We wanted to do something different for our Triad Craft Beer Issue to celebrate NC Craft Beer Month in April. We decided to talk to as many brewers as possible and ask them a series of specific questions. The goal was to get unique insights and not just end up with redoing the stories we’ve already written about the great brewing operations in our cities.
Below is a sampling of the questions we asked and the answers received. A few local outlets were unable to get back with us but we touched base with almost every brewery in Forsyth and Guilford counties.
1. What makes you unique in the Triad/state beer scene? What do you do here that others don’t do or what do you do better?
2. How would you rate the state of Triad beer scene compared to Raleigh/Charlotte/Asheville? Where do we stand on the development spectrum? What else is needed or missing?
3. Who in the local scene do you admire and why? Who has taught you a valuable lesson or done something you admire?
4. What is the current or next trend in brewing or consumer taste and how will you find a niche in the local scene?
5. What have you accomplished in the past year (or since opening) that you want to highlight or what is something you want to announce that is coming up?
6. Have we reached “peak beer” in the Triad or is there still more room for growth/new breweries?
CHECK OUT OUR TRIAD CRAFT BEER MAP HERE. (LARGE FILE .PDF)
Liberty Brewery & Grill
High Point, NC
Todd Isbell, Brew master
- “We’re one of the earlier craft breweries in the area, starting 17 years ago and we’re one of the only ones with a full restaurant on premises.”
- Preferred not to answer.
- “I really like them all.”
- “I’d love for the new trend to be more lagers, but that’s not always easy with craft breweries since lagers can take up to three times longer to make. I think we’re also seeing a rebound against the extreme beers like those with 15 percent alcohol, people want something they can have more than one of, more sessional beers.”
- Isbell said they are very proud of their current seasonal offering that includes a traditional Belgian White wheat beer that features hints of orange, coriander, lemon, lemongrass and chamomile in the brewing process. They are also offering a stronger German ale, Doppelsticke Altbier, which is a copper ale.
- “There’s room for more. I think the trend is going away from the large breweries to the more of the neighborhood small breweries The days of coming up with the next Sam Adams-type situation is just not going to happen. The neighborhood breweries, though, goes well with the farm-to-table movement that has caught on.”
Kernersville Brewing Company
Eric Lauten, co-owner
- “The biggest thing that sets up apart is that we just didn’t get on the big hops wagon. Sure, we use hops, just our beers aren’t real hoppy. Instead of just trying to see who can have the hoppiest beer in town, we just tried to really get our recipes down pat and do things a bit different than others in the area.” They also produce specific beers for different Kernersville restaurants that are available only at those locations: Angela’s Alehouse, Smitty’s Grille, and J Pepper’s Southern Grille.
- “We’re coming along here in the Triad with Wise Man and the new Fiddlin’ Fish that’s just about to open in Winston-Salem, they are going to make a huge difference. Then you’ve got Gibbs’ and Brown Truck, they are both making great beer. I hope even more pop up, even though we’re the only ones in Kernersville, right now.”
- “Preyer Brewing is doing great beers and Four Saints in Asheboro is doing some great things in their community. All of them are doing great jobs and the Wise Man addition to Winston-Salem – there’s just not another place quite like that here.”
- “From what I have been hearing people are starting to use a lot of different flavorings, and hazy IPAs seem to be the next thing on board.”
- “We just had our one year anniversary, and that’s hard to do with no tap room. We were originally torn between starting larger or at the process level where we did. You know, three years ago, we didn’t have any intentions of starting a brewery, it just kind of happened. On one hand, we’ve been glad we did a smaller system, but on the other hand, we’ve lost some market share for not having a tap room. We’re still trying to find the right location here in Kernersville for it.”
- “I still see a ton of room for expansion. We will reach a plateau in the future, and us getting a tap room before then is a big part of our plans. We want a bier garden, that has to happen.”
Hoots Roller Bar & Beer Co.
Eric Weyer, co-founder
- “We do a lot of English-inspired sessionable beers – something drinkable, no sours, no crazy flavors. We focus on the working man’s beers. We built a really comfortable pub for the neighborhood (the West End). We’re small and just kind of do our thing. We’re focused on not getting too big, just staying where we are at. We also use all fresh ingredients. We use North Carolina malt, and use local produce, not extracts. If we do a cucumber ale in the spring, we buy fresh cucumbers locally. It costs us a bit more, but it is worth it.”
