By Alyssa Pressler
Catawba Brewing CEO Billy Pyatt never expected a home-brew kit — a gift from his wife, Jetta — would grow into a thriving business with four breweries and distribution in five states.
“Even though we’ve been doing this 20 years, every day is new and fun,” he says.
That home-brew kit appealed to Pyatt’s engineering background — the N.C. State University grad worked at Corning for nearly 30 years — as he tweaked his processes. Soon, the Marion native and his brother, Scott Pyatt, were brewing 15 gallons of beer in their driveway two or three times a month.
Morganton-based Catawba incorporated in the mid-90s but didn’t sell its first beer until summer 1999 after they acquired all the necessary brewing equipment, Pyatt says. In recent years, Catawba has expanded to Asheville and Charlotte.
In 2019, the brewer plans to surpass the 115 beer styles it created last year and match last year’s output of at least 40,000 gallons, ranking it among the state’s top 10 craft breweries based on production. Each location will host a celebration this summer to mark the 20-year milestone, Pyatt says, and Catawba will release a line of anniversary beers brewed by the brothers.
Over the last seven years, Catawba has averaged 69% year-over-year growth, Pyatt says. The company’s success in a state teeming with craft brewers is a result of the “interpersonal relationships we continue to nurture,” he says, including listening to customers, valuing its workers, and engaging in charity activities in its communities.
“The business has changed so much,” Pyatt says. “We’ve been fortunate to change with it and be able to grow.”
WCU narrows search
After more than a year without a permanent chief, Western Carolina University expects to name a new chancellor by May. In February, a small group of candidates visited the Cullowhee campus to meet with students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni and regional members of the UNC System Board of Governors. The search committee planned to narrow the list to three finalists by the end of February. Campus trustees will evaluate the finalists, then submit recommendations to interim UNC System President Bill Roper. He then nominates a finalist to the board.
David Belcher, who was chancellor from 2011-17, died of cancer last June. A new chancellor was almost selected in July, but the UNC governors declined to vote on the three finalists. The matter gained widespread attention after a board member, Raleigh lobbyist Tom Fetzer, asked a private investigator to check the background of the lead candidate, who later withdrew his name. Fetzer had been considered as a possible interim chancellor after Belcher went on medical leave in December 2017 but was not selected.
“The committee is considering this not so much a new search but rather a continuation of the search that ended last July,” said Bill Studenc, WCU’s chief communications officer, in an email.
UNC Chapel Hill is the only other school in the system with an open chancellor position as it seeks a successor to Carol Folt, who stepped down in January.