Local brewery animates Asheville through film and food


Lisa Leokum

The inside of Asheville Brewing Company’s North location.

Jernigan Neighbors, [email protected], Arts and Features Editor

Tucked away between a bagel shop and a car wash operation lies an establishment draped with a vibrant, sunset orange awning and giant cylinders standing tall on each end of the building, with downtown city murals cascading across. Inside is home to two theaters, large pizza pies and decor washed walls.  

Asheville Brewing Company attracts both locals and tourists of all ages with its variety of motion pictures and mouth-watering pizza and beer. 

“I think it feels like a second home to so many people in Asheville,” said partial owner and one of Asheville Brewing’s managers, Lisa Leokum. “The most fun is when people come in and they have never been here before. They look like little kids discovering all the cool stuff to see and do.” 

Leokum is one of seven owners and holds a management position at Asheville Brewery. 

The manager said they first moved to Asheville in 1995 to attend UNC Asheville. 

“I never expected Asheville Brewing to become such a central part of my life and who I am,” Leokum said. “Being here rounds out my life. It’s work, family, my social circle and more.” 

Leokum said they love the Asheville Brewing staff and applaud them for their work. 

“They are all wonderful and talented people,” Leokum said. “We could never do what we do without them.” 

The partial brewery owner said people of all ages recall memories from Asheville Brewery from bringing in kids, having first dates there and even seeing “Star Wars” for the first time there in 1977 when the location was called the Merrimon Twin Theatre. 

The manager said there are events for all ages. Some of the more adult entertainment events are nights where the company hosts “Slice of Life Comedy” and “Trivia, Trivia”.

“For the most part it seems like everyone just mingles together here,” Leokum said. 

The North Asheville brewing and cinema location opened a little less than 30 years ago. Ever since, the company works to bring smiles to faces, pizzas to tables and movies to the big screen.

“We hope we have helped amplify the magic that already exists here by staying independent, showing fun flicks and making great pie,” said the President of Asheville Brewing Mike Rangel. 

Rangel said they first started working at Asheville Brewing in March of 1995 when the restaurant was first opened. 

Rangel said he is a movie fanatic, and loves being able to work in an environment where he is close to his passions. 

“As a theater owner, getting to show my favorite films is one of the best perks for sure,” Rangel said. “I love the Ghibli movies, Science Fiction, British comedy and all the nerdy stuff.” 

Rangel said his favorite movies in no particular order are “Shaun of the Dead”, “Jojo Rabbit”, “Princess Bride”, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, “Battle Royal” and “Star Wars”. 

The Asheville Brewing president said they provide many discounts to UNCA students, including $4.50 jumbo slices with one topping, and $1.00 movies in their second theater Thursdays through Tuesdays. 

“We have two theaters currently. Theater one is a first-run theater, with the latest movies and some great classics,” Rangel said. “Theater two is a classics only, smaller theater for only three dollars.”

The president said the theater previously screened Studio Ghibli movies for two weeks, and started the new “Ant-Man: Quantamania” on Feb. 16. 

“We have a Quentin Tarantino film fest coming in May and an Enviro Movie Fest in the fall,” Rangel said. The Enviro Movie Fest will consist of nine nights of environmentally focused films.

Rangel said Asheville Brewing is hyper local, fiercely independent and owned by five local families since 1995. They are proud to have worked with UNCA for almost 30 years. 

“We also own Rabbit Rabbit, the new outdoor music venue. We had Jack White, Sylvan Esso and Rainbow Kitten Surprise play there in 2022. Those shows were definitely magical,” Rangel said. 

The Asheville Brewing president said they are searching for kitchen and concert staff for big upcoming shows at Rabbit Rabbit like Les Claypool, the Pixies and 25 other shows. 

“We will work with school schedules, so even if you can only work a night of two a week or a month, come talk to us,” Rangel said. 

The film fan said the crew is very close-knit, shares tips and gives the business an inclusive feel. 

“Our decor is like our staff and owner group – fun, funky, comfy and lots of weird stuff on the walls,” Rangel said. 

The theaters will be bringing sports watch parties, “Kung-fu Panda”, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and much more fun Asheville locals and tourists will not want to miss.