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JUNE/JULY 2005 | REGIONAL | SOUTHEAST

Southern Brewing
By Bobby Bush

 


Hofbräuhaus Newport
200 E. 3rd St.
Newport, KY 41071
859-491-7200
hofbrauhausnewport.com

Asheville Brewing
77 Coxe Ave.
Asheville, NC 28801
828-254-1281
ashevillepizza.com

Lazy Magnolia (micro)
P.O. Box 1476
Kiln, MS 39556
228-586-0045
lazymagnolia.com

R. J. Rockers (micro)
113-D Belton Dr.
Spartanburg, SC 29301
864-587-1435
rjrockers.com

Thomas Creek (micro)
2054 Piedmont Hwy.
Greenville, SC 29605
864-605-1166
thomascreekbeer.com

Top of the Hill Brewpub
100 E. Franklin St.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
919-929-8676
topofthehillrestaurant.com

 

It still must run a legislative gauntlet, but an alcoholic beverage tax could be on its way out in Florida. In early March, the Senate’s Regulated Industry Committee voted 6-3 to remove sales tax on beer, wine and mixed beverages sold in bars and restaurants. If the measure passes, it is unlikely that consumers will see lower prices. The tax on a 12-ounce beer is less than 2¢.

The Florida Brewers Guild is getting political. According to FBG founder/President/Executive Director Ed Canty, the statewide group’s goals are to alter Florida regulation in order to allow small breweries to distribute their own beer and legalize the sale of growlers to go.

Meanwhile, the effort to lift the cap on the alcohol content of beer in North Carolina has passed its first legislative hurdle. On April 18, House Bill 392 was approved 18-11 by the Commerce Committee and passed along to the House ABC Committee with one significant modification: instead of lifting the cap completely, the bill, if approved as rewritten, will permit beer to contain up to 15% abv. Not nearly as hot as the debate over a state lottery, HB-392 must still face the Senate.

The “first authentic Hofbräuhaus in America” is expanding. Founded in 2003 in Newport, Ky., the German-style beer hall and brewery, Hofbräuhaus Newport, recently announced plans for a sister facility in Pittsburgh. Construction of the new 18,000-square-foot brewpub, with architecture reminiscent of the original Hofbräuhaus in Munich circa 1928, is scheduled to begin in June. A German brewer will be imported to man the brewhouse.

Brewed under license and supervision of the Hofbräuhaus Munich, four regular beers and a dozen or more rotating seasonals are featured at the Newport establishment. Premium Lager, Munich Weizen, Light and Dunkel are on tap full time. Head brewer Markus Lohner keeps the calendar interesting, running January through December with Prussian Export, Adulterator Doppelbock, Märzen, Bavarian Wheat, Maibock, Herzog Wilhelm V. (Ursud), Bohemian Pilsner, Kunzel Lager, 1810 Prince Ludwig, Oktoberfest, Weizenbock and Christmasbeer. Just in case the seasonal beer runs out before month-end, Zwickelbeer or Leichte Weisse will be ready to fill in. All of Hofbräuhaus traditional lagers and ales are brewed according to the Bavarian Purity Law, Reinheitsgebot.

Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company just opened a second brewing facility. According to Head Brewer Doug Riley, Asheville Brewing will have an 1,800-square-foot tasting room, a large patio and a new 15-barrel brewhouse. The Coxe Avenue establishment will sell kegs to local restaurants and bars as well as to the public and will offer growlers to go. The food menu features “light pub fare,” all available for takeout. Riley plans to keep eight beers on tap at the new facility, some of which will be brought over from the original brewpub on Merrimon Avenue.

A chemical engineer who still has her day job, Leslie Henderson first took notice of the wide world of brewing four years ago when she commandeered a homebrewing kit that she had given her electrical engineer husband, Mark. Bitten badly by the brewing bug, Henderson came to the easy conclusion that “there isn’t much microbrew in Kiln, Mississippi,” so she enrolled for formal training at the American Brewers Guild. Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company fired up its 15-barrel brewhouse in January. Determined to educate her patrons with “the right mix of beers that won’t scare locals but will be interesting to people who move to the area,” Henderson has already made waves with Henderson’s Southern Pecan. No extract — she adds crushed roasted pecans to the mash. The coastal soft water permits the ale’s “malty sweetness to shine.” Distribution through a local distributor covers a 100-mile radius. Lazy Magnolia also offers a golfer’s wheat and rye brew called Par 3; Blue Heron, a cloudy classic wheat; and Amberjaque, a light amber beer with a pleasant hop aroma and spiciness. When time permits, Lazy Magnolia seasonals will include Hard Cranberry Ginger Ale, Gulf Porter, Jefferson Stout, Harvest Moon and Lighthouse Pale Ale.

Raleigh, N.C., brewpub owner Gary Greenshields has left the building. Still in dispute with his insurance company over an August 2004 fire that closed his City Market brewpub, Greenshields’s kitchen equipment and brewhouse are in storage while he searches for the perfect site for his new brewery. His plan for the new Greenshields Brewing incorporates a master brewery, probably situated in a restaurant, serving a group of small neighborhood Greenshields restaurants scattered throughout Raleigh and the surrounding suburbs. His take-the-beer-to-the-people approach will reduce driving time for his upscale clientele.

