It’s the final hours at Preyer Brewing, and there’s nowhere to sit.
Couples nursing the final dregs of the brewery’s drafts occupy the cushy, swivel chairs, and the high-top bar tables are swarmed by large groups of friends taking it all in, one last time.
Even the seating by the bathrooms is taken.
Everyone wants to be here to see the beast to the end of its life.
When Preyer opened up in 2015 in downtown Greensboro, it completed a trifecta — along with Gibbs Hundred Brewing Co. and Pig Pounder which both opened in 2014 — of businesses that kicked off the craft brewery scene in the Triad’s largest city.
Little Brother, South End, Joymongers, Oden — none of them existed yet. The only purveyor in town was Natty Greene’s until the likes of Preyer and others showed up.
The brewery announced on Facebook on Feb. 5 that they were closing at the end of the month.
“We want to thank the incredible community that has supported us — our dedicated employees who have become lifelong friends, our wholesale partners, our regulars, and anyone who has ever joined us for a pint,” wrote the owners. “You have all changed our lives for the better and we hope that a small piece of Preyer Brewing lives on in us all.”
On Saturday night, customers chat and down their beers, ciders and wines like usual. Some carry six packs to go as souvenirs, vestiges of the soon-to-disappear standby. Spotless glasses line the shelf behind the bar, ready to perform their sole duty. Tomorrow, they’ll have to find a new life. Several beers on the paper menus clasped to wooden clipboards have been crossed out.
One of the last remaining offerings, the Lunsford Robust Porter is rich and dark, with notes of chocolate and a hint of smoke — bittersweet.
Behind the bar, Jeff and Donna move swiftly around each other in a dance, as they serve up draft after draft. Chris, whose hair is pulled back in a petite man-bun, goes around the brewery whisking up empty glasses, making sure things are neat and orderly.
Charles Jones, a former Preyer employee who worked here for about three years, makes his rounds, hugging friends and former customers while wearing his old Preyer T-shirt. He works at Potent Potables now, after leaving Preyer in 2018, but came back tonight for a last round.
A few hours earlier, during a huge rush, Jones and Jennie Savage, another former employee, joined the others behind the bar to help out.
“We’re all family,” says Sara Manchester, an employee since 2016. “This place is family.”
In the corner, Calder Preyer, one of the owners, stands next to an illuminated fridge full of canned goods, surveying the lay of his land. He wears a blue plaid shirt and a baseball cap with a mesh back. He waits alone at the end of the bar, counting down the final hours.
The place is his baby. It’s been his anchor and commitment for half a decade.
In a tweet from Feb. 5, Preyer stated that he was “burnt out” and was looking forward to having a job where he could clock out and not take it home with him. He also said that “building relationships through making beer was always the highlight.”
“I’m glad that everyone came out tonight to have a good time,” Preyer says as he leaves the building just past 10 p.m. “I appreciate all of the support we’ve had over the years.”
There’s this idea of a third place — somewhere other than your home or work where you spend a chunk of your life. For some it’s the local coffeeshop or restaurant. For others, it’s a local bar. For many, over the last five years, it’s been Preyer.
And even though no one knows what’ll replace the brewery, it’s impossible to ignore the impact that Preyer has had on the landscape of the city. Without it, neither the beer scene nor the downtown scene in Greensboro would look the way it does now.
Manchester recalls that on the first night the brewery was open, she danced on the bar with one of her friends.
Tonight, surrounded by friends who have become family, she waits and bides her time, drinking, talking, waiting for the right moment to hoist herself up onto that bar one last time.