheville Brewers Alliance, asked Joe to seek a board seat in 2012. An opportunity that helped connect Nantahala to the Asheville brewing community. But it was a fateful trip to California’s Yosemite National Park that would put Stuart and Rowland on a path that would eventually lead to this day.
Just before participating in a special edition of Sierra Nevada Brewing’s Beer Camp in 2012, an event the Grossman family hosted as a thank you to the brewers of Western North Carolina after being welcomed to the WNC community, Stuart and Rowland decided to head to California early and spend four days fly fishing in Tuolumne Meadows, in the park’s high country. A late night discussion over a few beers led to Rowland asking what the future held for Stuart. John suggested, “That maybe one day I’ll join the Nantahala team and pass on my knowledge to the next generation of craft brewers. Make it my last stop in my career.”
John’s candid remarks got Joe’s attention, but at 500 barrels of production at the time, that didn’t seem like a viable reality.
“I was honored that he’d even consider it. John is a rare mix of science, creativity, mechanical ability and experience. I never in my wildest dreams thought our little brewery in Bryson City (Pop. 1457) on the edge of America’s most visited National Park would ever have an opportunity to attract someone with John’s talent and experience,” Rowland says.
After that evening they rarely discussed those fire side conversations fueled by Sierra’s first canned Pale Ales.
“But it was always on my mind. Another motivating factor that helped drive the growth at Nantahala,” Rowland says.
It took Rowland and the Nantahala team more than six years from that night to reach the point where Stuart’s extensive knowledge and the brewery’s growth curve finally collided when the combination of production growth and retail expansion at Nantahala reached a tipping point.
“Having both brewpub and production experience behind me, puts me in a unique position to help Nantahala reach our goals,” Stuart says.
Stuart lived through the boom-and-bust cycle of the 1990s and 2000s, but he’s convinced that the explosive growth craft brewers have experienced in the last eight years is completely different.
“We’ve reached such a level of consumer engagement that it’s ours to lose,” he says. “We’ve passed the tipping point of social acceptance and demand creation. We now have an entire drinking generation that, from the time they were born, has had a tremendous amount of craft and imports on the shelf. That makes all the difference. In the 90s, if a brewery failed, the blame might be on the owners, or the quality, but the blame could also equally be on their market. Brewers who fail now, it’s not because of lack of consumer acceptance.”
John attended the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL in 1995 and later obtained his certification from the Institute for Brewing and Distilling, UK. In 2012.
About Nantahala Brewing Co.
Founded in 2009, Nantahala Brewing Company creates award-winning beers in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A proud supporter of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountain Association, the brewery’s beer, culture and vision are defined by the park’s wild spaces and its untouched, natural water that flows from one of the purest, protected watersheds on the planet. Nantahala Brewing is known for such adventure-inspired flagships as Dirty Girl Blonde Ale, Noon Day IPA, App Trail Extra Pale Ale, and Bryson City Brown Ale. In addition, the brewery seasonally releases LittleTennessee Logger, 4-Foot Drop Pale Ale, Devil’s Courthouse Belgian Golden Strong, 8-FootDrop Double IPA, Hellbender Hefeweizen, Rivers End Oktoberfest, Pattons Run Porter,Chocolate Covered Cherry Stout, Nantahala Pale Ale and Sticky Dog Stout and is known for their specialty Trail Magic series. These beers can be found in six packs and on draft in grocery stores and restaurants across North Carolina and Tennessee. For more information about the brewery, visit www.nantahalabrewing.com