Highland Ties Family’s Passion Into New Experience for Onsite Consumers

​With a 40-acre campus to work with, Highland Brewing is adding to its consumer experience while also scratching an itch of President and CEO Leah Wong Ashburn: getting out and walking.

​”It’s a dream of mine to have the brewery to reflect the values of myself and my family,” she said this past weekend at the Asheville, North Carolina’s brewery. “We’ve always been walkers.”

A new walking trail has been constructed on the property with one mile completed so far. A ribbon-cutting ceremony (which had Wong Ashburn run through a ribbon adorn with the brewery’s new Wanderlush brand logo) kicked off a guided tour to nearly 100 Highland fans, led by Wong Ashburn and husband Brock Ashburn, the brewery’s Vice President of Operations.

“Having [the trail] on site where people can leave their offices for 20 minutes and just get outside in the woods — that head-clearing fresh air — I think that’s so good for us.”

Called Phase One, plans for sand volleyball courts are in the works this spring along with additional miles to the trail, which could eventually lead to bike trails and frisbee golf in eventual Phases Two and Three.

​”This is an outdoor lifestyle here in Asheville,” she said. “So offering something that’s right on our property as opposed to [people] going somewhere else, that kind of fits into that outdoor lifestyle activity thing.

“The health component, that’s what I have dreamed of for years.”

​The brewery already has multiple components to its campus, with event spaces, an extended deck outside, a rooftop bar and The Meadow, an outdoor venue adjacent to the brewery. Now, the trails add another aspect, and a nod to health awareness to boot.​

​”I just want people to get out into our woods,” she said, noting that pockets of Asheville are rain forest, so there were unbelievable vines and invasive undergrowth.

“It is literally a jungle when you try to cut a trail here,” she said. “So it’s really been challenging for the folks that we’ve had cut these trails, but now they’re these wide swaths and they’re wood chipped.”

The campus is a former site for railroad maintenance and much of where the trail lies were littered with debris, tainted ground and garbage. Much of it was not discovered until after purchasing the land nearly 15 years ago and improvements are continuing.

“In a way, I’m kind of sensitive to people not seeing it when it’s perfect,” Wong Ashburn noted. “But there’s also a benefit of people seeing the progress and knowing kind of where we’re starting, which is our rain forest that has junk in it.

“That’s part of the uncovering, too, is realizing that we [as humans] can really do some damage to places. Some that you can fix, some that you have to keep monitoring, but the more you uncover it, the more people can care about it.”

This year is a busy one for the veteran Asheville brewery. After a rebranding process in 2018, Wong Ashburn said 2019 saw great growth and now the brewery is heading back to downtown Asheville with a new taproom planned to open, hopefully by the end of the summer.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.