It’s a safe bet that in the early 1930’s, when the U.S. government’s Civilian Conservation Corps constructed six wood-frame buildings on two-acres of land three miles from downtown Asheville to house the men working on the Blue Ridge Parkway, they never imagined the property would one day be the multi-purpose campus of one of the city’s most successful breweries. Yet when Jess and Doug Reiser and Tim Gormley – the trio who in 2013 planted Burial Beer’s stake in Asheville’s South Slope brewery district — sought to expand brewing operations in 2016, that’s exactly what they envisioned for the rustic site that had sat dormant since 1942.
They got the new site rolling by installing a new 20-barrel system in one building to increase annual production; the other buildings have since been restored for offices, the wild and sour barrelhouse, Visuals Winery, and the grain warehouse.
After an extensive renovation, the two-story Forestry Camp restaurant launched in fall 2019 — a casual taproom on the first floor, a full-service, reservations-recommended restaurant on the second. Brian Canipelli, chef/owner of Cucina 24, created a Basque menu that Camp owners felt expressed their vision, “That cuisine has a very communal focus which resonated with how we focus on collaborations and communal experience,” explains Burial’s brand director Chris McClure. “It’s a world we really love, it facilitated a lot of exploration and with a culinary profile that utilized the same value and qualities as our beverages.”
As such, Canipelli’s opening repertory had grilled gernika peppers simply seasoned with flaky sea salt, olive oil and lemon; chorizo sausage links with roasted potatoes and grilled whole trout filled with pickled onion, sliced roasted chilis and mounds of glistening roe.
In mid-March 2020, COVID closed the world, including Forestry Camp. “We only had six months of runway when COVID hit. It takes time to build a following for a restaurant and we just didn’t have that time before COVID,” McClure says.
Forestry Camp rode the pandemic coaster for the next two years, doing all the pivots. “We utilized that time to figure out what consumers – locals and tourists — want in an overall experience. We have basically been doing R&D the past two years, with a culinary staff that knows the brand and what our customers want and put together an awesome menu. We survive and thrive on innovation.”
The Forestry Camp property closed to the public in January for a re-imaging of the space and service model; for long-time partner Victor Hernandez to work his magic on constructing permanent outdoor gathering places; and for executive chef Mike Achberger to finalize a new menu.
All was revealed February 5 with the official reopening of Forestry Camp Taproom + Kitchen. Downstairs is the taproom, furnished with the familiar polished beer hall style tables and benches made from hard pine harvested on the grounds. The redesigned second floor has contemporary chairs and banquette window seats around smaller tables and a cozy lounge area set with plush velvet sofas and upholstered armchairs.
The new system asks everyone to open a tab at the bar downstairs. If the intent is to remain in the tap room, order food and beverages at the bar as well; If dining upstairs, servers will take and deliver orders there. Achberger’s menu of small plates, sandwiches and a quartet of entrees leans deeply into local growers and providers.
Get out of the avocado toast rut and try his chicken liver mousse toast with embered almond, apple gelee and truffle powder. Smoked meat croquettes with house mustard and cornichons and smoked fish with crispy potatoes have glimmers of the Basque menu. The seasonal root vegetable gratin with barley and the half chicken with barbecue red peas, couche-couche (cornmeal hash), and wilted bitter greens remain close to the region.
Weekend visitors who want to lean deeply into the Burial Beer experience can purchase a ticket for the new 90-minute guided walking tour of the property and buildings, finishing with a seated food/beer/wine pairing in the taproom.
“The vision for Forestry Camp has always been to showcase the Burial world,” says McClure. “With the reopening, the relationships we built within the craft beer and wine industry and the local community of growers, makers, builders and artists are all under one roof.”
Forestry Camp is at 16 Shady Oak Lane, Asheville. Burial Beer also has a tap room and bottle shop in Raleigh, and soon- to- open tap room in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood neighborhood.