- “It’s crazy to see what is happening here. We just had Wise Man open and we have another coming. It’s creating another destination. It’s great that there are more and more (breweries) in the area, it attracts tourists. I know our weekend sales are helped by brewery tourists. I have no worry about the area becoming saturated.”
- No answer given.
- “Everybody says IPAs are going away, and we don’t focus on them heavily, but I still feel like IPAs are going to be strong in the market. It’s the gateway for people into craft beers. There is always something to be said for having a good pilsner and a good lager. I think you’ll see brewers getting away from the sours and doing more of those, but it is hard for a small brewery to do pilsners and lagers because it takes so much tank space and time.”
- “We do a lot animal rescue benefits, giving back to the community through Hoots for Hounds. The Porch (Kitchen and Cantina) provides the food and we donate all of the proceeds. The next event will be on April 29th, from 2 pm to 9 pm, and will feature a silent auction.”
- No answer given.
Gibbs Hundred Brewing Company
Mark Gibbs, co-founder
- “We focus quite a bit on the quality of our beer and we’ve won a couple of medals from the Great American Beer Festival. We put a lot into the ingredients, our equipment and the expertise of our brewers. We’re trying to make nice, drinkable beers in the traditional styles. Most of what we do aren’t the funky or unusual beers, and typically ours are 6 percent alcohol or less.”
- “The beer scene here is still developing, but we have great breweries here. Our breweries per capita is still lagging behind other places in the state, but we have new breweries coming on line all over the Triad.”
- “I really admire Brown Truck Brewing Co. in High Point for winning a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival (American or German style light lager). For a small brewery to win that award really says a lot.”
- “Sessionable beers have been increasing in popularity. People have been drinking a lot of IPAs and high alcohol content beers, and now I think people are starting to want something easier drinking. And we have just got our product into cans and I think there is a trend of moving to cans from bottles.”
- “I think the biggest thing for us this year has been getting our beers into cans.”
- “I think there is a lot of room for growth still. If you compare North Carolina to other states and look at the percentage of beer market going to craft beers, we still have a way to go. And on the local level, I think there is still a long way to go.”
Jamie Bartholomaus, President
- “We’re a regional brewery, selling in six states and that is fairly unique in North Carolina. And of the 5000 or so breweries in the United States, only 178 of them are considered as regional ones. That said, we have a very strong presence and our Hoppyum is the #1-selling six-pack IPA in the state. We also have brew pubs with full restaurants whereas most breweries just have tasting rooms, so that makes us atypical in the Triad.”
- “It’s a good beer scene that we have here. We might not have as many breweries as others but we’ve got some great breweries and restaurants. The South started out pretty far behind the rest of country (in craft breweries), but the rate at which we’re catching up is great. The learning curve has been much quicker here.”
- “All of the other breweries are our friends, we root for them every day. We do a lot of collaborations and we think it is very important to support the independent craft breweries, especially those in small towns or with small budgets.”
- “I think lighter beers are coming back, those with lower alcohol contents. Golden ales are showing growth. It’s more about drinkability. Chewing on a beer can be good in some quantities, but beer is a social thing and I think for that reason it has to be drinkable. I think people are looking for flavorful but drinkable beers, not necessarily 10 percent alcohol imperial stouts.”
- “We took home a bronze medal (Bohemian-style pilsner) for our Torch Pilsner at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival and it is a beer we’ve made since we first opened. This year we will also be doing our Craft Happiness IPA Project where we make a new beer each month that will focus on a different charitable cause each time. So far we’ve done Domicile, Haven and Terrain – for homelessness, animal welfare and wilderness protection.”
- “There’s room for good business to come forth. That’s got to be the focus in doing it, whether they’re doing a bar, a bottle shop or a brewery, there has to be a good product and a good business model. The people who are going to struggle didn’t vet their business model. Ultimately making beer is a business. It’s fun to talk about and drink, but it is still a business. Beer has been declining in the US, but the opportunity is still out there. More breweries brings more tourism and that helps perpetuate the businesses.”
