You ease your troubles when life's the bubbles...
Have you ever had an occasion where you wanted to go out and have a nice drink without consuming loads of sugars? The power team of Benjamin and Vashti Colvin, Jacob Baumann, Aaron Wilson and Carly Reese set out to solve this equation: how to create a healthy alternative to alcohol and sugary artificial sodas. Devil’s Foot was created in an effort to provide delicious drinks for cocktails, families, expectant mothers or adults who don’t drink or want a break from drinking and still want to enjoy fresh bubbles. They are working to make “natural flavors” a thing of the past, setting industry standards by labeling every ingredient clearly and boldly! Benjamin was kind enough to share his thoughts with us in a recent interview.
What made you decide to create non-alcoholic beverages in such a brewery-rich town?
We all know and love beer brewer friends in Asheville—heck, one of our owners is still one!—and we love the creativity of our beer community. Two events collided to spark Devil's Foot. One, we were hobby brewing cocktail mixers and loving the results and the fun, and two, my pregnant wife was constantly given the limited choice of drinking tap water or overly sugary and artificial sodas when we would go out on the town. I thought she deserved better. In Beer City, we decided we wanted to build on that craft ingenuity but expand the spectrum and push the edges of the industry. Devil's Foot grew out of the drive to replace high-fructose, artificially flavored drinks with affordable, accessible, farm-to-can beverages. And instead of taking valuable tap lines for kegs or bottling in glass, we package in cans to distribute widely.
We want Moscow Mules to be more flavorful. We want hot summer days to be refreshed with crisp, sparkling water and cold fall nights to be warmed with natural spice. We want people to be able to sip on something special and non-alcoholic when at a show or brewery—and we want to make people smile!
How did you choose the name Devil’s Foot?
In the beginning, we were making cocktail mixers in kegs and playing with it. We had ginger root all over the kitchen. My wife, Vashti, said, “It’s crazy in here, like a bunch of devil’s foot all over the place!” We thought, “Devil’s Foot?!” What a funny and appropriate description for ginger root! We found that there’s also a Sherlock Holmes story about devil’s foot and historical cultural references to that name—and it connotes the spicy character of fresh, yummy hot ginger.
What makes your beverages different and better?
We use organic roots and fruits. There is no equal to fresh, organic ginger root. There is nothing better than locally sourced no-spray, small-farm berries and fruits. The best flavor, the cleanest final product comes from fresh organics and trusted local farmers.
We use organic and natural sweeteners, and we practice restraint. Our styles are sweetened with regional honey and organic cane sugar. The honey adds a depth of sweetness, and the natural earthiness of honey and cane sugar with the fresh fruits and roots allows us to use half to two-thirds less sugar than typical sodas. We never would use high-fructose corn syrup.
We package in cans. Cans preserve beverages very well from light and environmental influences and are safer from breakage and injury so they are more applicable for outdoor venues, distribution and around children. California holds most of the BPA-free cans on the market, but the Devil's Foot team is working to grow that market on the East Coast and provide an even cleaner can.
We brew locally and label transparently. We kettle brew and brite tank carbonate everything, and we produce and can in Asheville. We also boldly, clearly and honestly label our ingredients in large icon formats. We will never label "natural flavors." "Natural flavors" can contain any number of chemicals or additives. We want you to know exactly what is in the can and what you put in your body.
Is ginger beer a beer, or does it taste like beer?
Traditionally, ginger beer is a darker, spicier non-alcoholic style. It has been used in cocktails, as an herbal remedy and even as a medicinal tonic.
Ginger ale is usually a lighter, sweeter soda. One big problem we see is that corporate ginger ales sometimes contain zero actual ginger and excessive amounts of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
Alcoholic ginger beer has found a resurgence lately, including Asheville's own Ginger's Revenge. This is typically fermented steeped ginger, sugar and flavorings and keeps an ABV lower around 5 percent.
We aim for an amber, ginger spice-forward style of ginger beer, and the fresh organic ingredients keep it bright and crisp. Along with the bubbles, it makes a refreshing soda and creates outstanding cocktails.
How long have you been in business? Why Asheville?
We incorporated in late 2016 and built our equipment and production through 2017. Our first events kicked off in October 2017 at the Orange Peel with Run the Mules Moscow Mules during the Run the Jewels show, and our first cans were released in December 2017. We packaged more than 100,000 cans in 2018 and could not have done this without our amazing community. The ownership of Devil's Foot have all been friends living in Asheville for more than a decade. We are all active in our Asheville community and want to be a beacon for some happiness, health and cheer to our city!
Where can people buy your products?
We are currently found in more than 100 venues and retail stores including French Broad Food Co-op, Appalachian Vintner and Bruisin Ales. Retail growth is launching in 2019, making our cans more readily available in retail stores. Again, we could not do what we do without our supportive community, and that includes the vendors who have believed in us from day one.
What’s next? Anything new coming up?
Our flagship ginger beers will be more widely available in 2019, but we also will ramp up production of our fruit sodas and our collaboration small brews.
Small batch, handcrafted production allows us to continue producing our flagships, but we can be flexible enough to show our creativity and fun! We are building on our foundation of organic sparkling lemonade, organic sparkling limeade, sparkling strawberry lemonade and sparkling blueberry lemonade by bringing in seasonal and locally grown fruits like peaches, blackberry and apple. We also are growing the ginger beer line to produce fruit ginger beers.
Collaboration is one of the most exciting fuels that keeps us churning out new styles. In 2018, we worked with Botanist & Barrel Cidery to collaborate on ginger and blackberry styles, and we also partnered with local events to create small-batch styles. In 2019, we are collaborating with a number of breweries, with Asheville Tea Company and other friends to keep the creative juices flowing. Stay tuned!