Just beyond the large glass doors and computer paper “Coming Soon” signs, Clark Williams is filling kegs with his flagship brews.
“Getting open is the challenge right now,” Williams said, who is anxious to see people socializing at Frog Level Brewing Company in Waynesville.
Although it is technically a bar, Williams said he wants the brewery to be more — a family friendly establishment. In addition to beer, Frog Level will sell kids’ drinks such as root beer. Since the brewery will not sell food, Williams suggests ordering a pizza for delivery or picking up some Happy Meals to eat while both adults and kids enjoy their drinks.
The brewery also plans to have music Fridays and Saturdays and offer indoor corn hole.
There is no definitive opening date, but when it does open in the next few weeks, Frog Level will be the first brew house in Haywood County — one of three west of Asheville and one of 51 breweries in the state, according to the North Carolina Brewers Guild.
“I am trying to saturate the restaurants (with kegs) first, and that’s proved to be quite hard to do,” Williams said.
The brewery began selling kegs to local restaurants, including Bourbon Barrel Beef and Ale in Hazelwood and The Gateway Club in Waynesville in mid-October. A week later, the brewery had already sold 32 kegs.
Williams said he loves seeing people purchasing his beer. No one is forcing them to drink it or giving them free samples; they drink it because they like what he has to offer.
“That’s a part of this I never thought of,” he said. “It’s damn satisfying.”
For about a year, Williams sampled his various brews at The Gateway Club before settling on three beers — Lily’s Cream Boy, Catcher in the Rye and the Tadpole Porter. Tasters filled out anonymous comment cards that Williams used to figure out which of his concoctions consumers liked best.
Williams’ wife, Jenny, named the beers. Catcher in the Rye, also the name of a famous novel by J.D. Salinger, is brewed with rye, making it lighter than a traditional IPA.
“Ours is so not standard that I hesitate to call it an IPA,” Williams said.
The Tadpole Porter is an English-style ale made with sorghum from Buncombe County, and its name is an obvious reference to the business’ frog-theme.
The third brew has a more personal name. Lily is the mother of Fuzzy, a cream-colored hairless cat owned by the Williams’, hence the name Lily’s Cream Boy. The lightest of its three beers, it is brewed with flaked corn.
“It’s a microbrewery’s answer to a lager,” Williams said.
A beer takes four hours to brew, 14 to 20 days to ferment and another two or three days to carbonate in the kegs. With the exception of the grain, which is currently not grown in North Carolina, all of Frog Level’s beers are made solely with ingredients from within the state or even the county. The brewery buys its hops from Winding River Hops in Clyde.
“I don’t want to be the next Sam Adams,” Williams said. “I want to be the Haywood County brewery.”
In addition to its three regular brews, Williams plans to brew rare kegs throughout
the year. He will sell three rare kegs to area restaurants and one will be available on tap at Frog Level. Possible rare kegs include a banana wheat beer; Autumn Harvest, made with apples, honey and cinnamon; and Bug-eyed Stout, with of espresso beans from Panacea Coffee Company.
Kegs cost $75, while a glass of beer will cost $4. For the same price as a glass, customers can try four 4-ounce samples of Frog Level’s brews.
For now, the bar will only have four frog leg-shaped taps —three for the flagship beers and one for rare brews — but Williams hope to add a fifth “guest” tap that will feature beer from other North Carolina breweries.
Pulling from his surroundings — a creek and its tree-covered banks out back — Williams brings that same earthy, rustic feel inside his brewery.
A painted river runs along the floor, flowing into a giant pool. The walls are red brick or red-painted plaster, featuring pieces for sale from Ridge Runners Naturals. The bar itself is about four feet tall with a wood top and corrugated sheet metal around the base.
Behind the bar, Williams’ office door reads “Dawg,” a nickname his wife calls him.
Through green, glass doors a wood porch with picnic seating affords a view of Richland Creek that runs through Frog Level.
“Look at this place. Why wouldn’t you want to brew beer here?” Williams said, calling Frog Level the local underdog. His goal is to bring more life to the area, he said.
During the day, Williams, 37, works at down the street at Giles Chemical. Nights and weekends, he spends at the brewery, making beer and prepping for its imminent opening. The retired Marine has lived in the area his entire life and brewed beer for the last four or five years.
His vacations have always included breweries, Williams said, but it wasn’t until his visit to New Mexico that he decided to open one of his own.
“I want to get up early and love to come to work,” he said.
Monday thru Wednesday 2 to 6:30 p.m.
Thursday thru Saturday 2 to 8:30 p.m.
Other stops on the microbrewery trail west of Asheville
• Heinzelmannchen Brewery, Sylva on Mill Street
• Nantahala Brewing Company, Bryson City on Depot Street
From no breweries to three:
Two other breweries are planning to open in Waynesville in the next year.
• HeadWaters Brewing Company
• Tipping Point Tavern