by Jeff Sykes | @jeffreysykes

Greensboro’s craft beer scene will take a big step toward catching up with its North Carolina counterparts this week with the opening of the family operated Preyer Brewing Co. on the north side of downtown.

President and Head Brewer Calder Preyer picked up a taste for well made craft beer while backpacking in Europe about a decade ago. He’s since picked up a degree from Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, one of the most prestigious brewing schools around, and several years of experience selling home brew supplies with Fifth Season Gardening in Greensboro.

Armed with years of experience brewing his own beer, and surrounded by his wife, two brothers, and 13-month-old daughter, Preyer struggled a bit to say just how he felt about the impending opening of the brewery and tap room, located at 600 Battleground Ave.

“It’s a tough question to answer because there are a lot of emotions,” Preyer said last week. “It’s still very much a lot work to get to where we are open. We can’t relax, but it’s been very exciting. We’re happy to have some beer that’s finished and be cranking out some more beer.”

The Preyers come from a long-line of successful Greensboro business people. Calder Preyer’s grandfather was the jurist and congressman, L. Richardson Preyer, whose name rests on the federal courthouse in Downtown Greensboro. A few generations back before that was Lunsford Richardson, the man who invented Vicks VapoRub.

Now Calder Preyer, 30, along with older brother Britt, and younger brother, Will, is set to open Preyer Brewing Co. in a magnificently remodeled space. With Calder’s wife Nicole managing communications and the business administration, the brewers can focus on crafting beers that attract a following.

With Red Oak and Natty Greene’s out of the gate early, Greensboro’s craft beer scene seemed to lag behind other major cities like Raleigh, Asheville and Charlotte. Pig Pounder came on line early last summer, followed by Gibb’s Hundred on Lewis Street in a building redeveloped by Andy Zimmerman.

Word about Preyer Brewing Co. began to spread last summer as well, but the meticulous remodeling of the former Steele and Vaughn building would take some time. Nicole Preyer described their business model as cautious, and said the team took the time to find the right location to fit their vision.

The Preyers toured the location early on, thinking it might suit them, but the property went under contract that afternoon.

“We moved on and continued looking at other real estate,” Nicole Preyer said. “We found a place we really liked and were pursuing that, but then we felt like that might not be working out. We came back to look at this space and Andy Zimmerman had it under contract.”

The Preyers liked Zimmerman’s vision for the space, and after touring Gibb’s Hundred, decided to work with him on Preyer Brewing Co. Paul Young with Paul Joseph Customs handled the upfit of the space, which Zimmerman described as a combination of Frank Lloyd Wright “and a bit of arts and crafts.”

Zimmerman said the building itself will become a landmark in Greensboro because of its recognizable architecture.

“Equally the businesses that occupy the building are going to be a great addition to downtown,” Zimmerman said. In addition to Preyer Brewing Co. the much-anticipated second Crafted location will open up next door.

The brewery and the restaurant will operate separately, but with plenty of room for interaction. Patrons at Preyer will be able to order food to go from Crafted via a shared doorway/ counter space. Nicole Preyer said the taproom will have an open food policy, which welcomes patrons to bring food from home or any of the nearby restaurants.

Crafted will sell Preyer beer, among others, but patrons will not be able to take open containers between the two spaces.

Preyer will offer four types of beer when they open this week, with hopes for one or two more to come on line in the near future. The brewery uses a 10-barrel system, with one 20-barrel and four 10-barrel fermenters. The equipment comes from Atlantic Brew Supply in Raleigh.

Calder Preyer did some soul searching after finishing his degree at Siebel about three years ago, Nicole Preyer said.

“He always intended brewing to be his business,” she said. “It was about three years ago that things got really serious. After he was done with school he thought about whether he wanted to go to work for another brewery for a while to learn the trade or just jump right in to his own space. Obviously he decided to jump right in to his own business.”

Calder and Will always planned to go into a business together, Nicole Preyer said, and Britt came on board once the brewery concept took shape. The Preyers hope to brew about 1,000 barrels of beer in their first year of operations. Plans call for an expansion of brewing capacity up to 5,000 barrels in the next five years.

A red IPA leads the way in terms of alcohol by volume, at 8.2 percent, but Calder Preyer thinks it might be the rye pale ale that gets people’s attention. The 20-percent rye will have an ABV of 5.4 percent, but the sharp dryness of the beer will give it a punch.

“Rye is really dry, it’s not sweet beer at all,” Calder Preyer said. “It’s spicy, not like pepper hot spice, but it’s hard to describe rye any other way but spicy. It’s earthy and sharp. You really taste the rye in the finish, a really dry, spicy finish that makes it a light, easy drinking beer.”

Calder Preyer said he spent a lot of time working on different recipes, with the rye pale ale and the red IPA having been fine-tuned the most. He’s worked out a lot of porter recipes as well, and the Preyer porter will have characteristic coffee and chocolate flavors, matched with what he describes as “an assertive bitterness” with an ABV of 5.8 percent.

The Preyers aren’t interested in trends, he said, but will have a flexible rotation of beers based on the consumer’s evolving palate.

“IPAs are definitely still the best selling craft beer style, but I think it’s more that people, when they hit a popular style like that, when IPAs started blowing up, the tendency is to just continue to push the envelope, make them stronger and hoppier, and then once you reach those limits people start to experiment more along the range of styles,” Calder Preyer said. “We’re going to brew whatever pops into our heads, whatever seems like it will be fun. We’re going to have our staples, but we’re going to try to mix it up and brew whatever feels good at the moment.”

With the Downtown Greenway rolling right past the brewery, the flags of NewBridge Bank Park visible past the large garage doors along one wall of the taproom, and planned developments such as Roy Carroll’s Bellemeade Village in the immediate neighborhood, the Preyers want their family-run business to be a welcoming space for craft beer aficionados and casual beer drinkers alike.

Nicole Preyer said they knew they wanted to be in Downtown Greensboro, but stressed the importance of the Downtown Greenway in their location plans.

“We feel like the greenway is a great development for Greensboro, not only because it will increase the walkability, but it will affect traffic in the future and the ability to cycle to work, and to the places that you want to enjoy,” she said. “We like it not for just what it does for Greensboro now, but what we see it doing for Greensboro in the future.”

As craft beer tourism increases in Greensboro, Nicole and Calder Preyer both said that the city can support more breweries in the future. Calder said the company plans to focus on the taproom and selling beer in Greensboro and the surrounding area at first, with a vision to expand sales across North Carolina down the road.

“We just want to offer a fun place for people to come drink good fresh local beer,” he said. “We’re not trying to change the world with our beer, but we want people to have a nice friendly environment to learn about beer. It makes a big difference to have it fresh. Probably the best beer you can get is the closest one. We just want to be another brewery in Greensboro to help build a craft beer culture here.” !