The Lines Thirsty Monk Looks to Blur with Holy Water

This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the brewing community from across the US.
Brewer Magazine will share business and personal insights from Brewmasters, Head Brewers, Brewing Managers, Sales Directors, QCQA Managers and others each weekend to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.

Barry Bialik, owner, Holy Water Hard Seltzer — Asheville, North Carolina

BREWER: What do you feel have been new challenges at Holy Water?
BIALIK: Well, there’s been nothing else in life like the challenges that have been thrown at us since early 2020! I would say the biggest challenge we currently face is the lack of Affordable Housing! The lack of housing that people can afford drives up the costs for our employees and means they need to live farther away from their jobs. Which in turn drives up our labor costs we have to pay so our employees can have stable lives. That, combined with increased material costs, mean the numbers for simple profit and loss don’t always work that well.

BREWER: Why did you enter the craft beer industry? What prompted the evolution to seltzer? What makes you love being a part of the industry?
BIALIK: I’ve been a big fan of craft beer and Belgian beers in particular since my earliest introduction to craft beer while living in Alaska. I owned a newspaper up there and we started a Craft Beer column back in the early 1990s. The Thirsty Monk grew from my 1990’s Alaska days and first opened up as a Belgian-only bar in Asheville in 2008. Thirsty Monk’s move to hard seltzer came from trying to design a cocktail-in-a-can like beverage that met all the licensing requirements as a malt beverage instead of hard liquor. Our Holy Water Hard Seltzers are designed to drink more like a Craft Cocktail than what people might normally think of as a hard seltzer. I love the industry because we create happy places for our neighbors to come together and visit with eachother. We all create community in every which way possible, and that’s why we all do what we do.

BREWER: What are some changes in the industry that you’ve observed in the past few years, and how has your business adapted to stay competitive?
BIALIK: While many, including myself, still enjoy an IPA or a Belgian Ale, we also have had to be a little (or a lot!) more conscious of the effect of all these beers on our waistlines! Holy Water Hard Seltzers are designed to be a very efficient beverage — 7.6% ABV — but low carb and much lower calories than most beers.

BREWER: What are some recent trends in brewing and seltzer-making that you’ve tried or are excited about trying?
BIALIK: We always love experimenting with flavor and yeast profiles and seeing how they create unique beers and hard seltzers. In particular, Thirsty Monk has always pushed our Belgian proprietary yeast to the limits in our beers, and now we use that same Belgian yeast in our Hard Seltzers. So Holy Water is essentially a Belgian-Style Hard Seltzer. Talk about a unique category!

BREWER: What are your goals for Holy Water this year?
BIALIK: Thirsty Monk has always been a Brewpub model, and served all of our beers at our places as opposed to any focus on bulk packaging or distribution. We have recently bought a small canning line, and plan to increase the canned presence of Holy Water Hard Seltzer. We aim to blur the lines between Hard Seltzer and Canned Cocktails.

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