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Southern Appalachian brewery celebrates 10th birthday this weekend

Southern Appalachian Brewing Co. owners Kelly and Andy Cubbin are celebrating the brewery's 10th birthday this weekend. Southern Appalachian Brewing Co. owners Kelly and Andy Cubbin are celebrating the brewery's 10th birthday this weekend.

This weekend will see a reunion of charter members of a music appreciation club, though most of them believed beer, not music, was the reason for their card.

Southern Appalachian Brewing Co. is celebrating its 10th birthday this weekend with new beer releases, raffles, music and food trucks. Now you can get in without a membership card.

Under ABC rules that seem quaint now, given the proliferation of breweries, owners Kelly and Andy Cubbin were allowed to open only as a private club with "a set of rules," membership cards and a theme — which they decided would be music appreciation. "I still have two shoeboxes full of cards people never picked up," Kelly said. "We had 282 people the first day and we just couldn't keep up with the cards."

The law required them to charge at least $1, so $1 was the price. Looking back, they think they missed a chance to monetize the demand.

"We had 5,000 members," Andy said. "We should have charged 10 bucks."

In blazing the trail, the couple encountered "whacky delays" that fell away for those that came after.

"We had planned to open in 2010," Kelly said. "We hit a lot of delays because we were the first brewery in the county. We kind of didn't fit into any of the categories for the building department and for zoning."

"We had so much drama opening," Andy added. "A former inspector really had it in for us. They had never dealt with the equipment. We had a boiler and they said, 'If you have a boiler, you have to have a boiler room.' A boiler room is like a fireproof bomb shelter. I had to go and read the code and prove them wrong. Anytime I proved them wrong, they said, 'You'll have to deal with Raleigh.'"

As the opening approached, the Times-News was running stories and social media was chattering about the city's first microbrewery. Just before 5 o'clock on the afternoon of April 29, they received their certificate of occupancy.

"We said, 'Oh, we can open tomorrow,'" Kelly said. "We had a line outside and we were still cleaning pint glasses. They were still in the boxes, and I remember somebody just opened the white door and they were like, 'Ready or not, here we come.' We were not prepared. It was just the two of us. We didn't have any bar staff, we didn't think it would be as busy as it was."

What accounted for the pent-up demand?

"We had been doing things in the community," Kelly said. "We actually poured beer in the basement of Immaculata for a fundraiser. That was part of why we chose Hendersonville. People knew our product. They saw us at festivals and they said, 'How can we come see you?'"

They first considered Asheville, where they lived at the time.

"Asheville had their seventh one open and we thought that was overkill." Now there are at least 22 brewpubs in Asheville.

Besides pioneering the microbrewery boom in Hendersonville, Southern App helped blaze revitalization of the Historic Seventh Avenue District. "When we published where we were going to be, people said, 'I'm not going there.'"

Even though the number of breweries in Henderson County has grown from zero to 12 in 10 years, the popularity of locally brewed craft beer, the arrival of younger couples in town and beer tourism have made all boats rise.

"If we forget about last year, and this quarter, I would say our business has not been affected by other breweries," Andy said. "I would say there's just increased interest in craft beer, a lot more people coming in town. ... There's a lot of beer out there and a lot of it's bad. I'm proud that we are able to make really good beer."

Kelly and Andy are grateful that their loyal customer base kept them afloat even under Covid restrictions. "We had people coming out all winterlong, dressed like they were going to a Packers game, sitting out with the heaters," she said.

SAB's flagship Copperhead and IPA remain the most popular pints. But as the beer consumer has become more educated, bartenders get more request for sours, pilsners, saisons and other specialties. Andy and Kelly will tap special beer releases during the three-day celebration. At a ribbon cutting at 4 this afternoon they'll reopen inside seating for the first time in more than a year. They'll and host food trucks and hold raffles throughout the weekend. (Bring your original membership card for special members-only raffles.) Entertainment includes the Blake Elledge Band today, Pleasure Chest on Saturday and on Dan Keller Trio. Hours are 2-9 p.m. Saturday and 2-7 p.m. Sunday.