When pulling up to the heart of Waynesville, a thriving little community just thirty minutes west of Asheville, the first thing you’re struck by is the juxtaposition between the whimsical images of frogs sitting and leaping through the street decor and the industrial atmosphere that also has prominent positioning on the road. It’s as if this historic district is trying to balance the need for commerce with the equally strong love and need of tourism in the region. For those of you who crave a little authenticity with your beer, this is the perfect place to continue your own brews tour.
Frog Level Brewing is an unassuming place. Parking is conveniently located across the street, though I imagine it does get crowded during the busier parts of the day, and the casual feel of the space lets you instantly relax when you first come through the doors. Preparing for a rather standard interview, I headed inside, never suspecting I was in for a surprise.
Beckoned to a gorgeous outdoor seating area at the back of the brewery, I sat at one of several wooden tables on a deck that overlooks a babbling creek with additional picnic tables closer to the stream. Several people were already present and chatting merrily as their dogs sat by their sides, eager for play but surprisingly well behaved.
Clark Williams, owner and operator of Frog Level Brewery, waved me over to a table to begin our interview and I have to admit my curiosity was already peaked. Upon first inspection, he’s a little intimidating but spend two minutes chatting with the guy and you realize two things very quickly: As a 22 year Marine Corp veteran who had several tours of duty and assisted on the Jessica Lynch rescue, he is indeed a tough guy and, secondly, that he has a heart of pure gold.
Born and raised in the region, Mr. Williams has a clear love of his mountain home. He serves on several boards in his community, including one that serves veterans, another which is dedicated to preserving the water health of the Haywood County headwaters, and yet one more that fights against the euthanasia of healthy animals. If that isn’t enough, he also participates in several other programs to assist military veterans and their families. He’s modest about it, assuming every business owner has the same drive and dedication to their home towns as he does and that makes him that much more charming.
Mr. Williams always knew he didn’t want to simply settle for factory work like so many other locals did as he was growing up but didn’t realize his dream of being a businessman until after he had retired from military life and started brewing his own beer for himself and his friends in his garage not but 2 miles from where his brewery now stands. Thanks to a debt-free business model and deep-seated dedication to those who rely on his success, Mr. Williams has created a thriving craft beer business that is affordable to both the blue-collar workers who stop by on their way home from work and the tourist who have a hankering for beers available nowhere else.
With six beers continually on tap and other seasonal brews on top of those, including a delicious coconut porter that is to die for, beer lovers will be tickled by the choices and hearty tastes of Frog Level’s wares. You can’t go wrong with the most popular Salamander Slam IPA but, if dark beer is more to your tastes, try out the coconut porter, it’s like summer and dark beer had a baby. Delish!
On top of creating great flavors and being an overall great guy, Mr. Williams is dedicated to a sort of farm-to-table movement that one doesn’t often find in their craft brewers. What do I mean by that? Well, almost everything that is found in Frog Level, from the ingredients in the brews to the large vats where the hops ferment, comes from American farmers and businesses in North Carolina and a few surrounding areas in the southeast. Even the brewmaster was hired from the local community college program for brewing. This is truly a guilt-free beer indulgence that will leave you feeling good about yourself for supporting local businesses.
Some unusual aspects of Frog Level Brewing: The brewery is pet and kid-friendly. Food trucks, takeout, and picnic baskets are all welcome to be consumed on the premise while Mom and Dad enjoy a cold beer with their meal. The venue is popular with baby showers, bachelor parties, and wedding receptions, so plan ahead if you want to plan an event here or if you want to have your Frog Level brews catered at your event. Lastly, but certainly not least, the creek out back is stocked annually with trout and also had the record trout last year.
I have to say that this is one of those places you and yours will return to over and over again. With innovative flavors, charitable pursuits saturating the business philosophy of its owner, and an easy-going atmosphere, Frog Level Brewing definitely ranks in my top 5 breweries for the state. If you desire a little quiet, head over Sunday through Wednesday or wait until later in the week and enjoy live music Thursday through Saturday while sipping on some delicious brews. You’ll be glad you did.
Frog Level Brewing
56 Commerce St – Waynesville NC 28786
Frog Level Brewing
56 Commerce St
Waynesville NC 28786