Alongside his co-owner/wife Sheryl Rudd, Kuhn is the man behind Heinzelmannchen Brewery in downtown Sylva. The couple has poured heart and soul into the brewery, and now itâ€™s time to celebrate â€” almost.
2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the business. It also marks the physical beginning of a long-held dream by Kuhn and Rudd. When they opened in 2004, Heinzelmannchen was the first brewery to be established west of Asheville, a city that has become a craft beer epicenter over the last two decades. And through the years, Heinzelmannchen has survived and thrived, but now itâ€™s time for the next move.
With the 5,000-square foot Dillsboro warehouse, the planned brewery (aiming for an Oktoberfest opening) would run on a 30-barrel system. This is a â€śnight and dayâ€ť change, Kuhn said of the location. By the numbers, the current Sylva brewery had an output of 300 barrels for the last year. With the new building, first year barrel numbers will hover upwards of 1,000 barrels on a 21st century system that is capable of producing 30,000 barrels.
Though the reality of 30,000 barrels is still some ways off into the future, Kuhn and Rudd are putting the plans into motion to make this slow burn brighter and hotter, where folks from around the world will be able to sip and enjoy their hearty German brews straight from the mountains of Western North Carolina.
The Smoky Mountain News: What was it like to see 480 people show up at your launch party?
Dieter Kuhn: It was pretty overwhelming. Weâ€™ve been used to doing things out of [our current location.] We have an extensive email list, social network and we have a great local following. And the things weâ€™d have here, weâ€™d get around 80 people or so. We figured maybe 200 people or so [in the news location], not ever realizing youâ€™ve got a scene going on.
Sheryl Rudd: [We saw] people we hadnâ€™t seen in a long time, new faces and regular customers â€” it was amazing.
SMN: So whatâ€™s currently at the new facility?
SR: Thereâ€™s an empty warehouse waiting to be renovated. We have the plans, the architectural drawings. Itâ€™s just under 5,000 square feet, a third the taproom, two-thirds the brewery. Outside weâ€™ll have a beer garden. Weâ€™re taking one of the railcars there and making it into an outdoor bar. Weâ€™ll have a patio area there where you can sit right by the creek.
SMN: What will this new brewery mean to you and what you do?
DK: A typical day here is pretty cumbersome and pretty long, adapting pieces into the systems. Itâ€™s a lot of monitoring, a lot of changing parts. Climbing over things because I donâ€™t have space to operate. The new facility will be computer monitored and run, and I had a little taste of that brewing at the Sierra Nevada facility, and it was pretty great. It motivated us to move forward. Iâ€™m grateful for what we have now, but the time has come to step up. We want people to know about this brewery outside of Asheville that is simply making great beer.
SMN: Youâ€™ve started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the new brewery called â€śGnome Nation.â€ť
SR: We launched that at our 10th anniversary party. We had a lot of people that weâ€™re interested in helping. They werenâ€™t interested in investing, but they wanted to help in some way monetarily so we created this founders club. Everyone who joins will get their name on the wall of the new brewery, and weâ€™ll have a preopening founders club party at the facility. People can donate anywhere from $25 to $75,000. Weâ€™re looking to raise about $125,000. We feel so blessed by all of the support and love weâ€™ve gotten, from people who have been with us 10 years to people who walk into the door today. And so for people to donate to that campaign, to contribute in that way, itâ€™s huge and very touching. This is Dieterâ€™s dream and his passion, and it really touches our hearts.
SMN: Youâ€™re celebrating 10 years as a brewery. What does that number mean to you?
DK: It means Iâ€™ve paid my dues. There has been a lot of positive experiences, developments in craft brewing and different ways of doing things that Iâ€™ve been proud of. There are concepts, information and the hard knocks of doing this, and weâ€™ll apply all of those skills and lessons to the new brewery. And itâ€™s those challenges, those new experiences, that get me out of bed in the morning everyday to come and do this.
1: The Liarâ€™s Bench will hold its final performance of Appalachian storytelling and music at 7 p.m. May 29 in the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University.
2: The Sauce Boss will perform at 6 p.m. May 23 at BearWaters Brewing Company in Waynesville.
3: The Unto These Hills outdoor drama will run at 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday May 31-Aug. 16 at the Mountainside Theater in Cherokee.
4: Darren & The Buttered Toast will perform at 9 p.m. May 24 at No Name Sports Pub in Sylva.
5: The â€śWesley Wofford: Beneath the Surfaceâ€ť exhibit will run May 24-Aug. 17 at The Bascom in Highlands. A reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. May 24.