For the sixth post in our Producers Series, we spoke with Peter Batinski, Head of Sour and Specialty Beers at Hi-Wire Brewing, based in Asheville, North Carolina. Hi-Wire Brewing, one of SōRSE’s lighthouse customers for one of our hop-derived water-soluble products, Hop Haze, is known for creating balanced, approachable lagers and ales and utilizing the freshest of ingredients for its seasonal offerings.
Batinksi is responsible for designing, maintaining, and packaging all sour and specialty beers as well as working with a small team of brewers on R & D initiatives. In this piece, Batinski shares a bit of Hi-Wire’s history, the challenges that come with upgrading their production facility, how the team comes up with new beer ideas or styles, and why they are using SōRSE’s Hop Haze emulsion in a few of their beers.
Can you start by sharing Hi-Wire’s background and history?
Hi-Wire opened in the summer of 2013. There were a few people in Asheville who wanted to start a new brewery, so they went ahead and purchased Craggie Brewing. Hi-Wire’s owners kept on a lot of Craggie’s employees and started making their own beer, which was much different from Craggie’s. Since then, Hi-Wire has expanded considerably. We’ve opened a number of taprooms in areas and neighborhoods that are being revitalized; we’ll be opening a ninth this coming year. We’ve had a big growth spurt over the past three years. It’s an indicator that the business model is working.
Currently we are in the process of revamping the original Craggie Brewing facility and installing all new equipment.
What are your company’s core values?
One of our core values is taking great care of our employees. That has been the case since the beginning, and since then, our number of employees has grown significantly as we have expanded!
One of our mottos is “Good Beer, Good Times.” We believe in providing a high-quality beer for our customers, but also encourage them to have a good time when they are drinking our beers! That’s where our tap rooms come into play. We have a lot of games in them, pinball machines, and soccer pool (a big pool table with soccer balls), you name it. Our taprooms are not places where you are going to just sit at the bar and stare at a TV! We want people to have fun when they are with us.
You are in the process of rebuilding your brewing facility – what are the biggest challenges you are facing as that project moves forward?
The biggest challenge right now is getting everything, including the old equipment, out of the facility, which includes a 30-barrel brewhouse and a tiny R&D brewery. We need to be prepped and ready for the contractors to come in to work on the space and for the new equipment to arrive. There are a lot of moving parts to keep track of – from making sure the gas gets hooked up to managing when the concrete will be poured. It’s all about logistics and supply chain right now. We’re transitioning to a 15-barrel system with bigger tanks which will allow us to produce more beer more quickly. We’re hoping to put some of the old equipment on display somewhere, because it was used in Asheville’s first brewery, Highland Brewing Company. There’s a lot of history in this equipment that we want people to see and know about!
How do you come up with new beer ideas or vet new styles? Where does the inspiration come from?
Our brewers – and brewers in general – are in constant conversation about beers we are enjoying and why. Ideas come from those conversations or visits to other breweries to taste what they are making. For sour beers which use a lot of fruit, herbs, and different kinds of wood, I’ll read a lot of cocktail recipes and menus to get ideas for flavor combinations that I have never thought of before. Vetting new beers is definitely a collaborative effort. Once a week, we’ll get together around a table to taste the beer and discuss them. We also make a point to try someone else’s beer we have never had before.
One beer of ours that I am really excited about is the Japanese Dry Rice lager that we just canned; it won a GABF Gold award. It was a fun beer to make because we got to work with our next-door neighbors, a sake brewery, to develop it. That is one of the more innovative beers that we’ve created. I’m also excited about an Italian-style pilsner that we made recently – it’s very tasty and drinkable.
How did you discover SōRSE, and why did you choose SōRSE’s Hop Haze for your product?
I knew an employee at SōRSE from when we worked at Sierra Nevada together. A few months ago, she suggested that we try Hop Haze. We tested the sample together when she was on a trip to North Carolina, and the product produces the most stable haze I’ve seen. I’m really impressed with how well it works and the ease of application. Creating a stable haze is not as easy as people think; over time, the haze will drop. SōRSE’s haze does not drop because it is so stable. We’re currently using Hop Haze in two of our IPAs and our Lemon Meringue Blond Ale.
How has business been over the past two years? Did you have to do business differently because of COVID?
In the beginning we had to shutter our tap rooms, but we were still able to offer beer to go and delivery service. We had a lot of growth in supermarket sales as well. Apparently, a lot of people stayed home and drank beer!
Where do you see your company and brand a year from now?
We will be offering a ton more specialty cans this coming year, and higher volumes. We have a lot of fun producing our specialty beers, like the Japanese Dry Rice lager.
What excites you most about being in brewing industry?
What I love about my job is the constant creativity, the constant innovation. It’s why most people get into the industry — and i get to do it everyday!
In terms of trends, I’m thinking about what’s next for IPAs and what beer drinkers will want in their next IPAs. There are so many different styles out there – and it will be interesting to see what consumers gravitate towards like they did with hazy IPAs.
I think that this coming year the craft brewing community will continue to grow and evolve together. It’s cool to see how brewers can take a certain style and make it their own, while still supporting each other, picking each other up and pushing each other to make better beer.