Jim Dykstra's picture

Finding Brew Gold in Sylva

Exploring the craft haven of Jackson County, NC
Lulu's On Main Innovation Brewing Sylva North Carolina
Innovation Brewing's Ginger Pale Ale paired with a delicious dish from Lulu's on Main


There’s another brewery in town whose name has an even more esoteric origin. Sneak-e-Squirrel is a quirky place, no doubt – at first glance you might think the owners are nuts. And you’d be right, because they’re nuts about running a one-of-a-kind craft brewery with an “Ale or Nothing” mentality.

The brewery, which has taken over what used to be a used car dealership, is run by John Duncan and his team of brewers and trained chefs. Duncan also provides the origin for the otherwise baffling name – it was his longtime computer gaming handle. But the Sneak-e-Squirrel has logged out of the online server and into the game of crafting quality ales and locally sourced meals in a family-friendly environment.

I can almost guarantee there is an aspect of this seven-barrel brewpub that will surprise you. If you’re a fan of specially rigged equipment, you’ll love what John and his team have done to get their system up and running, and if you’re a fan of food and drink as humans generally are, you’ll be amazed at what the chefs create.

Sneak-e-Squirrel has the gaming aspect covered from every angle too. They’ve got ping pong outside on the patio, and board games abound on the inside. Even the food and drink get caught up in the gaming vibe. You can order a “Heisen-burger,” named for the Uncertainty Principle, where you roll four-sided dice that correspond to various ingredients in the kitchen and receive a one-of-a-kind burger. The results are surprising, but guaranteed to be delicious, like a strawberry jam and pimento cheese elk burger. And be sure to try the ice cream made with their Get the Frack Out Stout. It was fracking delicious.

On the beer side, the Squirrel has nine beers on tap, with a rotating Beer of the Week that's often more experimental in nature. The experimentation extends to the drinking also, as we were encouraged to try a hop infusion – a choose-your-own hop adventure that can completely change a beer’s flavor. I infused their Citra IPA with the Waimea varietal, and it was intense. Their woody, powerhouse Prison Shank Old Ale also comes recommended.

The folks behind the Squirrel want it to be the kind of place you can bring the kids and enjoy yourself. If you come in with an open mind, you’ll find something to like.