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Brewing creativity in small batches

by Eric Ginsburg

 eric@yesweekly.com | @Eric_Ginsburg

Tim Walker is soft-spoken, but that’s okay; his craftsmanship speaks for itself.

Since opening Small Batch Beer Co. last month, Walker and his business partners Ryan Blain and Cliff Etchason have been living out their dream on the corner of West Fifth and Cherry streets in downtown Winston-Salem.

Calling it a full-time venture for Walker would be an understatement, but he’s okay with that — he moved to Winston-Salem with the intention of opening a brewery and bar like this. After going to school for restaurant management and experiencing virtually any element of working in and operating a restaurant, Small Batch still provided a challenge, but one he felt prepared to meet.

With the help of Blain, Etchason and a strong staff, Walker said he’s found some time to relax and enjoy the fruits of his labor a little. The business isn’t focused on profit, they say, but about introducing people to something new each time they visit and creating a relaxing atmosphere where people want to hang out.

It’s not surprising, then, that Walker revels in the slower nights of the week, which afford him the opportunity to mingle with patrons and maybe pour himself a glass.

As the name implies, everything brewed here is made in small amounts — a double batch at the most, coming to 60 or 65 gallons. A few beers are in the regular rotation, the most popular being the citrusy IPA Limonhead, but some batches disappear in a couple of days.

If the batches were any smaller, this would be more like a homebrew operation, which is how Small Batch started and started gaining local notoriety. With the alternating cast of characters coming out of the brewery and strong community support, including a very successful Kickstarter campaign, the business seems to be off to an impressive start.

There are two beers in rotation right now with names that reveal Walker’s geekier side — “Winter is Coming,” an imperial stout referencing Game of Thrones, and “Radagast,” a black IPA named after a wizard in Lord of the Rings. The stout may be strong, but the flavor masks the high alcohol percentage, similarly to how the zest in the Limonhead cuts the IPA’s hoppyness, making it more appealing to some beer drinkers while staying just over 10 percent.

What began as a concrete shell of the old Kopper Kitchen in June quickly transformed with reclaimed materials, including 135 wooden pallets that went into the long wall across from the bar. There’s a new roof, walls, bar and even the floor isn’t quite the same. With reused chairs from the space’s previous incarnation and transformed old tin on the side of the bar beneath an unfinished granite countertop, Small Batch feels both casual and clean.

This isn’t just a spot for beer lovers, though. Small Batch has a compact mixed drinks menu, most running $10, and with a new special item daily and ingredients like North Carolina strawberries, it’s well worth the cost.

Watching Walker, it’s clear that he’s in his element.

He names off cheeses that will pair well with their beers — Small Batch will start offering a limited bar menu including cheese in a few weeks — and he can whip up a mean cocktail.

This time, it’s “the Main Squeeze,” a mix of freshsqueezed blood orange, lime and lemon juice, simple syrup, ancho chile-infused reposado tequila and Cointreau, served with a thin orange slice on the rocks.

As if all the above wasn’t impressive enough, Small Batch infuses other ingredients into its regular beers each Wednesday. They tried butterscotch candies in a ginger beer to emulate Harry Potter’s butter beer, and experimented last week with prunes and Jolly Ranchers to create a sugarplum flavor to accompany roasted chestnuts.

With seemingly limitless options and creativity, Small Batch will keep people in the Triad on their toes (unless they overindulge, of course), but there’s no doubt the quality and dedication of Walker and his cohorts will remain a constant. !

WANNA go?

Small Batch Beer Co., 241 W. Fifth St., Winston-Salem. Open Wednesday to Sunday. Call 336.893.6395 or visit smallbatchws.com for more information.

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