23 May 2014

WSM Craft and New Belgium Brewery. Opening the Future With Pieces Of The Past

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Presumably, many great moments in history have been witnessed by flies on the wall.  Recently, I had the good fortune to be one of those flies on one of those walls (metaphorically speaking).

On Thursday, May 1, 2014, New Belgium Brewing Company held their ceremonial groundbreaking event at their Craven Street property along the bank of the French Broad River in West Asheville.  The site has been home to the WNC Livestock Market, Penland’s Auction House, and a junkyard for more than half a century.  Site preparation and brownfield remediation has been going on for months, however this May Day marked the official commencement of the project; a union between our community and the Colorado beer manufacturer, whose reputation as a conscientious, employee owned corporation precedes them.  I was honored to receive an invitation.

In preparation for the construction of the brewery, the historic stockyard facilities that previously occupied the site were meticulously dismantled and catalogued, to be re-used in the construction of the brewery and tasting room.  While this is not necessarily the most efficient or cost effective means of demolition, it demonstrates a great deal of honor and respect for the role that the site has played in the community’s history.  For this, they are to be applauded.

A few weeks ago, New Belgium approached me with the task of creating a set of mash paddles to be used in lieu of shovels at the groundbreaking ceremony.  A mash paddle is used to stir mash water in the brewing process.  It resembles a canoe paddle, but with an open blade to break up clumps and allow liquid to pass through.

My task was to create 6 paddles out of the stockyard wood as a symbolic gesture.  I chose several planks of heart pine and milled them to shape, adorning the paddles with my own design.  The “ceremonial” nature of these paddles allowed me to be a little more intricate with my motif than is usually found on an operative mash paddle.  I sought to create a motif that specifically referenced Asheville, and in doing so looked to Douglas Ellington’s Art Deco landmarks scattered around our Fair City, built during another time of great growth and prosperity.  Stylized plant motifs are a centerpiece of the Art Deco style, and Ellington’s derived his trademark Asheville motif from corn and feathers, in homage to the Cherokee who made their home here before the arrival of European settlers.  I sought to mimic this, invoking the hop cone rather than the corn stalk or bird feather, in homage to the beer and good cheer that the coming years have to bear.

The arrival of New Belgium Brewing Company is significant.  It will change the landscape physically, culturally, and economically.  The only thing constant is change.  If we are to be champions of sustainable development and prosperity, this is a change we should welcome.10322737_622444227840221_7919965812313554476_n 10246688_622444221173555_8792741643057323137_n