Wandering Willow Brewing Company is looking to bring more great craft beer into Wilmington, North Carolina’s fantastic craft beer scene. I had the pleasure to talk via phone with Head Brewer Laren Avery from Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Although he started out calling the soon to be brewery, Wicked Willow Brewing Company; the folks over at Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, NC had asked nicely if he could change the name to avoid future confusion of the brands. Since the brewery is only in development stages, it wasn’t really a big deal. In fact, Laren told me that the new name actually suits him and his team better anyway. The team that he has assembled has basically all wandered to NC from elsewhere.
Growing up, Laren took his first trip down to NC from Michigan to visit his uncle and he really liked the place. He wasn’t drinking age at that time and had no idea how much better it could get. It wasn’t until a later trip with a friend when he really seen everything the Wilmington area and NC had to offer. He says there is a good feel there and it’s full of such nice people so it’s simply hard not to like. Couple that with the fact that you can go from the coast to mountains in around 5 hours, Laren thought that Wilmington would be the perfect place to move to.
How it All Started
It was his Dad who actually introduced Laren to brewing beer at home. His Dad told him one day he was going to start brewing beer. He thought it was cool and just sat back and watched for a while. Then one brew day down the road he asked his Dad if he could take half the batch and put a roasted jalapeno pepper into it. His Dad didn’t really get it, but he let him do it anyway. In the end he wasn’t a fan but Laren and anyone else who tried it, loved it. So then it wasn’t long before his Dad was telling everyone how good the beer was and boasted that his son had made it. But the other thing that pushed Laren into beer was that he thought he wanted to be a cook or health inspector but then just didn’t want to be constrained by the four walls and really wanted something different. Then early one Monday morning, while hung over, in his professor’s office he was complaining about not loving his educational and career choices; his professor just looked at him and said, do you like beer? He was a 23 year old college student, so he quickly replied, yes! A couple weeks later he found himself on front of a brewmaster and this firmly planted a seed from which his passion for great beer would blossom.
Since graduating from the first brewers program at Central Michigan University, Laren has work for Durango Brewing Company in Colorado and Mount Town Brewing Company in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. He is excited to learn that his Alma Mater will be offering Fermentation Sciences as a minor within the next couple of years. This is something that he wishes was in place long ago and that craft breweries will benefit from this a lot. While he is currently still brewing in Mt. Pleasant, the team continues to figure out who is going to be the best brewery to begin contract brewing with. (For those of you wondering, contract brewing is brewing beer in an existing brewery and selling it as your own brand) Being able to still work with beer during this phase is important to him and his employer has been very supportive and encouraging in his new endeavor. Contract brewing will help ease them into the beer scene and test the waters. There are a couple of contract brewing candidates both in and outside of the state. Wandering Willow Brewing Company is also seeking investors to help set up a brick and mortar brewery. They are currently looking to raise at least $50,000 to get the brewery rolling and of course will be able to do more with any extra cash that can be raised. Since he feels that the craft beer market in North Carolina is really booming, Laren doesn’t see an issue with more beer hitting the market. In fact, he can hardly wait to get brewing and start working on collaboration brews with other local breweries.
Wandering Willow Brewing Company plans to start brewing flagship beer; orange ginger spiced pale ale – as the beer warms up the orange flavors will give way to ginger. You can really hear the passion in the brewers voice as he describes this beer. The second is a brown, deep earthy beer that when it’s aged it for a month, it really develops chocolate, toffee and honey notes. Although he isn’t really sure about what style this brown is, he wants everyone to try it. He really favors beer that changes, that aged well and can be manipulated. If the contract brewing goes as planned, you may be able to find these beers around Wilmington in as little as two months’ time. In closing Laren says, “It’s all for the imagination or the fermentation”. So keep your eyes open for this new brewery if you are in the Wilmington area and be sure to check out Wandering Willow Brewing Company on Facebook and also on Twitter