Evil beware!

Published 12:35 pm Thursday, August 19, 2010

The way Fred Block figures it, hes fighting evil one beer at a time.

Block, an engineer by trade and brewer by passion, has evolved quickly from award-winning home brewer to commercial beer maker. His BottleTree Blonde is hitting more and more shelves, including just this week those in Western North Carolina, where his drink no evil slogan will be seen on every package.

Block, who lives in Campobello and whose BottleTree Beer Company, LLC is based in Tryon, says his homebrew actually began with an idea and an appreciation for Southern folklore.

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“Bottle trees” have long dotted the Southern landscape, but their roots can be found in Africa. The idea is that evil spirits or haints can be caught by the glass of the bottle tree. The sky blue color of BottleTrees packaging is a color that wards off evil spirits, according to Voodoo legend. Bottle trees themselves date back to 9th-century Congo.

I had the idea, and I knew I wanted to use the bottle trees, Block said. Then I kept coming back to the slogan, which is our motto. I wanted something to do with good and evil, but everything was too long. Then, I was sitting around and came up with Drink no evil and I had it.

Block says he is happy that his BottleTree Blonde, a Belgian-styled ale, can now actually be sold at his wifes store, La Bouteille A Wine and Beer Boutique on N. Trade Street in Tryon.

It is the next step in a period of exciting and exponential growth that has occurred over the past six weeks for Block and his BottleTree brand.

In South Carolina, BottleTree has burst on the scene with more than 70 retail locations. It is also available in 11 Louisiana parrishes. When the Asheville-based Next Generation Beer Company signed on to distribute BottleTree in North Carolina, Blocks beer finally made it back home.

Ive been surprised by the amount of support weve gotten locally and the number of local people who are supporting us, Block said.

The Tea House at Lake Lanier, which is in South Carolina, has been selling BottleTree and Block said other local pubs and restaurants such as Elmos in downtown Tryon have expressed interest in stocking BottleTree Blonde.

Block initially attempted to become his own distributor in the state, but ran into state laws designed to keep that from happening. After several headaches, he rethought his plan.

Ive come full circle on that and now I see my role, Block said. The distributor acts as an extension of the beer company. I had to ask myself, Do I want to focus on all the aspects of distribution or do I want to do my part to help grow the beer in production and marketing?

Deciding to use a distributor was simple enough for Block at that point.

While Block has received local support, he said he also proudly supports local businesses in Tryon. The cover art for his packaging was produced by a Western North Carolina artist and based on a piece of art given to Block as a gift.

For Block and his family a wife, two children and two dogs the quality of life they sought when leaving Atlanta several years ago has been found.

We shop here. We took our kids to see ‘Charlottes Web’ at the Tryon Little Theater last week, he said. This is about a quality of life.

Its a type of quality, he hopes has been translated into BottleTree beers.

We see that a lot of people arent drinking to excess any more, Block said. Maybe theyre more serious. Maybe they have other priorities, so if youre out to dinner and you have one beer, why not make it a special one?