written by Eric Ginsburg, illustrations by Evan McIntyre
The local beer culture is a swiftly moving target. So fast that, between the first and second drafts of the 2015 Beer Issue, we discovered plans for a new brewery and had to adjust.
Since the beginning of 2015, Triad City Beat has broken news about four Triad breweries underway, at least one in each city. That includes news about the latest, Joymongers Brewing in Greensboro, on Sunday.
Three years ago, nobody would’ve seen a point in an annual beer issue; that’s how rapidly new breweries stormed Winston-Salem, and then Greensboro, adding to the longstanding trifecta of Foothills, Natty Greene’s and Liberty.
There’s a regional component to the Triad market, of course — MillerCoors announced it would close its massive plant in Eden, Four Saints opened in Asheboro, Red Oak chugs along in Whitsett and Burlington Beer Works declared its impending birth all in the last year. But we’re an urban publication, focused by necessity on the Triad’s three cities, even though there are some utterly fantastic breweries around this great state.
The Triad’s eight head brewers — polled about their favorite “beers from peers” in this issue — hardly have time to try anyone else’s creations. As Calder Preyer, father to a 18-month-old and the head beer-maker at Preyer Brewing in Greensboro, put it: “A trip to Winston-Salem sounds almost like an exotic adventure at this point.” Everyone else agreed, lamenting that they hadn’t tried anything yet from this brewery or that.
Maybe you, too, can hardly keep up with all the permutations of the Triad’s beer scene over the last year. Or maybe you’re on top of it all, but are thirsty for more insights. Either way, we’ve got your back.
Foothills, the second-largest North Carolina brewery, will expand into Georgia come 2016. The brewery is already operating at 90 percent of capacity, a little too close to full for comfort, so its adding four 400-barrel tanks to expand its capacity, head brewer TL Adkisson said. Before then, Foothills will release its Frostbite Black IPA at the beginning of November, followed by its Moravian Porter. And the November and December IPAs of the Month, the last in a 24-month series, are on the way, as are more beers in the brewery’s Footmen series that allows brewers to experiment.
House favorite: “We did a maplewood-aged sauvignon blanc version of our Jade IPA,” Adkisson said. “That was my personal favorite that we’ve done this year. I’ve always been a fan of our Jade…. but this was a lot of fun to do.” Using honeycombs from the same region of New Zealand as the sauvignon blanc accentuated the aromas, tartness and acidity of the beer, Adkisson said, making it a fun beer to brew and drink, he said.
TCB: Foothills lets its brewers experiment, which is how we end up with an IPA of the Month as well as special releases in the Footmen Series. The Imperial Smoked Cherry Porter, a Footmen beer, was the best of the bunch in the last year, at least that I had the privilege of trying.
Expert opinion: Several head brewers named Foothills’ Jade IPA first when asked about their favorite locally made beer. “I’m not an enormous American IPA fan, but that one’s fantastic,” Pig Pounder head brewer Sam Rose said. And Dave McClure and Derek Meyn, head brewers at Hoots and Small Batch respectively, both name-dropped the Torch Pilsner.
As the year starts pulling to an end, Small Batch Beer Co. is growing, but true to its name, not a whole lot. The brewery is expanding from a one-barrel system to three, which should keep it from running out of beers as quickly. The brewery will grow from eight taps to 12, probably in the first week of November, head brewer Derek Meyn said. Small Batch already serves food — maybe the best of any Triad brewery — and the owners are opening an adjoining burger joint next door before the year is over.
Small Batch always offers something new — there’s a “brilliant red” saison beer with hibiscus and kombucha coming soon. There’s a pumpkin-ginger American pale ale, a chocolate pumpkin-spice imperial porter and Meyn — who joined Small Batch five months ago after working at Natty Greene’s — said people can likely look forward to some high-gravity Belgian brews and Russian imperial stouts as well.
House favorite: “Probably right now my favorite is our Thai basil cucumber saison,” said Meyn, who gets the Thai basil from his garden, adding that the current batch will be the last one for a while. “I just think it’s a great combination, I think it’s a wonderful beer.” He also named the Percolator, calling it “fantastic.”
