Fonta Flora Brewery

A North Carolina craft brewery uses locally grown and foraged ingredients, including sumac, strawberries, and dandelion greens, to create mouth-watering botanical beverages.

| Fall 2018

  • fonta-flora
    Fonta Flora rarely has enough extra beer to bottle and distribute, but fewer than 10 liquor stores in North Carolina do occasionally carry the brewery’s seasonally focused drafts.
    Photo by Brian Casse

  • fonta-flora

Nestled in North Carolina’s foothills, the city of Morganton hosts a business that’s small in production, but large in community impact. Fonta Flora Brewery opened for business in 2013 and is the brainchild of owners Mark and David Bennett and brewmaster Todd Boera. In an industry that increasingly sources out-of-season agricultural products, Fonta Flora sets the bar for craft brews that incorporate seasonal ingredients, most of them provided by local farmers and foragers. In just a few short years, Fonta Flora has garnered a national reputation, winning Great American Beer Festival gold medals in 2014 and 2015, and generating international interest when Boera and events coordinator Brit Josa poured Fonta Flora brews for the Mikkeller Beer Celebration in Copenhagen in May 2017. With relatively small production, Fonta Flora’s brews are not widely distributed, but high quality and limited production inspire an almost cult-like following of loyal fans, thousands of whom annually visit the brewery’s downtown tasting room. Because the brewery doesn’t ship products, when Fonta Flora announces release dates, customers drive from all across the U.S. to wait in line, often with hundreds of other people, for the opportunity to purchase a few precious bottles.

Community Conservation

Fonta Flora Brewery’s name pays homage to a small farming village that disappeared in the late 1910s when the Southern Power Company constructed dams to provide electricity to the Catawba Valley. The utility company flooded the valley that housed the original town of Fonta Flora, creating what is now Lake James.

More recently, the area adjoining Lake James and the surrounding state park has been of special interest to the Fonta Flora Brewery owners. Brewmaster Todd Boera frequently rode his bicycle past the former Whippoorwill Dairy Farm and often dreamt of turning its abandoned structures into a farmhouse brewery. When the historic property was listed for sale, Fonta Flora Brewery purchased 8 acres, including many of the buildings. Most of the farm’s additional land — about 40 acres — was acquired by the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, which secured funding from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund and numerous private donors. Fonta Flora Brewery has agreed to convey a permanent conservation easement to the Conservancy, and the Conservancy has promised to donate its own acreage to adjoining Lake James State Park.

The acquisition of Whippoorwill Dairy Farm is a prime example of Fonta Flora Brewery’s commitment to place and people. Fonta Flora plans to grow ingredients for craft beer on the Whippoorwill property, and has been restoring the farm’s original stone buildings to house brewing facilities that will quadruple production.



Only the Best Ingredients

Fonta Flora Brewery takes pride in utilizing as many locally sourced ingredients as possible, and, during the past few years, has paid tens of thousands of dollars to farmers and foragers. While many of the fruits and vegetables acquired by the brewery are certified organic, brewery manager Sara Maya states that the primary emphasis is for locally grown products, whether cultivated with conventional or organic methods. Carrots, beets, kiwis, and many other local crops star in an intriguing list of beers. For example, two tons of strawberries went into a single production of ale dubbed “Rhythm Rug.”

While brewmaster Boera’s fermentation methods may reflect English and Belgian influences, Fonta Flora ale’s distinctive, tart flavor profile and incorporation of unique ingredients led the brewmaster to dub his products “Appalachian Wild Ale.” Maya rattles off a list of foraged edibles Boera has used, including black locust, ground ivy, and chanterelle mushrooms. When asked if any ingredient failed to produce a delicious beverage, Maya laughs and exclaims “Ramps!” The pungent wild leeks that are spring harbingers for Appalachian mountain residents star in fine dining restaurants throughout the U.S., but, according to Maya, don’t translate to drinkable beer.






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