Finding the Lost Province
Ever been to the Lost Province of North Carolina?
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re already there.
In the early 20th century, the three-county region of Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties was known as the Lost Province, named such because of its general inaccessibility.
“There was an old joke: The only way to get to Watauga County was to be born here,” said Andrew Mason, head brewer and owner of Lost Province Brewing Company, opening this summer in downtown Boone.
You won’t have to be born in Lost Province to get there, but after sampling some of its wares (Mason is an award-winning home brewer), you might wish that you were.
“Lost Province signifies something that’s a little hard to get to, but you’re really happy when you do,” Mason said. “It’s a place that people actively seek out, a place where people want to go to feel comfortable.”
“We wanted a name that was connected to the area, something different than ‘river’ or ‘mountain,’ which you so often see,” his wife, Lynne Mason, said. “And we’ll have fun telling the story of the Lost Province.”
The brewpub, to be located at 130 N. Depot St., will do most of the talking, as the remodeled interior will reflect the spirit behind the story, Lynne said, noting that the popular sculpted mural that depicts a mountain landscape and adorns the northernmost wall will remain in tact. The rest, she said, will involve locally sourced building materials and architecture indicative of the region.
For the Masons, though, it’s also a story of family. Lost Province Brewing is, in the truest sense of the term, a family business. Andrew, a noted chemist, will handle the craft beer; Lynne will serve as CEO; their son, J.P., will work as kitchen manager and supply the brewpub’s second commodity — wood-fired pizza; and Andrew’s identical twin brother, David, will be the executive chef.
“My brother wants to integrate beer into many of the dishes in some way,” Andrew said, mentioning, for instance, a unique pairing he recently attempted — mussels prepared in a light German lager. “He asked me if he sees something fresh, different and in season, if he could do it. I told him that’s exactly what I want him here for.”
As such, the Mason brothers will work together to develop dishes and drinks that complement each other and the season. The same goes for J.P.’s Neapolitan-style pizzas. Flash cooked at 900 degrees Fahrenheit in a eight-foot, wood-fired oven, the thin-crust pies will feature fresh ingredients and a variety toppings—some traditional and others more off the beaten path.
“All the dough will be made fresh on site, and we’ll be using local food products as they’re available,” Lynne said. “It’s something we feel real strongly about in our philosophy, especially with the food.”
The menu won’t be limited to pizza, either, as Lost Province plans to feature an assorted selection of entree and appetizer options that handily transcend the “bar food” category. Lynne will also play a part in this, particularly when it comes to dessert.
“My contribution is the frozen custard machine, so we’ll be having some fun desserts (involving) beer,” she said.
That includes the stout float — a stout beer, topped with a scoop of ice cream.
“That’s one of those things you think wouldn’t go together, but, well, they do,” Andrew said.
And it’s only fitting, as one of Andrew’s main objectives as a brewer is to change the way people think about beer.
“We want to demonstrate the diversity of beer,” he said. “From malty to hoppy, light to dark, sweet to sour, German clean yeast to Belgian funky yeast, we want to celebrate the diversity, and we want to do some fun stuff that’s totally off the wall — because we can.”
When it comes to brewing, Andrew is admittedly a purist, a “stickler for classic styles using classic materials and preparation methods,” he said, “to the degree I can do it and experiment with funky (recipes) and push the limits of how beer styles are traditionally thought of.”
To that end, the bar will feature 12 brews on draft, Andrew said, and should a patron return after a couple of weeks, he expects they’ll find, at least, two new varieties on the menu. The same applies to food. “Whatever’s fresh, whatever’s available, whatever’s fun,” he said.
Fun has always been a primary ingredient, the Masons agree, and Lost Province will regularly feature live entertainment. A stage area will be nestled in one corner, with a fireplace on the opposite wall, and balcony seating will offer a vantage for the music below.
The Masons are also building their business from the ground up, operating on a business model that offers employees full-time positions with living wages, Lynne said. “Employees are your greatest asset, so we want to develop a model where there will eventually be profit-sharing, as well,” she said.
Community is important, she added, “and we want to be a destination for all sections of our community.”
Lost Province Brewing Company has an opening date on tap for August. For more information, visit http://lostprovince.com.