Local brewery opens taproom on campus

Innovation Brewing opened up a new taproom last Friday under Noble Residence Hall on Western Carolina University’s campus.

Nicole Owens, co-owner of Innovation Brewing, hopes that this new location will help the business to connect with the culture on campus.

“We have always been very involved in our local community, which includes WCU. Being on campus will give us the opportunity to become further integrated into the catamount community,” Owens said.

Kaitlan Randazzo pours one of the weekly specials that work with college budgets.

Kaitlan Randazzo, bartender and WCU graduate student, is excited for this location to be open again after working previously for Bryson City Outdoors, the former occupant of the space. The taproom and outdoor-gear store closed its campus location earlier this year.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the students again. This is a new environment and it will have new energy. I’m also looking forward to seeing the regulars again, it has been a long time,” Randazzo said.

Katy Sherrill, customer and senior at WCU, seemed to share the same excitement for the new taproom.

“I came into the other place a few times to study, but I really like this place and I can’t wait for it to open up a little more if it’s able to. I think it will be a great spot to hang out,” Sherrill said.

The taproom is following strict COVID-19 guidelines by limiting seating to outside only and requiring masks while inside. They have provided multiple tables, benches, and chairs for customers to enjoy their drinks and hang out.

Finn, owned by Kaitlan Randazzo, is excited to meet all of the new customers.

Well-behaved dogs are also encouraged to join customers outside.

The taproom will serve beer on draft and 12-ounce cans, in addition to hard ciders, wines, and non-alcoholic options.

“The Hoppy Camper IPA is my personal favorite and I think a lot of students will like the new purple Catamount Sour that we are introducing soon,” Randazzo said.

The brewery hopes to provide a safe on-campus option to allow of-age students to drink responsibly.

“It will enhance safety for the students and the community since this will provide an option for someone located on campus to not have to drive anywhere after drinking,” Owens said.

Innovation Brewing is well known throughout Western North Carolina with two other taprooms located in Sylva and Dillsboro.

This location will be open seven days a week from 12 to 8 p.m.