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WNC Business

Business Profiles - Outsider Brewing

May 28, 2023 05:06PM ● By Randee Brown

Outsider Brewing Cofounders Julian Arena and Kaeleigh McCauley had a unique vision for brewing their own beer — they wanted to really see it.

The partners met and bonded over their love of coffee and brewing. While visiting one particular coffee shop, they noticed a large glass container of cold brew coffee. Arena said that he wanted to “get his hands on that thing to brew beer.”

Once the idea began ‘brewing’, Arena began to realize that there were many different types of glass. “I ordered one type of cylinder to begin with,” Arena said. “Then I broke it immediately. But I just kept trying.”

It took some research and trial and error to eventually find the right pharmaceutical grade glass that is strong enough for the couple’s needs. Arena said that they were looking for glass suppliers all over the place. They set up mini systems to start, and transitioned to searching for stronger materials for creating a larger system. 

“I called a glass center in Asheville, and they knew of only one place where I might find what I was looking for,” Arena said. “They led me to find the perfectly round DURAN five-foot tube that is cut with a lathe and is ridiculously strong. It’s the only thing that works, but it works well. Now we have a patent-pending transparent brewing system that is the first of its kind in the world.”

Arena said that the transparent brewing systems also help to bridge a disconnect between drinkers and their beer, creating something people can really engage in. Once he started working in the industry, he said that unlike wine or ciders, a huge segment of people don’t even know what beer is made of. 

The couple’s business is a unique model within the brewery industry. Arena said that their mission is to create something unique and get people excited about beer, not to create brews on a massive scale.

“This is a way to meet people halfway,” Arena said. “Without people having to take a class, the people at a brewery wondering what the hell is going on back there can gain some insight. We are shedding some light on the process of brewing and inviting them to be more curious.”

“We are not just about beer or brewing either,” McCauley said. “There is so much more work going on. We are breaking down preconceived notions of what a ‘normal’ brewery does.”

Arena asked, “What does a normal brewery even mean?” He said that there are so many possibilities and varieties and variations, and that he is just happy to be here doing what he is doing - breaking down preconceived notions. “We are our generation’s innovators in an industry where craft brewing barely existed even 15 years ago,” he said.

The beers brewed at Outsider are all in small batches. The couple said that they are not going for one iconic brew or do the same thing over and over. “Our West Coast IPA may be different today than in the next batch we hook to the tap,” McCauley said. “It’s more of a frequent rotation of one-off beers. Someone can come in and see what’s brewing now, and when they come back in a few weeks to try it, it will be a bit different than what they’ve had before. We are always trying new stuff.”

Outsider is more of a farm-to-table style of connection, according to McCauley. “Not many people are focusing on the connection between drinkers and their beer,” she said. “No one is cost minimizing and volume maximizing a farm-to-table restaurant. We built a tool that allows us to do business the way we want to do it, and we are using non-traditional tools that focus on breaking down barriers to an understanding rather than maximizing a profit.”

The couple said that they want to appeal to people that are not “beer people”, but to people that are more craft-curious. While occasional classes may be held, Outsider Brewing is not explicitly about educating. They said that they are gifting people the opportunity for the craft to be accessible.

The brewery has one to two Brew Days per week. On a Brew Day, a brewer will be ‘on deck’ during opening hours, and customers are welcome to come up and ask questions. They said that this model allows people to participate as much or as little as they’d like, as there is the option to talk to the brewer or just watch while they enjoy a brew and talk to friends. The idea, Arena said, is “We are here, we are brewing, and ask questions if you want.” 

While the couple feels that staying intentionally small is unorthodox, they feel that volume isn’t the answer to all of the industry’s problems. They say that their plan is to grow how deep a relationship people can get with what they are consuming. 

“Craft brewing is everywhere now, and the industry is actually plateauing,” Arena said. “Just because there is room for improvement doesn’t mean others are doing something wrong. We are simply presenting a creative solution to stand up for craft beer and innovate on the side of the customer relationship. We don’t all need to be canning beer to pursue our missions and goals.”

Julian Arena and Kaeleigh McCauley are lovers of the craft of brewing and co-owners of Outsider Brewing. Learn more at OutsiderBrewing.Beer.