When Doug and Jess Reiser and Tim Gormley launched Burial Beer Co. in 2013, Asheville’s newest brewery featured just one location. Renovating an industrial space on 40 Collier Avenue, the brewery and taproom would be a key part of the renaissance that transformed several blocks of derelict warehouses into a vibrant district delineated on maps as the South Slope Brewing District. And now – having expanded to two Asheville locations plus taprooms in Charlotte and Raleigh – Burial celebrates its tenth anniversary with an outdoor beer and music festival, Anno X. The festival happened at Burial’s Forestry Camp facility on June 24.
As Asheville gained prominence as a center for beer brewing, more and more players have been attracted by what they see as a solid business opportunity. They’ve met with differing degrees of success: some flourished, some breweries have gone out of business and others have sold out to multinational conglomerates. But as its decennial approaches, Burial Beer Co. is among the city’s most prominent and successful independent and locally-owned breweries.
During the pandemic era, many businesses were forced to close their doors to the public. But taking advantage of some Covid-19 related relaxation of state alcoholic beverage laws, Burial Brewing pivoted to home delivery of its wide array of brews. Meanwhile, the company’s skill at crafting beers that are innovative and adventurous has won it recognition. When Colorado-based national publication Craft Beer & Brewing polled its readers in 2021, Burial was tied with a Vermont beer maker as the #1 small brewery. In 2022, Burial increased production and was thus eligible in a different category: it won the “best small regional brewery” poll, again beating out competitors across the country (Asheville’s Green Man Brewery made the short list, too, at #15).
With all that momentum and a forward-looking vision, the occasion of Burial’s ten-year anniversary presents an ideal time to stage Anno X, an event designed to showcase both the brewery’s beverages and its focus upon pairing that experience with live music.
Anno X: Celebrating ten years of beer and music
The four nationally-touring acts performing at Anno X illustrated the eclectic nature that characterizes Burial’s approach to music. Brooklyn-based Beach Fossils’ shimmering dream pop has won over critics and fans alike. Also from Brooklyn, Black Marble is the atmospheric, electronica-focused project of Chris Stewart. Across her six studio albums, singer-songwriter producer Zola Jesus skillfully combines darkwave, art rock and industrial textures into a hypnotic swirl. The hardest-edged of the four, Automatic is an all-female, postpunk/no-wave trio from Los Angeles featuring drummer Lola Dompé, daughter of Bauhaus drummer Kevin Haskins.
“I think it’s evident to most people that music is very much an inspiration for what we do at Burial,” says Tim Gormley. He points out that a musical aesthetic informs Burial’s branding and packaging art. “And we think a lot about what the soundtrack to our taproom experience sounds like,” he says.
Anno X featured several special anniversary releases of beers, as well as several guest taps from collaborating breweries. The Forestry Camp kitchen served items from its menu as well. The festivities kicked off at 12 noon; Automatic took the stage at 1 p.m., followed by Black Marble at 2:10 and Zola Jesus at 3:20. After a word from Gormley and his Burial Beer Company co-founders Doug and Jess Reiser, Beach Fossils were scheduled to appear at 4:45.
Music has been an integral component of many previous Burial events, too. From bands and DJs at the flagship South Slope brewery to the annual Burnpile Harvest Fest at Burial’s historic Forestry Camp facility, the music flows as freely as the beer. And Burial’s experience with live music makes the company’s next venture a “natural progression,” Gormley says.
So new it doesn’t have a name yet
In early 2021, Burial purchased the property at 10 Buxton Avenue, immediately north and adjacent to its South Slope brewery. The $2.2 million purchase price was merely the start of a major investment for the company; major remodeling on the 11,000+ square-foot space would be necessary to transform the former location of Asheville Hardware into the city’s newest live music venue.
And last autumn, Burial hired Bryce Fanich. Former general manager at The Grey Eagle, Fanich has been instrumental in organizing both the musical side of Anno X and this year’s upcoming annual Burnpile Fest. And he’ll be even busier once the (as-yet-unnamed) Burial music venue opens. “Bryce has a deep understanding of what it takes to run a music venue,” Gormley says. “He has that connectivity to bands, and he knows how band and tour management works.”
Gormley admits that his own tastes in music run toward “heavy, dark and psychedelic.” But he emphasizes that the new venue’s approach to bookings will cast a wider net. “We’re always striving to be an inclusive company and brand,” he says, citing the company’s expansion into making wine, cider and non-alcoholic beverages. “And that approach applies to music as well; the new venue will host a broad variety of genres.”
Burial’s expanded location will offer more than just music: the space will also be home to a bottle shop and rooftop patio bar. And because the new space will serve in part as an extension of Burial’s existing South Slope facility, Gormley says that he and his team “don’t feel a lot of pressure to have [live music] shows every day. He estimates that once it’s up and running, the space will host “four to five” shows each week. The rest of the time, the building at 10 Buxton Avenue will provide plenty of indoor space for beer-drinking patrons; that’s something that Burial has lacked up to now. “There will also be a food concept in that building,” Gormley promises.
Burial management hopes that the new venue will be operational and open for business in October, but no official opening date has been announced. Citing the time involved to acquire all needed construction permits, Gormley admits that he’s “a little hesitant to say when.” In the meantime, at its Forestry Camp facility, Burial will host a live music show in August as part of the inaugural AVL Fest as well as a hip hop showcase the following month.
Burial’s new music space will include opportunities to Asheville- and regionally-based artists as well. “Having been a local business for 10 years, it’s very important to us collectively to offer a platform for local musicians,” Gormley says. “We’ve made a lot of relationships with people who make music in this town, so shows featuring local artists will be a big part of what we want to do.”
While celebrating the ten-year mark, the Burial team remains focused on the future. Gormley says that he and the Reisers have been fine-tuning their “five year vision.” Up to now, Burial has been handling its own distribution with a fleet of box trucks and refrigerated vans. “But we’ve reached this impasse,” Gormley explains. “There is a demand out there. People want our beer at places that we can’t get to – even within the state – without a dramatic growth of our distribution model.” No decisions have been made, but Gormley says that Burial’s preference would be to grow while putting the emphasis back on production and more taprooms. But one thing is unlikely to change; Burial Beer Co. is unlikely to sell out to InBev or another multinational. “Our plan is to stay independent,” Gormley says. That, and to keep music as a major part of the mix.