“We had no idea this was coming,” said McMullen. “ This was never part of the plan. A brewer friend of mine in North Carolina told me, ‘You don’t choose your flagship, your flagship chooses you.’ So we knew this would be a very popular seasonal beer, but we didn’t know it would be this big.”
The beer that some beverage distributors have called the most sought-after brew in the state started as a rejected recipe in North Carolina. Frank was working for Pisgah Brewing Company near Asheville when he came up with the flavor profile. However, his employer didn’t want to go in that direction, so Frank held onto it until he came to Flyway in early 2016.
“It was kind of still an experiment at the time,” said Frank. “I asked Jess to trust me, give it a try. And it was popular at first, but it just snowballed from there. It just grew at this unbelievable pace. That’s when we realized we really had something big on our hands.”
“When accounts started telling us, ‘Please brew it year-round,’ and when bars and restaurants said, ‘If you stop brewing that, we’re taking you off the wall,’” added McMullen with a laugh. “That’s when we knew that this was going to change things for us.”
Bluewing Blueberry Wheat is relatively straightforward. It’s a classic wheat beer made with all-natural blueberry puree that doesn’t quite break the 5 percent ABV mark. What it has, though, is depth and balance that most fruit beers never dream about. The blueberry is there, but it’s subtle instead of sweet; if you were blindfolded, you might not even guess that this is a fruited beer.
“It’s a simple, really crisp, American wheat,” said McMullen. “Finding the perfect amount of blueberry, Ryan spent a lot of time working on that. That’s the big difference. We wanted it to be slightly tart, maybe a little sweet, but more importantly, have a big blueberry muffin nose. And I think we got that.”
For the time being, Flyway will can Bluewing off-site while its new canning machine is brought in. The brewery has also added a new fermenting tank to handle the seemingly insatiable demand for Bluewing while keeping its other beers going strong.
Speaking of strong, the beautiful artwork on the can is going to be unmistakable to fans. Flyway elected to go with a striking four-color, blue-and-orange silhouette of a duck flying over a wooded lake into the sunset. The design is far more elaborate than the bomber bottles Flyway has been selling for months around town and will serve as a model for the artwork in future canning projects.
Flyway is still working out the very last details on getting Bluewing cans out to the public, so we don’t have a firm release day yet. However, McMullen says he’s confident cans will be ready sometime in early June. We will make sure to update you on the release day and any release party that Flyway plans in our weekly Growlers feature.