Legend has it that Fonta Flora, NC, was one of the first integrated towns in the South. It was considered a utopia, with neighbors helping neighbors and no arguments over class, gender, or race. By 1923, it was gone, residing under the waters of Lake James. Today, Fonta Flora Brewery follows that philosophy of community. The beer line in the North Carolina watering hole is made in conjunction with local farmers and businesses.
How exactly did this supposed Southern utopia disappear? Let’s journey back to 1916. The story goes that the Southern Power Company — the predecessor to Duke Energy — dammed three waterways for hydroelectricity projects: the Catawba River, Linville River, and Paddy’s Creek in Burke and McDowell Counties. The town is thought to have been flooded, creating Lake James.
Though evidence is scarce on how harmonious and idyllic Fonta Flora was, some intellectuals and locals choose to believe the legends. “It was a fertile, green, lush place,” said Valaida Fullwood, a Charlotte-based writer.
The brewery that shares the name of North Carolina’s “Atlantis” has three locations between Morganton, Charlotte, and the Whippoorwill farm storefront in Nebo. Founded in 2013 by Mark and David Bennett, Todd Boera, and an investor, Fonta Flora specializes in traditional English and Belgian-style beers. The brewery emphasizes ingredients supplied from within North Carolina. The local supply chain captures the essence of Appalachian culture in each batch of beer. Brewmaster Boera works with local grain suppliers and is known as a “master forager.” Wild materials are added to all beer mixtures.
A visit to the Ingredients page on Fonta Flora’s website shows how the brewery is connecting with farms in the region.
Apples, blueberries, kiwis, corn, malt, and heritage grains are just a few examples of the flora the company includes in its brews — it’s constantly changing the ingredients. One day you could drink a seasonal beer infused with cantaloupe, which Boera grows himself, and the next, you could drink one made with fennel. That’s the fun of Fonta Flora: you’re guaranteed to be surprised.
When you check out the Friends of Fonta Flora page, you get a sense of the connections built in North Carolina’s agriculture sector. The brewery gives credit to all the farmers who supply the locally-sourced fruits and vegetables for its craft beverages. These artisanal touches show that much more goes into the brewing process than simply adding grain and water.
The stories about the original Fonta Flora town add to the brewery’s charm. A look at the sign at the new barn depicts the waterline underneath the writing. The exterior is dark wood, giving it that rustic appeal. You can find a huge beer list at one of the storefronts, along with a new line of hard seltzers. These also use wild or foraged ingredients.
Fonta Flora Brewery embodies the spirit of friendship and harmony. Plenty of other coverage of the business notes how the pleasant atmosphere at its locations. It’s a testament to the legend surrounding the town’s peacefulness that inspired the company. The stories may vary in accuracy, but so do the customers that stroll through the doors of Fonta Flora to enjoy a pint and commune with their neighbors.