Four Saints Brewing Company
Joel McClosky, co-founder
- “What makes us unique is our sense of community. We keep really close relationships with local charitable organizations, the Chamber of Commerce and the city council, plus the people who come in. We brew great beer for great people and support the town that has welcomed us in.”
- “That’s always a tough question due to differences in size. Raleigh has 30 breweries right downtown, so it’s comparing apples to oranges. In the Triad, the breweries are generally smaller so it is easier for you to get in there, connect with the brewers and experience what they are doing.”
- “I admire every single one of them. Everybody has their strengths. We’ve done collaborations and every time we learn something new, from marketing to processes to new ways to think about brewing. Natty Greene’s has been there for over 10 years and they are always friendly and willing to help out. The new guys, like Joymongers in Greensboro, are doing interesting things with how they brew. Every one of the locals has something that I admire about them.”
- “I think there is going to be a focus on straightforward styles like golden ales, kolsch beers, and blondes. People want beers you can have more than one of and ones that pair well with foods. I think we’re seeing increased localization as well with more breweries happening. We’re developing local pubs and meeting halls for the public. And we’re seeing more than just millennials, we’re seeing more generations coming – they’re looking for good quality rather than hype.”
- “We’ve had a couple of awards, actually four of our beers have gained awards recently. We’ve started to bottle beers in larger formats (bigger bottles) and we just did our first canning run this past Monday. But our biggest accomplishment has been to make a difference in our community. Our last six major events raised close to $10,000 the Family Crisis Center, the Randolph County Honor Guard and others. We’re the proudest of what we have been able to give back. A lot of people joke that when you get into a business you do it to make money, put food on the table, but when we went into this business our number one reason was to make our town a better place and be a part of the community.”
- “There’s still absolutely room in the Triad. Look at Greensboro with six breweries and a population of around 300,000, look at Winston-Salem and High Point. If you take the Triad as a whole, its whole region (including Asheboro, Kernersville, Lexington and other towns), we haven’t reached the peak yet. Look at how many towns don’t have a brewery. Back in the 1800s, every small town had a brewery.”
Wise Man Brewing
Harvey Williams, Taproom Manager
- “We all started as helpers around here, there wasn’t a lot of professional brewing experience. We’re not a flag-ship beer style brewery, we just try to innovate and come up with new stuff all the time. We work with the heart of a home brewer.”
- “We’re definitely catching up, but there’s still plenty of room to grow. I’m from Portland, Maine and it’s a lot like Asheville with lots of breweries. Here in Winston-Salem, we’re only the fourth in a really good-sized city and since we’ve opened it has been tough to keep up with the demand. There’s definitely room to grow. We’ve got Fiddlin’ Fish opening right across the corner from us soon and that’s going to help turn this part of town into a brewery area.”
- “Craft brew is very collaborative, the more that each of us learn, the better we all do. In the build-up phase, we were constantly bouncing around to the other breweries learning, like from Four Saints in Asheboro and Joymongers in Greensboro. Jamie (Bartholomaus) at Foothills convinced to come here to Winston-Salem. There’s definitely a strong community here.”
- “There are a couple of new styles that are taking off. One is the milkshake IPA, which is an IPA with lactose in it. The lactose isn’t fermented by the yeast so it is sweeter than others and high pectin fruits are used in the brewing to thicken it up. Bright and juicy flavors have worked with this and we did Blissed Out, a mango milkshake IPA that was a hit. Barrel aging beers is the other big new thing, we’ve got new bourbon and wine barrels coming in to give it a try.”
- No answer here. Pretty much just opened, which is quite an accomplishment.
- “We’re not even close to peak beer here in the Triad. If you look at microcosms like Asheville and compare it to here, we’re not anywhere close to that saturation level. There are 5,000 breweries in the US now and we’re just getting back to the point where we were pre-Prohibition.”
Preyer Brewing Company
Calder Preyer, co-owner
- “We are definitely doing a lot of new beers and that makes us unique. We pretty much always have something different on tap, not just the same four beers always.”
