Brewing Exceptional Beers Behind the Scenes
Highland Brewing Co.
Asheville, North Carolina
It may be hard to separate the growth of North Carolina’s beer community from John Lyda.
Of all his titles held at Highland Brewing Co.—brewmaster, vice president and “chief visionary”—it’s the last that’s most befitting of the Asheville native. Lyda, who has been with Highland since its opening in 1994, has spent his career focusing on growing the in-state industry. He’s acted as president of the Asheville Brewers Alliance, helped form the North Carolina Brewers Guild and served as district vice president for the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.
“I see it as a responsibility to help the new guys,” Lyda says. “It’s good to have a dream, but as a community we need the quality to back it all up.”
That’s been no problem for Lyda, whose Black Mocha Stout has won awards at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup and, along with other core UK-inspired brews, has landed Highland on various “breweries to watch” lists.
Still, he points to the camaraderie and connection among breweries as the most important contribution he and his peers can make, whether that’s giving advice to new startups or sharing his technical expertise on equipment with staff from New Belgium Brewing Co. as they built an East Coast brewery in Asheville.
“I want to be here for others,” says Lyda, who now works in a city with one of the most breweries per capita in the U.S. “Any work we can do to help others will help the whole industry.”