Jengo’s Playhouse and Wabi Sabi Warehouse are about to have a new neighbor in the Soda Pop District—and, great news, it’s fermented! Asheville-based brewery Hi-Wire has chosen Wilmington for its fifth taproom destination. The other four are stationed in Asheville (with two), Durham and Knoxville, TN.
“We feel at home in the Port City,” says Hi-Wire owner Chris Frosaker. “Hi-Wire has been distributing beer there since 2015 and has seen continuous growth in that market year after year. Our success in the market and our amazing relationship with our wholesaler, Coastal Beverage, gives us the confidence to move forward with another ambitious expansion project despite the uncertain times we are living in.”
The brewery is known for its circus-themed brews and whimsical artwork by former Wilmingtonian Char Oden. Folks who sip on the darker side will delight in their 10w-40 (motor oil, get it?) series of stouts that feature fun adjunct ingredients, like sweet cherries and cinnamon. Hop heads can look forward to the Hazy & Juicy & Hoppy & Fresh series. Me? I’m lager obsessed, and theirs is crispy, crushable and aptly just called “Lager.”
Wilmington local Madeline Brady is the eastern North Carolina sales representative and she’s looking forward to her work being closer to home. “It’s right by my house, so I’m super excited!” Brady tells, laughing. “I am also excited to see more growth in Wilmington that still holds true to and respects our small-town feel and values.”
She’s also looking forward to bringing her loyal retailers, wholesalers and customers over to the new space so they can really grasp the Hi-Wire brand and all it has to offer.
I also had the pleasure of chatting with Javier Bolea, Hi-Wire’s creative director. Here’s what he had to say.
encore (e): What’s the timeline for opening in Wilmington?
Javier Bolea (JB): Shooting for a fall open so, hopefully, somewhere in that neighborhood. Times are fairly unpredictable, currently.
e: Will there be brewing on the premises, or is it just a taproom?
JB: We will not be brewing on-site. We feel we can make the best beer possible under our close watch here in Asheville. Quality of beer has always been priority number one for us. That being said, Wilmington will get all the cool small-batch offerings that do not see the market. So even though there won’t be fermentors in the building, we’re bringing all of our most limited and rare offerings with us!
e: A lot of small businesses in Wilmington focus efforts toward nonprofits and environmentally conscious branding, marketing, fundraising, etc. Does Hi-Wire have plans to fall into step with those efforts?
JB: Absolutely! We’re here to be a part of the community and to help strengthen the community. Fundraisers and charity-based events are a core part of what we do in all of our taprooms, and that will be no different once we open and have the option to do so. It’s been really neat to see how our taprooms outside of Asheville become “of the city” they are located in. Our employees will be Wilmington based, the organizations we work with and the collabs we do will be 100% local as well. While we are an Asheville-based brewery, this taproom will be Wilmington all the way.
e: I’ve been to the Knoxville taproom—thanks, Hurricane Whoever You Were!—and it had two things: liquor and soccer pool. Will Wilmington?
JB: No liquor due to NC laws but soccer pool is a huge yes!
e: Y’all’s announcement happening during NC phase 2 operations under COVID was surprising. How long has this been in the works?
JB: We’ve been looking into Wilmington for a while now and happened to find the perfect situation for us in a partnership with Andy Hewitt, president of Paramount Real Estate and Development. We’ve also had an amazing relationship with our distributor in Coastal Beverage since 2015. Announcing and opening during a pandemic is a gamble, but steady retail, as well as geographic growth, is central to our business plan, even during times like these.
We’re just so thankful and blown away with the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve gotten from the Wilmington community. Thanks so much for welcoming us with open arms!