written by Eric Ginsburg // painting by Theresa Rizzuto
Another year in beer, and there’s more of it being made around here than ever. Plenty has changed on the local scene in 2016 so far — the opening of Brown Truck Brewing in High Point and Joymongers in Greensboro, added bottleshops, countless beer releases and three brewmaster changes affecting Foothills, Natty Greene’s and Pig Pounder.
Before the end of the 2016, we’ll see the opening of Wise Man Brewing in downtown Winston-Salem, and we recently learned about plans for a new brewing concern called Good Creature hoping to drop anchor in the heart of Greensboro. There’s been no apparent progress on the launch of Mansfield Brewing in the Gate City, but more than enough other things happened on the Triad beer scene in 2016; more on that later.
Regardless of how much you know about local beer, the 2016 Beer Issue is for you. That’s because we’ve broken it down so newbies can quickly come up to speed and snobs can flex their knowledge.
The 2016 Brewer of the Year
In one of our most popular reader polls of the year, Triad CityBeat readers selected Calder Preyer of Preyer Brewing in Greensboro as the 2016 Brewer of the Year. The contest was close, with Ian Burnett of the new Brown Truck Brewing in High Point ranking a close second, followed by the Third City’s other brewmaster Todd Isbell, who’s held down Liberty Brewery & Grill for years (and who later passed Preyer and Burnett in the online poll, though we’d already hit our print deadline last week).
There are two main takeaways from the results: You cannot overlook High Point when it comes to craft beer, and while Preyer Brewing is one of the Triad’s newer breweries, it’s already a powerhouse.
We wanted to know more about the beard behind the brew at Preyer, where the taproom offers everything from a popular red IPA to a magnificent gose sour beer, as well as frequent one-off specials and some of the most comfortable taproom seating in the Triad. Here’s what Calder Preyer had to say for himself.
TCB: When did you get into brewing?
Calder Preyer: I liked to drink beer [laughing]. I decided I wanted to make it, got a homebrew kit for Christmas when I was 22 and just went from there.
TCB: Do you remember the first beer you made?
CP: Some kind of IPA that I badly scorched the malt and it ended up being more like a hoppy brown ale. It was from a kit. I was pleased with it but I’m sure if I were to try it today, I would be horrified.
TCB: What’s the most enjoyable thing about being a professional brewer?
CP: Just that it’s such a different mix of so many different skills. I get to be creative you know, when I’m making the recipes, but there’s also a lot of physical labor, the process of brewing. And I also get to use problem-solving skills when you know, like the glycol chiller broke or the keg washer broke. It’s just a wide range of different skills and things that I do every day. It’s not tedious and monotonous and I’m doing something different every day and I get to use lots of different parts of my brain and my body. Nobody tells me to cut my hair off [laughing].
TCB: What’s the worst part?
CP: Just the fact that, you know, I’m not just a brewer at a brewery but a small business owner and the president of a small business. A lot of the stuff I deal with is that kind of thing. Bills, all the accounting, all the things that go on with trying to run any kind of small business is something that we deal with and just going through that small business struggle can be rough. The first few years of a small business can be tough. I never get despondent when I’m in the brewery working but sometimes when you’re sitting there writing check after check paying bills you’re just like, “Ugh, there’s a lot of money going out.”
TCB: What doesn’t the average beer drinker understand about the job of a brewmaster?
CP: I think just how much cleaning. How physical it can be. I said that it’s not tedious and boring but that’s in the sense that every day is different. There are a lot of tedious, boring things that you do in a brewery that we do a lot. We clean a lot. I don’t think the average beer drinker understands how much we clean, and how physical the job can be when you’re brewing a double batch and, you know, when you have a really busy week in your brewing schedule and at the end of the week, you can barely move. I often say I’m a glorified janitor. At a big brewery that’s often not the case for the head brewer; they have cellar men cleaning tanks and all that kind of stuff. And I do have two assistant brewers now, so…
TCB: Do you have a favorite of your beers?
CP: Really I tend to drink a lot of our new stuff. I think our gose is a really well executed beer, I think our gose’s really solid. I wish I could drink more of it but it gives me heartburn [laughing]. The beer we put out [Sept. 29] is really good — that New New Citra Fresh Hop Pale Ale. I really just tend to drink whatever’s new and not very high alcohol because I’ve got two young kids and I work all the time and barely ever sleep.
TCB: What are Preyer Brewing’s most popular brews?
CP: Our Lewis & Crunk West Coast-Style IPA. Our gose does really well too, and being as we just went through summer, our wheat beers. You know, we do have a regular wheat, we have a strawberry wheat, we do fruity wheat beer and stuff so those always do well, too.
TCB: Is there a beer you’re looking forward to brewing that you haven’t yet?
CP: We’re going to do an imperial cream ale eventually. It’s Nicole’s.
Nicole Preyer: Eric, I’ve been asking him for that beer for more than 10 years. Ten years.
CP: [Laughing] Imperial cream ale is something we’ll probably be doing soon.
NP: Mind Your Nanners will be an imperial cream ale with banana-y flavor.
CP: I want to get a barrel-aging program going, I’m just not a big bourbon barrel guy, so I’m just trying to find the right barrels for what we want to do, what we want to accomplish. Do something a little different.
TCB: What’s coming soon at Preyer?
CP: We’ve got a single-hop, sour-mash pale ale with an experimental hop variety that I’m brewing today [Sept. 30], an imperial oatmeal stout, we’ve got the return of our pumpkin imperial stout next week, and I think that’s everything that’s new for October right now. We made a pumpkin-spice beer with some extra wheat beer that we had and we’re calling it Basic. Basic American Wheat [laughing].
TCB: What do you think is next for the craft beer scene in the Triad?
CP: In the Triad? I think we’ll continue to see more breweries opening. I would hope, at least. I’m always happy to see more breweries opening because more people drinking craft beer is more customers for us, too. We don’t see it as a competition kind of thing. I think in the Triad we’ll see more breweries opening.
TCB: And what about beyond the Triad, what’s next for craft beer?
CP: It’s tough for us to answer because it’s kind of like we’ve had our blinders on, just working on our own little, tiny slice of things. Everyone in the craft beer industry is always worried about whether there’s a bubble, and whether there’s going to be some kind of shakeout with breweries. I don’t think there necessarily will be yet.
It’s just going to get tougher for a small, independent craft brewers to really stand out and make sure people know you are independently owned, to get eyes on your product because shelves are crowded. It’s tough to get taps. You’ve got to work that much harder to sell your beer, but otherwise I think with all these breweries there’s a great diversity in the market in terms of what products are available. It’s certainly never been a better time to be a craft-beer consumer.
It’s been hard for me to pontificate much about what’s coming though. We’ve just had our heads down, noses to the grindstone, doing our own thing getting off the ground and up and running.
TCB: Anything you want to add?
CP: I’m a head brewer, not a brewmaster. Brewmaster as a title, it means a lot.
TCB: Is that just you trying to be humble or is there a meaningful distinction?
CP: Um, both [laughing]. I mean, I’ve only been at pro brewing for two years now. I’m definitely not the best brewer on that list. I was very humbled and pleased to have won the poll, but I’m definitely not the best brewer that was on that list, in my mind. But we are constantly striving to make a better product here.
Read more on the next page: