Well Crafted NC: The history, business, and culture of North Carolina beer

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Highland Brewing Company

- Present

In December 1994, when downtown Asheville was sleepy, Highland rolled out its first kegs from the basement to the alley. Built almost entirely of retrofitted dairy equipment, the original brewery could produce up to 6,500 barrels of beer per year in about 12,000 square feet of space. Today, Highland has capacity to brew over 60,000 barrels annually with room to grow.


Oral history interview with Oscar Wong (2019)

Back in the early '90s when it started, it was kind of pioneering, trying to convince people that, although this is not Budweiser, Miller, or Coors, it's not really homemade swill, it's really drinkable. It took a while. And then, oh my god, that's bitter. It just, there's a lot of tastes that continued to change.

Mr. Oscar Wong was born in Jamaica. He received his bachelor's degree in civil engineering and his master's degree in structural engineering from Notre Dame. Mr. Wong founded the Highland Brewing Company in 1994, making it the first legal post-prohibition brewery in Asheville. Since 1994, the company has grown from producing 6,500 barrels a year to an astounding 60,000. In his interview, Mr. Oscar Wong discusses the founding of the Highland Brewing Company, it's growth over the years, and its impact on the culture of Asheville and North Carolina.

View the Oscar Wong oral history interview.

Oral history interview with Leah Wong Ashburn (2018)

I love that people want to come here, so let's give them a great experience. It's been an iterative process of opening the tasting room, and function before form. That's how it works with family owned companies. You get it working, and you just keep working on it... We're in this really wonderful story that continues to evolve, and we're part of a bigger community that has done a great thing for Asheville... [Asheville] celebrates great beer, and independent beer.

Leah Wong Ashburn, president and CEO of Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, North Carolina, discusses the history of Highland, community initiatives and fundraisers that Highland leads or participates in, sustainability efforts at the brewery, the brewery's recent rebranding, and growth of their physical plant and public spaces.

View the Leah Wong Ashburn oral history interview.

Oral history interview with Katie Smith (2018)

On my 21st birthday, the first beer I ordered was a [Highland] Cold Mountain ... Now I make it, and that's amazing.

Katie Smith, brewer at Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC, discusses the changing and growing Asheville beer scene, the experience of traveling to Germany on a Pink Boots Society scholarship, her work as a brewer at Highland, and her experience working with Asheville Beer Week.

View the Katie Smith oral history interview.

Highland Brewing Company Archive