By Carol Viau
It’s here. Green Man Brewery will open the doors to the public in a St. Patrick’s Day grand opening bash Thursday, March 17.
The three-story, 20,000 square-foot ‘Greenmansion’ grand opening will be from 2 to 10 p.m. St. Patrick’s Day. It promises to be a rollicking party — and attendees are encouraged to dress as their interpretation of the mythical Green Man.
Green Man Brewery has developed a local following since its inception in 1997, when it was a brew pub at Asheville’s Jack of the Wood on Patton Avenue, and later as a pioneer brewery on the South Slope, operating “Dirty Jack’s” tasting room.
Dennis Thies and his wife, Wendy, bought the brewery in 2010 and have taken Green Man to a prominent level in the craft beer scene. The backstory of how they came to own the brewery is an interesting piece of Asheville craft beer history.
Dennis grew up in the the beer distribution business in South Florida. His grandfather operated the first Miller distribution company in South Florida in the 1950s and his father operated the company until deciding to sell it in 2008. Dennis’ upbringing was immersed in the beer business — including helping deliver beer when he was in high school.
The decision to sell the distribution company left Dennis wondering what to do next in life.
It happened that Wendy’s best friend from childhood settled in Asheville, making Wendy a frequent visitor to the area. Wendy was the one who felt Asheville was the place to make their new home. Once Dennis agreed to the move, he went online, “searched Asheville breweries, printed out the list and circled Green Man.”
The Thies and their four children moved to Asheville in 2008 and Dennis said he had his first draft beer in Asheville at Green Man’s Dirty Jack’s.
Dennis began consulting with Highland Brewing and helped Highland expand into Florida.
Barley’s Taproom was also a great place to hang out and talk craft beer. It was Barley’s owner, Jimi Rentz, who suggested Dennis talk with Joe Eckert, owner of Jack of the Wood. Thies, a self-described “get it done kind of guy,” wound up buying the brewing operations in 2010. Head brewer John Stuart, who Thies feels is “the most experienced brewer in Asheville,” stayed on with the Green Man team.
Thies, whose nickname is ‘the Hop Hustler,’ put his passion for craft beer and distribution expertise to work building the Green Man brand with Stuart.
“John is doing an amazing job with the beer,” Dennis said. “I’ve brought a creative spark, and there is good collaboration. John and I are like the yin and yang.”
The result is that the Green Man brand, with its 30-barrell brewhouse, is doing very well. Green Man offers a combination of the old and the new. Best known for its English-style ales, the three GM flagship brews are IPA, ESB and Porter. New flavors and seasonals add to the tasty mix. While most Green Man product is bottled, Wayfarer, “an easy drinking IPA,” is being released in cans, just in time for the warmer weather.
“We haven’t been able to keep up with the demand,” said Thies. “It’s good for the consumer, because the beer they consume is fresh.”
Green Man beers are distributed in North and South Carolina, Tennessee and, as of late 2015, throughout Florida.
The business has grown so fast, Dennis called in his wife, Wendy, to help with the operations. She handled a distribution company at first, but with the expansion plans, turned her attention and design abilities to the new three-story building, which takes its inspiration from the legendary ‘green man.’
A ‘green man’ is defined as “a sculpture, or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves…It is a symbol of rebirth, representing the cycle of growth each spring.”
The new three-story building interior is a work of art in pale green, with natural touches that speak of natural surroundings and the mythical green man. Wendy and Krista Washam LaBlue, completed the interior with custom-made furniture and interior work by local artists. The first floor contains the ‘brewtique,’ where patrons can get a pint, a growler fill or GM merchandise. Anyone entering the brewery will be struck by the larger-than-life mosaic interpretation of the green man, created by Marc Archambault of Hammerhead Stoneworks. The tanzanite eyes of the stone mosaic seem to glow in the evening light.
Walk up the stairs, visitors will see the unique the copper penny landings, and get a view of the production and packaging hall, which will house the bottling and keg washing/filling equipment, and eventually a copper 10-bbl brewing system. Don’t miss the third level, with a woodland-like tasting room and a covered outdoor bar area boasting a view of McCormick Field and the mountains.
Wendy labored over the copper-topped bars with verdigris accents, until the fabricator got just the right touch of copper and green.
For those who want to make a mystical statement, there is a ‘build-your-own cairn table’ on the third floor, where people can stack stones and feel the Zen of creating harmony and balance. The cairn table was a collaboration of Jeremy Russell, Scott Allred and the designer.
The new building has hosted a few private events, including the Art Affair gala for OpenDoors of Asheville.
“The gala went swimmingly,” Wendy said, with 419 attendees, the capacity of the new facilities.
Everyone is invited to party on St. Patrick’s Day at the new, expanded Green Man ‘Greenmansion.’ Dennis said they may tap some of the Green Man aged and barrel-aged brews for the grand opening. Fans of Dirty Jack’s will be happy that it will remain open.
Green Man Brewery is at 27 Buxton Ave. on Asheville’s South Slope. Call (828) 252-5502 or visit www.greenmanbrewery.com.