ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — While many restaurants and bars are struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a combined-spirits operation is opening in Asheville.
'It's a dream I didn't know I even had,' Rye Knot owner says.
"I see a place that I want to hang out in the restaurant and bar area and have a place back here where I get to play," Asheville native Bob Byron said.
Byron is a third-generation Navy man who wound up at the helm of a destroyer. Retirement brought him home and to the brew school at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.
"This is fun. This is why I opened this business," Byron said.
Byron will brew beer and distill whiskey at Rye Knot, only the second combined-spirits operation in the state.
This is the equivalent of a shakedown cruise for production of corn and rye whiskey, bourbon and single malt.
"We'll probably use this first batch, which will be six to eight gallons of whiskey for research and development and age them different ways, try different things," Byron said.
Jimi Rentz, a 26-year veteran of the Asheville restaurant scene, is handling the food side of Rye Knot.
"We were too far in it to stop. I mean, we couldn't walk away. So, we had to open up during the pandemic. It's just a fact of life," Rentz said.
But, Rentz, owner of Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria, was drawn to more than just the food opportunity.
"To be in a concept that involves distilling and brewing altogether, that excited me. I was ready," Rentz said.
Now that Barley's downtown is back in business, Rentz is ready to use the lessons learned during that reopening at Rye Knot.
"Trying to keep our employees safe and the customers safe, give them a good place to come," Rentz said. "Yeah, I think I'm doing what I need to be doing."
For Rentz, it's yet another adventure in his life of serving people Byron is just getting started.
"I'm now in the liquor business, and with his guidance and expertise, I think we're going to be, do well at it," Rentz said.
"It's a dream I didn't know I even had," Byron said. "But, it's a dream come true."
Beer brewed at Rye Knot will be served on tap.
The goal for the first whiskey pour is the end of October.