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


Founded by Nicole Dexter and Chip Owen, a couple of seemingly endless energy and foresight, Innovation Brewing would seem equally at home in both a cosmopolitan haven and small town America. The beer is just as buzzworthy as the brewery, which was recently caught up in a copyright dispute with Bell’s over the use of "Innovation."

The brewery lives up to the name, featuring a full-blown barrel-aging and sour/funk program, along with 32 of their own beers on tap at all times (plus a house-made ginger ale), a mighty impressive feat for a brewery that’s only been around for a couple years. And if that weren’t enough, they’ve just started bottling their Circumnavigation Double IPA.

Co-founders Nicole Dexter (pictured) and Chip Owen have poured countless hours into fine-tuning every detail of Innovation.

While the bottles may find their way to you, the brewery itself is worth the trip – the taproom is expertly laid out, with its spacious and naturally lit interior spilling out onto a patio overlooking a stream. There’s also a resident food truck – Cosmic Carryout, which serves delicious burgers for a great price. When I stopped in it was thumping, featuring tunes from local White Stripes-Black Keys hybrid Masonjar Menagerie, with a bit of Zeppelin and Hendrix mashed in. The band was a perfect match for the brewery, modern without forsaking its rustic roots. The vibe was electric, and it felt as if Innovation was the heart of the town.

Though the sheer quantity of styles Innovation produces is impressive, the quality is uniformly appetizing. I particularly enjoyed their uber crisp Ginger Pale Ale, fragrant Black Balsam Porter, and Chippy’s Appalachian Cure-All, an American Strong Ale featuring a dazzling mélange of aroma and flavor, including coconut, caramel, nut, spice and a hefty helping of booziness.

The town of Sylva itself has grown as the best breweries do, focusing on character and quality. You won’t find fast food chains in town, just locally owned businesses with small town values. From the acclaimed clay-smiths at Treehouse and Riverwood Pottery, to the overly modest chefs at Lulu’s on Main – nothing in Jackson is artificial or overstated. The masters let their crafts speak for themselves. 

For more information on Jackson County and its brew scene, follow the links below:
Innovation Brewing

Visit Jackson County, NC