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Joymongers adds to craft beer game in Greensboro

by Jeff Sykes

jeff@yesweekly.com | @jeffreysykes

The regional craft beer scene gained a big addition in early July with the opening of Joymongers Brewing on the northern side of Downtown Greensboro. If Joymongers is a noun then it is sure to succeed on the backs of its people, place and things.

I want to get to a detailed review of the beers in short order, but a bit about the location is important.

Joymongers is located at the confluence of Eugene, Battleground and Smith, just north of Smith Street Diner and the well-placed Spagnola Law Firm. The city closed a short portion of Battleground between Smith and Eugene streets and a park is planned for the triangular island and reclaimed street space that is just off the edge of Joymongers wonderful patio. The Downtown Greenway will run along Smith Street when construction is complete sometime in early 2017. Just yards from two major apartment complexes and the northern edge of downtown, Joymongers is a solid addition to the booming area some refer to as LoFi (Lower Fisher) or BattFish (that’s for you Craft!). The brewery joins Deep Roots Market, Preyer Brewing Company and Kris Fuller’s Crafted 2: The Art of Street Food in a tightly nestled commercial hub.

I’ve spent a good amount of the last two years discovering Downtown Greensboro proper. From my home base at Beer Co. on McGee Street, I’ve had wanderlust for the vim and vigor of everything between Washington Street and Gate City Boulevard. Between Beer Co. and Gibbs Hundred I think I’ve gotten to know a few hundred people on a personal level, many of which have become friends, sources and tipsters.

It was at Beer Co. that someone first pointed out Mike Rollinson to me. Rollinson is a big guy with a big smile and a booming voice. He normally held court surrounded by a crowd and it wasn’t until earlier this spring that I introduced myself to him and wished him luck on his brewing concern. Rollinson is one of three owners of Joymongers, along with Jim and Brian Jones. John Lomax handled construction of the facility.

The brewery opened with a quickness that amazed many, both in its construction and rolling out of a large selection of quality beer. The beer itself seems to reflect Rollinson’s personality: big taste, straightforward crispness but with a variety of undertones.

I first made it to Joymongers on July 5 and have enjoyed adding the spot to my weekly rotation. I can’t say enough about the view from the big roll-up garage doors. To the west are the Stadium and Greenway apartments with a church steeple visible over the top of the baseball stadium lights at sunset. To the south is a stellar view of Downtown Greensboro, seen looking down Battleground between Smith Street Diner and Spagnola Law Firm. The Jefferson Pilot/ LF building and CenterPointe situated almost dead center down the street.

I visited Joymongers with my best friend from college, Daniel, who in addition to having his PhD in History is also somewhat of a beer freak. It was hot and humid outside and so after pre-gaming at Café Europa for lunch we hit Joymongers about 2:30 p.m. Daniel is a Walloon by heritage and so we started with Rollinson’s slate of Belgian beers.

I took up with the Belgian Strong Ale, which I’ve enjoyed a few times so far, the reason being that it is a delicate balance of spice and fruit with a powerful punch. Notes of orange and pear mask the significant alcohol content making this a very drinkable strong ale that is more present than bold.

That seems to be a hallmark of Rollinson’s beers: they are significant and full of flavor yet imminently drinkable with crisp finishes.

Daniel took up with the Belgian IPA. Some describe the Belgian IPA as being a mix of Belgian Tripel and American IPA. The quality of the beer is that it is reminiscent of your favorite IPA but the Belgian yeast yields a dry edge to the beer that differs from the overwhelming citrus and hop notes of so many IPAs. Daniel launched in to a discussion of esters and yeast, which primarily went over my head as I enjoyed a sip of his beer. He described it as “hoppy but not bitter.”

Rollinson joined us at the table for a few minutes and I asked him why he came out of the gate with three Belgian beers.

“We wanted to showcase a little bit of everything,” Rollinson said. “German, American, Belgian, English, I like brewing all styles.”

Rollinson described the distinct nature of the Belgian yeasts as yielding a “bubblegum-ish flavor.” I have to say that the Belgian style is definitely a great change of pace from my usual heavy IPA and Imperial Stout palate. Rollinson’s Belgian beers are a great addition to the local beer menu, right up there with the Belgian Tripel Gibb’s Hundred often brews.

Some of the first beers to sell out at Joymongers were the lower ABV offerings, which included Kolsch and American Golden. Rollinson said people took to them because it’s hot outside and “they are just really approachable beers.”

“It’s been pretty predictable in the way the people approach the beers,” he said. “We’ve had a great response from everyone in town.”

Daniel and I were joined by my friend Brian, who was enjoying a free day before heading to an ice cream party across town. Brian took to the American Pale Ale, which he described as “just delicious.”

If I recall correctly, the American Pale is the only one to receive any criticism online, with one reviewer saying it was “too malty.” I felt the beer was the heaviest, but not overly hoppy. So in that sense, it was a nice change of pace, again, from the trend of stuffing 30 pounds of hops in your beer just because, well, hops.

The Hefeweizen was all the rage on this day, with its freshness bringing life back to many a sweaty Gate City resident. In a traditional Hefe glass this is a great looking beer. My friend Chase wandered by with three friends all drinking one. They said it was “very Hefe” and walked to the patio.

David Craft told me it was his favorite, a “nice hot weather beer that is refreshing.”

We thought the Double IPA was sold out but they were just switching kegs. In the meantime Daniel bought me a brown ale while he took to the American IPA. The brown ale took me by surprise with its incredible flavor and roasted crispness. The traditional biscuity essence was rounded out with great chocolate undertones.

So far, for me, The Double IPA is hard to beat. Whereas some have said the American Pale Ale is on the malty side, this one is surprisingly present for such a strong beer. It’s drinkable and crisp, with a full-flavored punch that really gets your attention.

We wanted to leave after three beers each, but the lightning storm of the year blew in from Summerfield just as we were preparing to depart. People sought shelter from the patio as the rain came down sideways. Lightning hit the building across the street and the power flicked out for one second, which brought a loud “hurrah” from the packed house as employees quickly shut the one garage door that had been open to the patio.

We lingered on the Smith Street patio for a few minutes before braving the rain to head to McGee Street to see what the night held in store. !

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