Dillsboro’s offerings could compete with those in Bryson City if a local brewery relocates there in conjunction with Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s return.
Dillsboro officials Monday (April 8) established a $200 fee for a conditional use permit. In response to a question from a board member during the town’s meeting, Mayor Mike Fitzgerald mentioned that a brewery was looking at locating in the town.
That brewery is Sylva-based Heinzelmannchen, which is exploring expanding into a new facility, possibly the train’s Dillsboro Front Street former depot, according to Heinzelmannchen’s Sheryl Rudd.
“We’re exploring our options,” said Rudd, who co-owns the brewery with her husband, Dieter Kuhn. “We are talking to all the necessary folks on the county level as well as in the brewing industry to make sure this space is going to work.”
Should the move become reality, Heinzelmannchen would have a bigger brewing area and a much larger tasting room, Rudd said.
When Rudd and Kuhn opened their brewery in 2004, they used the extract brewing method, which costs a fraction of the expense of opening a brewery with all-grain equipment, she said. Over the past two years they’ve converted over to all grain and adapted the equipment.
“What took Dieter four to five hours now takes him all day to get half of what he did before,” Rudd said.
Currently located on Mill Street in Sylva, Heinzelmannchen produces about 300 barrels a year and could, with “extreme labor” max out at 500 barrels a year in its present location, Rudd said. When looking at adding new equipment, she and Kuhn realized that ventilation in their present location would be an issue because their current building isn’t suited for venting gas and steam, she said.
“In looking at new space, it (barrel production) could be limitless. We’ve always said with our brewery that 5,000 barrels is where we’d want to max out,” Rudd said, adding that they don’t plan on doing that in a year’s time.
If they do relocate the brewery, she and Kuhn aren’t sure what would happen with their current Mill Street space, Rudd said.
“It may stay a taproom; it may be we leave this entirely,” she said.
Rudd said a number of discussions still have to take place and conversation is in the initial phases.
“When dealing with breweries, you have to deal with Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, state, county and town ABC boards as well as county permitting,” she said.
GSMR Vice President Kim Albritton confirmed that Heinzelmannchen might move to train-owned property in Dillsboro.
“The Railroad has been speaking with Sheryl and Dieter about the possibility of their brewery relocating to our building in Dillsboro,” Albritton said Tuesday.
The brewery would fit well at that location, she said.
“A brewery would be ideal for our location and powerful exposure for the town of Dillsboro with the movement of craft beer in Western North Carolina,” she said.
“Heinzelmannchen is well established and has a following – they are looking to expand their business, and the railroad would be very fortunate to have them as a lease partner,” Albritton said.
Both GSMR and Heinzelmannchen are still in the due diligence phase of exploring options.
“We are continuing to talk and work through their needs as well as what the building design and location has to offer,” Albritton said.
It appears certain that the brewery will expand, Rudd said.
“We are excited about the inevitable expansion of Heinzlemannchen Brewery due to our success,” Rudd said. “We are looking very forward to continuing conversations with the town of Dillsboro and Great Smoky Mountain Railroad as well as with other communities in the search for the best partnership for our brewery. We are grateful for the support of our customers, the town of Sylva and all those involved who have helped us make it to our nine-year anniversary. We look forward to celebrating our 10th year in a new location.”
Dillsboro wouldn’t be the first community in the region with a brewery beside the train. In Bryson City, where GSMR currently originates its trips, Nantahala Brewery is located directly across the street from the train depot.
From an economic development standpoint, Rudd said the move could add a number of jobs.
“We could add two assistant brewers, a retail manager, marketing people and servers,” she said. Depending on the space they ultimately settle on and the community, they could also have a music venue, she said.
Commissioners are working on a $700,000 economic development package that would return GSMR steam engine excursions to Dillsboro.
Commissioner Doug Cody, who was on a subcommittee to work on the train’s return to Dillsboro, spoke positively of the possibility of Heinzelmannchen setting up shop in Dillsboro.
“I think it’s great if it will help provide some jobs,” Cody said. “That’s the whole point of getting the railroad in there – to provide jobs for people. From what I’ve heard they (Heinzelmannchen) have been courted by several towns to locate their brewery elsewhere. It’s good news if we can keep them here and they’re expanding.”
Ridgetop Associates David Huskins, an economic development consultant for Jackson County, said he thinks the brewery could be a draw for Dillsboro and discussed the idea with leaders a few months back. Huskins and his wife, Betty, assisted county officials with last year’s comprehensive economic development plan.
“Dillsboro has been a major focus of ours,” Huskins said.