TCB: What a good year for Small Batch. The brewery released Taku Rakau and the White Walker White IPA, respectively my favorite local pale ale and IPA of 2015 (though the Gibb’s pale is a close second and admittedly I’m not as IPA-crazy as the rest of the nation). Honorable mention goes to the Double Shot Percolator, the only coffee-flavored thing I’ve ever liked, and Cuckoo for Coconut, an American imperial/double stout with coconut flavoring.
Expert opinion: Calder Preyer at Preyer Brewing and Dave McClure at Hoots agreed — the Mr. Lemon Man IPA at Small Batch is a standout. That’s not surprising, considering that if Small Batch had a flagship beer, this would be it. The hoppy lemon beer has been with the brewery all along, but Small Batch has been forced to change the name, twice. So if you had the Limonhead IPA and remember liking it, fret not: this is the same beer. Preyer also gave a shout out to the Percolator.
Hoots Beer Co. just turned two, but the bar didn’t start brewing its own beer until June 2014. Located inside the West End Mill Works near the Porch Cantina and Sutler’s Spirit distillery (which is now open for tours), Hoots has started hosting movie nights, karaoke and other events. It may be the hippest of the Triad breweries, and that’s not a bad thing: It feels authentic and full of character.
The brewery focuses on sessionable beers — beers that won’t knock you on your ass. Head brewer Dave McClure says they’re working to increase capacity in small ways, but most of the changes here are visible on tap. A new Common Harvest beer just came out, a California common-style brew similar to Anchor Steam with ale and lager characteristics, he said. And Hoots is toying with the idea of a fourth beer in its Zinzendorf series, possibly an imperial stout, he said.
House favorite: “Common Harvest is one of my favorites right now because it is new,” McClure said. “It’s one of those beers that people don’t know what to think of it but they’ve been drinking it and they respond really well to it.” McClure puts their dark and pale mild beers in second place personally; that’s just his style of beer. Plus, as he points out, it’s one of Hoots’ cheapest.
TCB: Despite my affinity for the Watchnight, a bock-style beer, my favorite Hoots beer of the year has been the Zinzendorf saison, a beautiful piece of work for the warmer months. Honestly, everything Hoots releases is very solid, and its Wheel Bite Wheat is my favorite wheat in the Triad.
Expert opinion: Remember (above) when Calder Preyer said that a trip to Winston-Salem would feel like an exotic vacation? He isn’t alone among brewers, and even those in Winston haven’t had much chance to check out Hoots despite the brewery’s strong distribution in bars across the Triad. So we called in reinforcements: Small Batch co-owner Ryan Blain really enjoys the 100 Days Porter. “It’s really roasty but not super heavy,” he said, adding that it “sticks to the standards on what a good porter should be” and is a “good winter warmer.”
Next page: High Point and Greensboro
High Point’s lone brewery — for now — recently started selling kegs to a few bottle shops and bars around the Triad, including Gate City Growlers and 1618 Wine Lounge in Greensboro, Juggheads and City Beverage in Winston-Salem and Brewer’s Kettle in High Point and Kernersville. But they appear on draft intermittently, and it’s easier to grab a pint on site. Located next to High Point University and with a second location in Myrtle Beach, Liberty is also a steakhouse and local institution. The brewery is a one-man show, run by Todd Isbell who also teaches brewing at Rockingham Community College. Soon he’ll put out dry-hopped and sour versions of his recently released farmhouse saison (see below) as well as Amber Waves, a hoppy American ale.
House favorite: Isbell alternates favorites between his dry-hopped Keller beer and his IPA. “I like the Keller because it has the cleanness of my lager and it has a higher hop profile but since it’s just under 5 percent alcohol, you get a really nice flavor profile with lower alcohol, and you can actually drink quite a few of them,” he said.
TCB: Liberty released a limited-run saison in September that wasn’t as spicy as some, making it more sessionable, or accessible to those trying to get into the style. And the flagship beer here is my favorite lager, I believe.
Expert opinion: Derek Meyn, the head brewer at Small Batch who used to work at Natty Greene’s, couldn’t choose his favorite beer at Liberty, saying he really enjoys the Patriot Porter and the IPA.
You wouldn’t know from walking into the taproom that Preyer Brewing is the newest of the Triad’s breweries, but it is. After it opened this past spring, alongside the new Crafted: the Art of Street Food, Preyer drew in a steady crowd for its Red Shed IPA and wheat beer with real strawberries, among others. Easily the most comfortable brewery in the Triad, the family business feels almost like a mountain retreat center.
