Before the 1980s, microbreweries were a pipe dream – something only seen in the United Kingdom. In the United States, major beer companies had control of the market with mild-tasting lagers.
So, beer connoisseurs took to making homebrews and eventually, micro and nanobreweries began to pop up across America.
Nanobreweries, usually on track to become microbreweries, make less than four brewer’s barrels a year.
The small operation trend moved into the Triangle in the mid-1990s when Carolina Brewery opened in Chapel Hill.
The brewpub, a restaurant where beer is made, is known for its Flagship IPA, Copperline Amber Ale, Sky Blue Golden Ale and Oatmeal Porter – all award winners.
Carolina Brewery also offers seasonal brews. The beers are available on tap as well as in growlers and cans.
Shortly after Carolina Brewery, Carolina Brewing Company took up residence in Holly Springs. Brothers Greg and John Shuck moved from upstate New York to Seattle where their eyes were opened to a whole new world.
“We didn’t realize there was a microbrew community out there until we moved west,” Greg said.
After graduating from college and drinking a lot of cheap beer, they began homebrewing. Eventually, they spent about a year trying to determine if it could be more than just a hobby. In 1993, they decided to go for it with a friend, Joe Zonin.
The Shuck brothers moved home to New York with their parents to start writing a business plan and traveled to Charlotte, Raleigh and Atlanta to check out the markets. Raleigh was relatively untapped and they liked the area.
The men worked in the restaurant industry, gathering experience and know-how. They opened the brewery in July 1995. With no other microbreweries in the Holly Springs area 18 years ago, the three men had an uphill battle compared to more recent companies getting their start.
“We had to educate the consumer,” he said. “It was much harder for us to break into the market.”
Greg was sure CBC would either make it big or completely fail. Somehow, he thinks, they’ve ended up in the middle.
“I’d say we’re all happy,” he said.
It’s not as financially stressful as it was just starting out.
“We went from a lot of work and no financial gain to less work and some return on our investment,” Greg said.
Now, CBC makes between nine and 12 beers annually with the year-round India Pale Ale, Carolina Pale Ale and Carolina Nut Brown Ale being the most popular. The beer has around three or four seasonal beers a year and another three or four special brews during the year.
Greg said he likes being able to see something tangible, working with beer. Unlike people in many other industries, he can have a finished product within a week.
“There’s a beginning and an end to a batch of beer,” Greg said.
Many other breweries have started up in more recent years and grown fast, like Aviator in Fuquay-Varina and White Rabbit in Angier, with more opening soon like Deep River in Clayton, Hosanna Brewing Co. in Fuquay-Varina and Bombshell Beer Company in Holly Springs. But Greg said he’s not sure whether the market can sustain all of the micro and nanobreweries. He and his three partners (Mark Heath and Van Smith joined the team in 2011 when John left) have tried a hyper local approach.
“We’ve tried to stay pretty local to keep a fresh beer in the area,” Greg said.
Carolina Brewery offers free brewery tours every Saturday at 5 p.m. at its Pittsboro location. Call 919-545-2330 for reservations. The brewery is located at 150 Lowes Drive Suite 100 in Pittsboro. The brews also can be tasted at the 460 West Franklin Street location in Chapel Hill.
Carolina Brewing Company also offers free tours every Saturday at 1 p.m. All tours are led by one of the brewery’s owners. The tour and samples are free. No reservations are necessary, but no one younger than 21 is allowed on the tour.
CBC is located at 140 Thomas Mill Road in Holly Springs. For directions, check out www.carolinabrew.com.
In honor of North Carolina’s inaugural beer month, we’ll feature some up and coming microbreweries in the area along with places and events where the new brews can be found.
Cheers and please drink responsibly.
Contact Kelly Griffith at email@example.com or 919-552-5675.