Something’s brewing: Homegrown beer taps growing market
While the Triad is known for its furniture and textile industries, a new trend has come about that has made the area a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the art of crafting one of America’s oldest beverages.
The state has more than 60 breweries, and Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery in High Point is one of them. The handcrafted beers are brewed on site, including Rockets Red Ale, India Pale Ale, White Ale, Nut Brown Ale and the Miss Liberty Lager.
Brewmaster Todd Isbell has his hands busy, as he is the man who handles the beer from grain to glass. It is his daily work and dedication that makes sure that when the cask is tapped, the amber liquid that flows is just right.
“When we started in 2000, the craft beer industry in the state was in its infancy. There weren’t too many,” Isbell said. “In just the five years that I have been here, the craft beer industry has exploded. It is not just the number of breweries, but also the quality of the beer. The industry is still growing, with at least a dozen in the planning stages.”
Isbell said the brewery has increased production every year that he has been there, which shows growth in the industry, the city and drinker’s palate.
“At this point, we are at maximum capacity. We are producing just under 900 barrels a year, with a barrel being 31 gallons, and it’s great. Not only is the population of the city growing, but the average beer drinker is becoming discerning in regards to their palate. A beer drinker is now more likely to drink a craft beer.”
Isbell said a lot of the breweries get their product out through word of mouth, the Internet and social media.
“You’re always going to have the big names. Here you can sit and watch the beer you’re drinking being made,” Isbell said. “I think we have made our imprint in the area.”
Another well-known brewery in the Triad is the Red Oak brewery, which can be found on Interstate 40/85 east of Greensboro. The 12-acre tract has allowed the brewery, birthed in Greensboro, to expand and brew its Bavarian Style lagers from its humble beginnings at Franklin’s off Friendly in 1979. The brewing did not begin until February 1991. They decided not to brew, filter or pasteurize its Bavarian Lagers to ensure a rich flavor and mellow taste. The beer can be found on tap at many restaurants and grocery stores around the nation.
Natty Greene’s is another brewery that traces its beginnings in the Triad.
Two college friends, Chris Lester and Kayne Fisher, came up with the concept of Natty Greene’s and the dream of selling beer in the early 1990s. In 2004, the brewery was created in a three-story building in downtown Greensboro. They named the brewing company after Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene, whom which Greensboro is named after. The brewery has handcrafted beer brewed on site, and at least 12 styles of Natty Greene’s beers are available daily on tap or bottled.
The success of the brewery has led to the distribution of a subset of the line’s beers, with more than 100 accounts and a presence in Harris Teeter grocery stores throughout North Carolina.
Another sign that the industry has left its imprint on the Triad is The Brewer’s Kettle, High Point’s only speciality beer store. The store, owned by David Armstrong, has more than 400 brands of craft brewed beers. Armstrong said his store sees the impact that craft beer is having on the area and the state.
“The craft beer market has been growing strong for the last five years. I sell very few beers that you can get in the grocery store, but people are looking for more flavors,” Armstrong said. “It is amazing how they are selling. There are beers that people wait for all year long. Right now, North Carolina is huge in the craft beer scene, and will remain that way for a while.”
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