As you may have read in The Mountaineer last weekend, Frog Level Brewing Company has changed hands — with new owners adding a variety of new beers and bringing their own thoughtful approach to the business of craft brewing.
Clearly, Clark and Jenny Williams were caring and compassionate owners of Frog Level Brewing for nearly 10 years— committed to serving the community, bringing visitors and craft beer enthusiasts to Haywood County and rewarding one and all with a relaxed, family-friendly beer experience.
They were hands-on business owners who turned their military backgrounds and experience into a military campaign for success.
Clark Williams is (and will always be) the U.S. Marine as the driving force behind Frog Level Brewing. But Jenny Williams, a retired U.S. Navy Nurse, provided the real impetus for opening a brewery when she pushed Clark’s obsession for home brewing — which had pretty much taken over the house — to the next level.
“There were carboys everywhere,” said Jenny Williams.
“When a carboy exploded creating a blackberry stout of a mess, I gave Clark an ultimatum — ‘Stop or go pro.’”
That’s all the encouragement he needed, and soon the two started sharing the beer with family and friends and in early 2010, wisely began sampling their beers at the Waynesville Gateway Club on Wednesday nights to get valuable feedback.
It was a disciplined approach to starting a business — and lead to the formulation of Frog Level’s mainstay brews: Nutty Brunette brown ale, Salamander Slam IPA and Lilly’s Cream Boy, a cream ale — named after one of the Williamses’ favorite cats.
The testing also led to Jenny Williams’ winner of a recipe for Catcher in the Rye, a rye beer. Along about that time both Clark and Jenny Williams started sporting camouflage attire.
“People didn’t get it at first,” said Jenny Williams.
“But the veterans really appreciated it,” added Clark Williams.”
To this day, there is a green light behind the bar at Frog Level Brewing — serving as a beacon to all veterans.
Frog Level Brewing Company got its own green light — its North Carolina brewing license — April 11, 2011. The name and recipe for Catcher in the Rye was registered soon thereafter, on June 7, 2011. Frog Level began brewing commercially in August, 2011 delivering its first keg of beer — Tadpole Porter — to Bourbon Barrel Beef and Ale in Hazelwood Oct. 28, 2011. Frog Level’s tasting room at 56 Commerce St., in Waynesville, opened Dec. 2, 2011, serving a crowd of more than 300. Williams said 25 kegs of Frog Level Beer were sold that day, during the sensible operating hours of 2 to 7 p.m.
“We didn’t want people out after dark,” mused Clark Williams.
From the get-go, Frog Level Brewing drew an intergenerational crowd.
“It’s been a wonderful ride,” said Clark Williams, “Working together and building a business as a family and bringing so many people to Waynesville.”
To the Williams’ credit, the February, 2020 issue of Southern Living magazine showcased the top 10 places to visit in Waynesville, with number one being, “Head to Frog Level.”
Here’s hoping that never changes.
Frog Level Brewing will be closed for the next couple weeks as the new owners do some remodeling; reopening around April 1. I’ll be telling their story soon thereafter.
In the meantime, let’s all lift a glass to the power couple — Clark and Jenny Williams — who brought Haywood County its first enduring craft brewery.
“Cheers, dear friends.”