For the month of October, Preyer is running different beers through a machine called a Randall, adding candy flavors like Reese’s Cup or Sour Patch Kids to its beers on weekends. Head brewer Calder Preyer is working on a super hoppy, West Coast-style IPA now that will be out in a few weeks, and there’s another on the way: the St. PetersGourd Russian imperial pumpkin stout. The brewery is planning a family-friendly Halloween day party, and around the same time, Preyer will begin filling 32-ounce carryout cans similar to a growler with no refill or required deposit.
House favorite: The latest batch of the Red IPA is Calder Preyer’s favorite. It’s the best they’ve made, he said, after changing up the hops and tweaking the process. Best of all, it’s already on tap.
TCB: I can’t wait to try Preyer’s planned Thai-basil lemon-ginger gose beer. But until then, I’ll be drinking the Red Shed IPA, a bitter beer with more than 8 percent ABV, but mostly I’m eager to see what the future holds for the Triad’s youngest operating brewery.
Expert opinion: Sam Rose at Pig Pounder and John Priest at Gibb’s Hundred agree — Preyer’s Lunsford Robust Porter excels. “It nails the style for a robust porter,” Priest said. Scott Christoffel, over at Natty Greene’s, prefers the rye pale ale here, calling it “really refreshing.”
Developer and owner Marty Kotis is a self-described perfectionist, and it shows in Pig Pounder. Never before have I smelled a brewery so clean, or seen one so pink. The taproom offers courtesy bags of hot popcorn and will deliver food orders from Kotis’ Burger Warfare and Marshall Free House across the street at no charge. In 2015, Pig Pounder released an experimental Russian Kvass beer with real orange juice — the PigMosa — designed to taste like a mimosa.
Kotis will expand Pig Pounder into the building next door, putting in a small restaurant, retail space, additional brewery production space and a bourbon-barrel tasting room. The type of restaurant hasn’t been determined; it depends what Kotis puts at his downtown beer garden, he said. The expansion may include a rooftop terrace, he said, but will include large garage doors (like Preyer and eventually, Joymongers in town) and will hopefully open in late spring.
House favorite: Head brewer Sam Rose favors the PigMosa, calling it “kind of a perfect summer seasonal.” It’s based on an old Russian homebrew involving old rye bread, water and yeast, he said. “I liked doing a style that was a little out of the ordinary as far as recognition and representation in the US and also a unique beer in terms of how it’s made,” he added.
TCB: The Hoofenweizen hefeweizen. Hefeweiss beers are my go-to session choice (that is, when I’m planning to have several pints), and locally I’d choose this one or the Hefe Vice at Small Batch. Honorable mention goes to the Extra Special Pig, an ESB bitter beer that is one of Pig Pounder’s staples.
Expert opinion: John Priest of Gibb’s Hundred prefers Pig Pounder’s barrel-aged Snout Stout, a spin on the brewery’s year-round milk stout beer, calling it “very good.” Calder Preyer of —well duh — Preyer Brewing enjoys the Plain Pig, an ordinary bitter beer, also known as a classic English pub ale.
Happy first birthday! Gibb’s Hundred turns one year old this month, and there’s plenty to celebrate. Let’s start with the fact that Gibb’s Hundred just won gold at the Great American Beer Festival — one of only two breweries in the state to do so — for its magnificent ESB. Gibb’s toasts its anniversary this Saturday with a party and two new beers: Squaring the Circle barleywine made especially for the occasion, and Last Leaf Brown Ale, another newbie.
The brewery in the South End of downtown Greensboro plans to can or bottle two or three of its beers in 2016, including its pale ale and possibly the ESB and Berliner Weisse.
House favorite: Priest’s gold medal isn’t his favorite — that would be his sour Whirligig Imperial Berliner Weisse. “It’s just a really tart, citrusy, bright, easy-drinking beer that’s really refreshing to me,” he said. “I love basically having a mixed fermentation.” Gibb’s just knocked out a small first batch and put a much bigger one on tap last week. Priest hopes it becomes one of the brewery’s core-brand beers.
