Devil's Foot Beverage CompanyIn 2015, Alabama transplant Ben Colvin and his wife, Vashti, were expecting their first baby. What they didn’t expect was that her pregnancy would inspire Colvin to launch the visionary Devil’s Foot Beverage Company with fellow ‘Baman Jacob Baumann.

Creative lightning struck while they were out at a favorite local brewery. “All they had that was nonalcoholic was water,” Colvin recalls. “It really made us wonder why there wasn’t something happy and exciting that was nonalcoholic?”

At the time, Colvin and Baumann had already been messing around with home-brewing ginger beer to mix with bourbon. Though Colvin denies he and his partner owned a crystal ball that foresaw the recent explosion in the nonalcoholic adult beverage industry, they decided to see if they could make a tasty, craft beverage that was nonalcoholic.

“It took a year for Jacob and me to put in the equipment we would need to scale up for distribution and work out of our existing jobs to commit full time to developing this,” Colvin remembers.

Devil’s Foot Beverage Company officially launched in 2018, brewing two types of NA ginger beer — Classic and Fuego (with a tad more heat and sweetness than the Classic flavor) — out of about 1,500 square feet in Woodfin.

One of Devil’s Foot’s points of pride is transparency and local sourcing of natural ingredients. Mass market makers of ginger beer use caramel coloring, flavoring, and high-fructose corn syrup, which translates to 49 grams of sugar in a can. Every Devil’s Foot craft soda has 20 grams of sugar or less, and not a drop of it is corn syrup.

“Place-based is important to us,” Colvin explains. “As part of the craft beverage culture, we use local farms for our fruits and a local apiary for our honey.” The partners were also the faces that introduced their ginger beers to bars and restaurants, for customers to drink in its NA form or use as a mixer.

The third flavor Devil’s Foot added was Sparkling Lemonade. “We were attending festivals and saw people pouring San Pellegrino into lemonade to make it bubbly, but the lemonade had concentrated juices and 35 grams of sugar,” says Colvin. “We knew we could do better, and Sparkling Lemonade has become our best-selling product.”

Devil’s Foot continued expanding its flavors, production, and distribution and were on the verge of signing a lease on a larger space when Covid-19 struck. “We had a tractor trailer’s worth of cans in storage after the governor shut every bar and restaurant down in March 2020, so we took a few weeks to figure out the pandemic,” Colvin remembers. “Luckily, we were not reliant on in-person taproom sales and could move packaged products. Coming out of Covid though, we knew we had to grow, so began looking for bigger space again.”

Ironically, in the aftermath of social distancing, one of the motivations was to include on-site customer interface via a taproom that would welcome every drinking choice. In August 2022, the company brewed its first ginger beer in a new production facility on Sweeten Creek Road. And in October 2022, Devil’s Foot opened The Mule tasting room, which in addition to Devil’s Foot beverages, local craft beer, and NA beer, stocks over 40 varieties of North Carolina spirits at the bar.

Key to Devil’s Foot thoughtful expansion and commitment to community is collaboration with Asheville breweries, which has resulted in the NA Negroni with Burial Beer; the NA Dark & Stormy with Highland Brewing, NA Razz Lemonade with Hi-Wire Brewing; NA Sparkling Apple Spritz with Botanist & Barrel, and farther afield, an NA Mai Tai with Charles Towne Fermentory in Charleston, S.C.

Branching out into spirits, Devil’s Foot has introduced Friend of the Devil, two canned cocktails available in all nine Asheville-area ABC stores as well as local entertainment venues. The 7.6% ABV Vodka Lemonade is made with Botanica Vodka from Nippitaty Distillery of Charleston, S.C., plus fresh-squeezed organic lemons, organic cane sugar, and a touch of honey. The 8% ABV Carolina Mule is a mix of vodka from Asheville-based Cultivated Cocktails, Fuego ginger beer, fresh-squeezed organic limes, organic cane sugar, and honey.

In 2023, Devil’s Foot brewed over 4,000 barrels of craft beverages, and ended the year with nine employees including the founding partners. The team kicks off 2024 with nearly a dozen flavors of craft nonalcoholic ginger beer, soda, and lemonade and distribution to four states, where the company hopes to forge new collaborations with local breweries.

But Asheville is home. “Asheville has always been key, a huge asset,” Colvin says. “We may have had a larger customer base in a bigger city like Atlanta or Charlotte, but we wouldn’t have had the same small-business resources, the same community, the same artistry, and same commitment to local that Asheville brings to the table. Asheville gets it.”

For more on Devil’s Foot Beverage Company and The Mule, visit devilsfootbrew.com

— Kay West