Whiteside Brewing Company has it all
By KAY WEST
Photos by CAROLE SHEPARDSON
Guests seated at the high-top tables for six in Whiteside Brewing Company’s main dining room are not required to insert coins in the vintage parking meters at one end of each table to hold their place. The meters are just some of the quirky collectibles installed by founder Bob Dews, who general manager Justin Smith describes as “quite the picker.”
Bob and his wife Lisa Dews were longtime owners of the Laurelwood Inn, a popular lodging destination in the heart of Cashiers. When the building across a pine-forested field from the inn became available in 2017, the couple snagged it. In addition to a full renovation, it was outfitted to be Cashiers’ only craft microbrewery, pulling its first WBC drafts in June 2018. To enable overnight guests easy access to a brew and a burger, Dews had the field cleared and a path defined between the two. Simultaneously, he expanded the brewery parking lot to accommodate more motorists.
In September of 2020, the couple sold both businesses to cousins Mat Barnwell and Andrew Eddy, who grew up vacationing in Highlands. Smith was originally hired to oversee the room-by-room gut renovation of the inn, re-named The Wells Hotel. As that was nearing completion, Barnwell and Eddy discovered their contractor also had a background in restaurant management and asked him to shift his attention to the brewery. He took on the role of GM in June 2021.
The same week, Ryan Glenn came on board as brewmaster, a position the young man had been preparing for since he began homebrewing in Greensboro before he was old enough to legally drink. When he turned 21, he went to brewing school as a steppingstone to the hands-on experience he says is far more valuable to the trade. “I started out in mass production brewing, which taught me everything as far as brewing,” he says. He did stints at large operations like Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem and Oskar Blues in Brevard. “I learned a lot at both places, but after a while I wanted to get back to my roots of trying new recipes and changing out beers.”
While at Oskar Blues, he heard that the brewmaster at Whiteside was leaving and jumped at the opportunity to get back into small production in a setting that fed his soul as well as his ambitions. “As a kid who spent a lot of time in the mountains fishing and camping, Cashiers was like coming home.”
You don’t have to like beer to feel the same at Whiteside. The allure of the gorgeous fall foliage that canopies the rustic building and encircles multiple outdoor seating areas is impossible to resist. When temperatures dip, portable heaters ward off the chill and a trio of wood-burning fire pits crackle in that field. Spring brings the landscape back to lush green life and in warm weather, The Field – as it is formally called – is filled with kids kicking soccer balls, tossing frisbees, turning cartwheels and playing tag under the watchful eyes of parents seated along the berms, enjoying a beer, glass of wine, house-made draft or frozen cocktail, or a non-alcoholic IPA from the popular Athletic brand.
If you are a fan of craft beer, particularly small-batch styles created and brewed in the same building where it’s stored and poured – grain to glass as Glenn proudly describes it – then WBC has a beer for you. “We have a few cores. Woosah Kolsch is our German style light ale. Moon Unit Hazy IPA is very popular, as is Cursive Letters Amber Ale. We also have Panthertown Porter year-round,” Glenn says. “I like to keep 13 or 14 kinds of beer, and we always have multiple IPAs.”
Meanwhile, the menu, service model and seating evolved since that world-altering year of 2020. “We got really busy with people drawn to our outdoor seating, which necessitated us adding almost 80% more,” Smith says. “We pivoted from full service to ordering at the counter where you can get your beer, find your table and the food will be run out to you. The menu used to have a pretty significant German influence, but we saw people preferred burgers to bratwurst, so we switched to American pub fare.”
MVP in that category is the Whiteside Smashburger, hands down WBC’s most popular item. American Wagyu beef sourced from Providence Farmstead in Otto is butchered and ground weekly for free-form, hefty patties, cooked on the flattop grill, slid sizzling onto a toasted brioche bun, and simply dressed with American cheese, lettuce and Smash Sauce. Smith says the fried chicken breast sandwich or tenders are also winners, but the sleeper hit on the sandwich side is The Rachel, thick slices of roast turkey on toasted sourdough with Thousand Island dressing, Swiss cheese and tart apple slaw in place of a Reuben’s sauerkraut. Fries are fresh cut from russet or sweet potatoes, your call.
Go green with the buttermilk massaged-to-tenderness kale Caesar sprinkled with Parmesan (add a protein punch of chicken or grilled shrimp), or the Brussel Stouts starter -- fresh roasted sprouts flash-fried to order, tossed in a sweet/spicy/salty chili sauce made with WBC stout beer and finished with crisped bacon pieces. Wings are plump and flavorful, marinated overnight before a quick dunk in the fry basket and a dip in the sauce of your choice.
As the visitor season extends longer every year, Whiteside Brewing Company has created a destination for all seasons, from starting points near and far, and a plethora of reasons to park and stay awhile.