Take a Look In at Lookout Brewing, Black Mountain, North Carolina The most local beer in the Asheville vicinity by Mark Damon Puckett
Lookout Brewing, 103 S Ridgeway Ave #1, Black Mountain, NC 28711, (828) 357-5169
Mark Damon Puckett’s food and drink writing has appeared in Saveur, The Daily Meal, USA Today, Act Two Magazine and Greenwich Magazine with a bar column called “Happy Hours”. He was also the Travel Editor at The Daily Meal on Fifth Ave. in Manhattan. Markdamonpuckett.com
When you come to Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain, North Carolina, you are in the environs of a sublime city of beer, Asheville, sure, but there is something a little more exceptional at this superb and snug brewery.
About 15 miles east from downtown Asheville, Lookout is in a stunningly mountainous small town buzzing with students from the nearby college, as well as local intellectuals and beer tourists stopping off I-40 for a sample brew. The mix is electric. The beer itself: lightning.
Entering, you see kids playing chess and can end up talking to a Ph.D. Many claim “local”. Lookout is organically local without forcing it, and it is fun to watch it grow. Aside from having the most imaginative beers around Asheville, proprietor John Garcia will actually come talk to you about what you’re tasting, which is all pure and unfiltered. “We’re the most local beer you can get in this region,” he says, “75% of our ingredients coming from within 100 miles.”
Dogs sit around under your feet and eyeball you with a curious head tilt. Maybe there is a game of Connect Four happening at a table or an articulate conversation with bar maven Katrina about your beer of choice. It’s a small, intimate place but the high ceilings somehow never make it feel crowded. Families are at home here. Some stop in for one while some regulars maintain their usual seats. The garage door opens in spring.
Oh, and the popcorn machine is always clicking and flowing; a fresh basket is dropped in front of you whenever you wish. The 1 oz. glasses let you taste whatever is new and you can sip on a couple 4 oz. ones too. Sometimes you don’t want a flight or a full pint, and these cool glasses allow you try the beers in different ways.
It’s also just, well, relaxed. Owner John and I were having a drink the other day when 2 beer tourists floated through and left their half-full glasses. “We have to drive,” they said, and headed on, leaving the glistening quaffs very lonely on the bar. John and I looked at each other, shrugged and grabbed the unfinished drinks, pouring them in new glasses. There is no beer wasted here, even if someone else started to drink it.
There are 8 taps with about 40 recipes going in the back at any time, some hard to describe. “For example we have a Sweet White Ale,” Garcia notes. “It’s really uncategorized, but that’s what we call it.”
Their hops come from Hop’n Blueberry Farm (hopnblueberryfarm.com) and the malts from Riverbend Malt (riverbendmalt.com), the only maltster in the Southeast. In addition you have homebrew supplies here with plenty of intelligent talk about how to start your own.
“We currently have over 40 recipes that we are working on with roughly 32 of them being final recipes, meaning they are in production for full time or seasonal offerings.”
Worth note: Black Mountain IPA, Alison’s Front Porch Pale Ale, Topless Amber, Dark Town Brown Ale, Spyglass Pilsner, GFY Scotch Ale, The Dude Abides IPA, Hoptometrist Double IPA, and the Beer-B-Q.
“Our seasonal selection is constantly evolving but includes Jive Turkey (Thanksgiving), Hoppy New Beer (New Year’s), Nude Brude (Valentine’s Day), Whatever Wheat (Summer), and Mother Pucker Sour Stout (Winter).”
Owner John Garcia relaxing outside on the patio at Lookout
They expanded to a 3-barrel system in March 2014 and have increased production to get more beer distributed to local restaurants and pubs.
“We pride ourselves on our ZERO additive beer,” Garcia tells me, “meaning there are no chemicals, no clarifying agents, no filters, no enzymes, and no anything added to our beer. We like to keep the product as natural and unaltered as possible.”
Maybe the only caveat would be that as Lookout Brewing grows and it expands, it might have to move from its current place that gives you such a good chance for connecting with people and talking about delicious beer. I’ll be looking out for more Lookout, though, in all the local bars.
So take a moment to hit Black Mountain and come to a brewery that feels like you just made about 10 best friends every time you leave.