- “When you take the Triad as a whole, we are starting to catch up. Raleigh, Charlotte and Asheville have more breweries, but here in the Triad, our quality lets us punch well above our weight class.”
- “Everybody helps each other in the local scene, but I have to say it is nice to have a neighbor like Joymongers. If we need something they are right there to help us.”
- “Locally, it’s hard to say exactly what the trends are. There are certain types of IPAs that are really popular and sours have been popular and we’ve been doing Gose ales like that.” (Look for GSO-zuh on their menus).
- “We’re really proud that we’re going to be canning our first beer in a couple of weeks. We’ll be releasing the cans for sale in our tap room first and then look to a wider release. We’re also coming up on our two-year anniversary and we’ll be throwing a big party on May 6th to celebrate.”
- “I think there is still plenty of room to grow here in the Triad. Asheville has a vibrant and big brewing community with a much smaller population.”
Brown Truck Brewery
High Point, NC
Randi Loggins, Manager
- “I think it is the atmosphere in our tap room, we’re not like the others around here. We have a more classic, well cut design. We also have a great patio at our location that people love to hang out at. It also helps that there aren’t many places in High Point for people to go to.”
- “That’s a hard comparison. While they did start before us, the Triad scene in the last couple of years has really grown. I think we’re probably growing just as fast as Raleigh’s, if not faster.”
- “Gibbs Hundred is one we really look up to locally. This whole industry, though, is based on ‘co-opetition’. We all compete but we cooperate at the same time. We also really admire Liberty Brewing as the other brewery here in High Point and they have really helped us out.”
- “Sour beers have been really big over the last year and I think that will stay true through the summer.”
- “We accomplished a lot at the Great American Beer Festival (four medals and Best Small Brewery awards), that has been our main accomplishment so far. Looking ahead, we have started barrel-aging some beers right now and those will be ready in the future.”
- “There will always still be room for new breweries. It’s all about the co-opetition.”
Joymongers Brewing Co.
Jim Jones, owner
- “What makes us unique is our ability to brew so many different beers, giving our customers something new to try each visit. We have 17 beers on tap at a time and we’ve been able to offer over 150 different varieties of styles in the last nine months since we opened.”
- “I think we’ve got a good scene here in the Triad and it is still early for us. What’s most exciting about the Triad scene is that we’re just revving up. We’re going to see a lot of growth over the next few years.”
- “There are a lot of talented folks in the local market, from Jamie (Bartholomaus) at Foothills on the larger end to the great new breweries like Brown Truck and Wise Man. And Preyer Brewing Company really does some fun stuff locally.”
- “I think IPAs are still really popular. We’re branching out into more farmhouse ales and that will continue to be a focus for us on the beer front. As far as overall trends, we think that serving a community as a model is becoming big. They’ve been working on that model for 500 years in Europe.”
- “We’re just so proud of how Greensboro has supported our first nine months here. We’ve gone from zero to 60 very fast and we’re just thrilled that people are enjoying Joymongers.”
- “Oh gosh, there’s tons of room in the local scene. I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface in the Triad yet. Asheville, Charlotte and Raleigh are pretty mature markets, but there’s still a lot of runway for us here in the Triad.”
Small Batch Beer Co.
Derek Mern, Brew Master
1. “We brew small batches and that lets us use a lot of special ingredients that the big guys just can’t use. It’s like our blood orange IPAs we did, with them we can use real blood oranges, but a guy doing 50 barrels wouldn’t be able to do that.”
2. “I think the Triad’s right there with all of the other ones (craft beer scenes in the state). We’re equal to them and better than most.”
3. “I probably admire all of them, they’re all out their doing their own thing. I admire anyone will to go out there and do something from scratch like this.”
4. “Hopefully the next big thing isn’t another New England IPA. I think people are looking for more balanced beers, ones that aren’t so hops overloaded.”
5. “This year we’ve started doing some barrel-aged sours that have been pretty good. We’ve also opened up Burger Batch (their burgers and shakes restaurant) next door, although that did move me out of my brewing place.”
6. “I thought we’d reached the peak a year ago, and I thought it when only 30 percent of the brewers we have now were here. You’d think there has to be saturation at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet. I guess as long as people keep enjoying craft beer, there’s going to be room for more.”