TCB: Gibb’s consistently releases excellent beers, though my favorite in 2015 is probably the Date Night, a Belgian strong dark ale that I really wish was still on tap. Gibb’s consistently impresses, especially with the Whirligig Imperial Berliner Weisse, a decision I swear I wrote before hearing Priest’s opinion. Oh, and the Waterloo Wheat Belgian Tripel.
Expert opinion: Head brewers were all over the map on Gibb’s, suggesting a prevailing high quality. TL Adkisson at Foothills is impressed by the Guilty Party ESB, especially considering the brewery’s age, and when Dave McClure of Hoots sees it, he gets it. Todd Isbell at Liberty prefers the Blind Man’s Holiday pale ale (as does Calder Preyer) and Medley of Moods American pale wheat, while Scott Christoffel at Natty’s and Sam Rose at Pig Pounder each made a unique choice.
To say 2015 was a big year for Greensboro’s longest-standing brewery would be an understatement. Natty Greene’s publicly considered relocating to somewhere like Charlotte, and a decision still hasn’t been reached for the new, larger brewing facility. Natty’s closed its Raleigh brewpub and restaurant this year as part of its consolidation plans, and announced its Guilford Golden will no longer be a core beer, to be replaced by the Mt. Mitchell IPA.
But Natty Greene’s isn’t shrinking — quite the opposite. A $700,000 expansion adding tanks and other enhancements this year bought Natty’s some time to make the jump to a new venue and helped efficiency, head brewer Scott Christoffel said. Locals who still think of Natty Greene’s as a couple of beers and a downtown restaurant are embarrassingly out of the loop, as frequent interesting releases at the Bunker by the Greensboro Coliseum demonstrated the brewery’s versatility and relevance this year.
Natty’s will release its seasonal holiday beer, the Red Nose winter ale with ginger, sweet orange peel and cinnamon, this week.
House favorite: “I really like our Belgian-style Lambic Gueuze called Hitchpost,” Christoffel said. “It’s aged at least 18 months.” He also loves the new Mt. Mitchell IPA, which Natty Greene’s worked on for about two years already, because it’s a “beautiful IPA” that “breaks the mold a little bit” and uses 100 percent Eureka hops from Germany.
TCB: The Jackfruit Sour. A bright, tart beer that looked like a mimosa, made with jackfruit from Super G Mart in town. Honorable mention goes to the Cerveza del Sur, Natty’s Southern Pale with added cilantro, jalapeño, lime and taco seasoning. Not your mama’s Natty Greene’s. Unfortunately I haven’t tried the Hitchpost yet.
Expert opinion: Derek Meyn, who’s at Small Batch, loves the company’s Full Moon Strong Ale, which he said is basically an IPA. He should know — he used to work there. Meanwhile, John Priest of Gibb’s Hundred cast his ballot for anything in Natty Greene’s sour profile, and Calder Preyer recommends the new Thicket red IPA.
Next page: the Class of 2016 — five forthcoming breweries
Class of 2016
Joymongers Brewing (GSO)
We just found out that former Natty Greene’s brewer Mike Rollinson and apartment developer Jim Jones plan to open Joymongers in downtown Greensboro right by Preyer Brewing Co. Triad City Beat broke the news on Sunday, and you can read more on our website.
Mansfield Brewing (GSO)
At the end of March, TCB broke the news that Bill Tyndall intends to open Mansfield Brewing on Oakland Street near the Blind Tiger in Greensboro. There is no date set for a target opening, and Tyndall couldn’t be reached for comment.
XII Tribes Brewing (HP)
Things are moving slowly for XII Tribes, which announced plans to open High Point’s second brewery a while ago. In the meantime, XII Tribes is teaching a homebrewing class at Hudson’s Hill in Greensboro on Oct. 24.
Brown Truck Brewing (HP)
TCB broke the story in January that Brown Truck would open in High Point’s Uptowne neighborhood. They’re hoping to open soon, maybe any day now, but co-owner Britt Lytle couldn’t be reached for comment.
Wise Man Brewing (W-S)
Wise Man initially planned to open in Greensboro — a story broken by TCB — but in July, TCB broke the news (noticing a trend yet?) that Wise Man would locate at the northern edge of downtown Winston-Salem instead. Renovations are already underway on the building next to Ziggy’s, owner Sam Victory said, and the plan is to open in late spring 2016.
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