Speaking of brewhouses in storage, Jon Cheek, owner of Orlando Brewing, has a similar problem. Displaced by imminent domain forced by interstate construction, the brewery has a new home just across the street from a bustling Amtrak station. “We don’t have any control; the state’s in the driver’s seat,” reports Cheek, who is glad the state is footing the bill but frustrated that the process is taking so long. He’s presently negotiating with Orlando micro Indian River in an effort to keep his beer flowing and maintain his accounts. Cheek hopes to move in by early August, though he has no idea how long reassembly of the brewery will take. Ed Canty, a major player in the Florida Brewers Guild, is currently serving as brewing advisor. Former partner Rob Bernys is no longer associated with the company, once known as Orlando Brewing Partners.

Henderson is determined to educate patrons with “beers that won’t scare locals but will be interesting to people who move to the area.”

The Brewers Association has released its “Top 50 American Breweries” list for 2004. Two Southern breweries made the grade. Brewer of the Cottonwood and Carolina Blonde brands, Carolina Beer and Beverage of Mooresville came in a respectable 30th while Louisiana-based Abita Brewing, with labels like Turbodog and Andygator, slid into 38th place, just ahead of the venerable Brooklyn Brewery.

In the microbrewery world, packaging is everything. Keg-only brewers fight daily for bar tap space, battling the mega-brewers for that precious territory. Portable packaging, such as bottles and cans, opens many more doors, not just on grocery and beer-store shelves, but also at draft-challenged restaurants and bars unwilling to try an “unproven” brand. To exemplify this evolution, let’s look at three Southern breweries.

Earlier this year, R. J. Rockers, a fledgling Spartanburg, S.C., micro, released two of its brews, American Pale Ale and Bald Eagle Brown, in 22-ounce bottles. Brewer/owner Mark Johnsen took the manual bottling operation in stride, hoping that bottles would make his beer more appealing to distributors that shun keg-only products.

Thomas Creek, a Greenville, S.C., microbrewery, has been bottling for seven years. Owner/brewer Tom David says that 25 percent of his production is now bottled and, with the addition of several new grocery accounts, that percentage is expected to grow significantly. He just changed to brighter, bolder glossy labels and introduced his first seasonal bottled beer, the popular Vanilla Cream Ale.

And, the most unusual of this brief analysis, downtown Chapel Hill, N.C., brewpub Top of the Hill introduced its line of 12-ounce cans in early April. According to Assistant Brewer George Dusek, Leaderboard Trophy Lager and Rams Head IPA are the only canned beers planned for now. The IPA will be sold at the brewpub only, while the lager is also destined for golf courses and country clubs in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle. At best, with three people involved in the labor-intensive operation, the two-head counter-pressure canner and single sealer equipment can package 30–40 six-packs per hour. “We’re busy trying to keep the bar wet and have enough to can too,” says the overworked brewer.

Vista Brewing of Columbia, S.C., ceased brewing operations earlier this year. The restaurant remains open.

FESTIVALS
The second annual Blues ’n Brews Festival takes place on June 4 by the riverside in Fayetteville, N.C. Benefiting Cape Fear Regional Theatre, the Campbellton Landing Stage fest runs from 4:00 to 10:30 p.m. and features a unique three-level ticket program. $15 buys a general admission, i.e., a designated driver, pass. $25 gets a glass and unlimited tastes of over 100 different beers. For an additional $10, the VIP level buys entrance to a reserved seating area — perfect for enjoying the music of Abe Reid & the Spikedrivers and The Heaters — and private toilets. Children’s activities are also planned for three hours beginning at 4:00. Last year over 1,000 people attended. Click cfrt.org and then “Special Events” for more information.

June 4 also finds New Orleans in beer-fest mode. Info was sketchy at press time, but the Kiefer UNO Lakefront Arena will play host to the 22nd annual International Beer Tasting, a benefit for public television station WYES. Stay tuned to wyes.org/events/beer.html for late-breaking fest news.

June 11 welcomes the River City Beer & Seafood Festival on Brown’s Island, surrounded by the James River and the Haxall Canal, in Richmond, Va. The annual food and beer fest draws 8,000 to 10,000 people. Admission is free, though tasting mugs are $25 for unlimited six-ounce samples. For more information, sign up for the fest’s e-newsletter at citycelebrations.org.

The ninth annual Old Dominion Beer Festival is scheduled at the Ashburn, Va., microbrewery on June 24–26. The three-day celebration features live music and beer from at least 40 breweries. Admission is $12 and another buck buys a six-ounce serving. For times, breweries and entertainment details, see oldominion.com.

The heat of the Southern summer, July 30, to be exact, greets the very first Summertime Brews Festival, set for downtown Greensboro, N.C. Classic Rock 92 and Dick Broadcasting Company are hosting the event in the new First Horizon Park, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, a single-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins. Up to 2,000 people are expected to attend the 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. fest. For a list of breweries and other pertinent information, see summertimebrews.com.

On that same Sunday in July, Nashville hosts the fourth annual Music City Brewers Festival. More than 25 breweries will pour their best at scenic Hilton Park during the 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. fest. Plenty of food and live music will also be on tap. Check musiccitybrewersfest.com for the lowdown.

Bobby Bush is just a good ol’ Southern boy who loves his beer rich and tasty and despises all things NASCAR. Comments and sarcasm are welcome at bobbywbush@charter.net.

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