June 8, 2023

North Carolina Brewery Salutes Its Cherokee Heritage

Tribe member Morgan Owle-Crisp knows that Cherokee history and culture aren’t linked to beer. Nevertheless, she expresses her Native American identity and roots in a North Carolina brewery she founded.

“I was inspired to use indigenous ingredients in brewing, along with sharing my personal Cherokee perspective and honoring the oral tradition of storytelling,” says Owle-Crisp, the owner of 7 Clans Brewing, which opened a taproom in Asheville last year and collaborated with renowned local brewer Wicked Weed Brewing to produce a saison called “We’re Still Here.”

Celebrating their saison collaboration are (left to right) Wicked Weed brewer Charlie Moore; 7 Clans ... [+] co-owner Morgan Owle-Crisp; 7 Clans creative director Lauronda Morrow; Wicked Weed brewmaster Joe Pawelek, and 7 Clans head brewer Matt Norman.

Julia Lindholm, Wicked Weed Brewing photographer

Owle-Crisp ties history, culture or tradition of the Cherokee nation or other indigenous peoples to the beers her brewery brews.

7 Clans’ Blonde Ale, for example, “is inspired by the original Cherokee mother, Selu, and incorporates a hint of corn to symbolize her eternal gift to the Cherokee,” the brewery’s website states. “This blonde ale embodies the floral crispness of our homeland’s mountain air and serene spirit indicative of Selu herself.”

The saison, which was brewed with Wicked Weed and released in November, “highlights the ancestral land of Anigiduwagi, more commonly known as the Cherokee, the native people, and the original stewards of this land we call home,” says Rachel Dudasik, Wicked Weed’s community engagement and communications manager. “We recognize the resiliency of Cherokee people and their homeland here in western North Carolina. One hundred percent of the proceeds benefits the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, honoring the needs of those who were here first.”

Being a Native American brewery has not always been a bed of roses for 7 Clans.

“One of the initial disadvantages was that we were not able to have a taproom or sell our beer in our own tribal lands, because alcohol was not allowed for sale except for at our casino property,” Owle-Crisp explains.

Those obstacles were eliminated by a September 2021 tribal vote. Alcohol in Native American communities, however, is a very polarizing issue, “so there has been staunch opposition as well as support,” Owle-Crisp says.

7 Clans’ website posts a link to restore the name Kuwohi to 6.643-foot Clingmans Dome, Tennessee’s tallest mountain and a significant peak in Cherokee history. The tribal council of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee unanimously supported a resolution in favor of the name change.

The idea for 7 Clans germinated in 2016 when Owle-Crisp became interested in craft beer while purchasing beer for a restaurant she and her husband owned.

“Our local brewery and friends at BearWaters Brewing in Canton, North Carolina, encouraged the interest and gave me the foresight to think about sharing my cultural perspective and history through the lens of craft beer,” Owle-Crisp recalls. “They graciously offered me access to their brewer and equipment, and, at the beginning of 2018, we experimented with our first recipe, an American Blonde Ale that would become our first flagship beer.”

The Blonde Ale’s success enabled the new brewery to create two more flagship beers and begin statewide distribution. In August 2022, 7 Clans opened its first tasting room — with seven flagship beers — in Asheville.