By Calie Brummer
With a recent opening of its new restaurant, Nantahala Brewing Company continues to expand and reinvent its food and beer selection. The innovative company’s latest beer, the Judaculla Bourbon Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout, is set to release at the beginning of this month.
The beer was conceived in 2011 during the brewery’s famed Trail Magic series, which celebrates thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail with beers inspired by traditional flavors of Western North Carolina. Judaculla Russian Imperial Stout is named for Judaculla Rock, a curvilinear-shaped outcrop of soapstone with quarry scars and petroglyphs. It is located in Jackson County east of Caney Fork Creek, a major branch of the Tuckasegee River.
The stout is brewed with dark specialty malts, local wildflower honey and sorghum syrup for an exquisite blend of sweetness with flavors of vanilla, bourbon and dark stone fruit. Once the beer is perfected in the brew house, it goes into whiskey barrels to capture flavors of vanilla and oak for around four months. The beer is then blended with another freshly brewed batch of hoppy stout for a perfect intermingling of bittersweet chocolate, tannic wood flavors and notes of vanilla.
Nantahala’s brew masters are constantly creating— blending local tradition with regional flavors for delicious new twists on classic brews. Alongside its innovative brewing and brewery expansion, the company recently opened a craft beer restaurant that serves up exquisite, locally sourced dishes. Guests can relish an upscale, Southern style meal prepared in the dining room—a cozy space with local trail maps garnishing the walls. Award-winning chefs prepare farm-totable dishes based on the season, including favorites like pickled okra, shrimp and grits and inventive recipes that often incorporate Nantahala beers.
“In addition to the new restaurant, we are expanding our barrel aging program to increase the output of our pilot program,” says brew master Greg Geiger. “I’m looking forward to experimenting with new ideas and techniques that will come from this. Customers will see a variety of unique offerings that will be available only at the restaurant.”
The brewery is constantly bringing in great music, and the new restaurant space features an outdoor area that will allow for an expansion of the music program as well as bigger onsite events. Beer lovers can also look forward to the release of Firetimes Ale, an Abbey Dubbel, later this month. Bottles of Nantahala Brewery’s new beers will be available at the Nantahala Brewing location as well as in grocery stores and restaurants across North Carolina and Tennessee.
Nantahala Brewing is located at 61 Depot Street in Bryson City and the new restaurant is located just a half mile away at 234 Deep Creek Road. For more information, visit nantahalabrewing.com.