I strolled into Tipsy Goat Bottles and Taps on an early Monday afternoon expecting to conduct my normal 45-minute-long interview and go on my way. After one-and-a-half beers and two-and-a-half hours, I emerged, wondering where a big chunk of my day had gone but knowing I’d spent it well.
Anthony Heath is a self-proclaimed redneck from Beulaville with a thick Southern accent. Beulaville—best known for Mike’s Farm, which hosts quite a spectacular Christmas lights show and dinner that fills up reservations on August 1—is northwest of Jacksonville in Duplin County. Folks familiar with its whereabouts really know rural eastern NC.
“It doesn’t always hurt for people to underestimate you,” Heath says with a grin. This was after I remarked in awe about the amount of research he’d done about renting commercial real estate. It was a staggering amount. He rattled off numbers and codes with a contractor’s ease—and the man is not a contractor.
Heath spent the last 10 years working with his wife, Barbara (who now works at GLOW Academy), at a consultation company. She led the charge for a team of people ensuring compliance with National Science Foundation grants. Heath did a lot of the back-office work—or in his words, “I was a janitor.” He remarks how owning a small business also makes him a janitor. Luckily, he’s had practice.
Beforehand, Heath worked for PPD. A former Army medic, then biology major at UNCW, he landed a job normally reserved for nurses. As he walked me through his careers, he reminisced about the various bottle shops he often visited before his 45-minute drive home from work. He remembered chit-chatting with Jason Adams at Lighthouse, and finding new brews with the help of Maaike Brender À Brandis at Cape Fear Wine and Beer—back when the bar was on Water Street. He made sure to praise the work Mike and Kristy Duffy are doing at Hey!Beer, too.
When we turned the conversation back to his own shop, Heath got a little sheepish. Though he’s new to the game, it’s apparent he genuinely wants to do great. His humility is endearing. Case in point: his bottle shop’s name. He and Barbara had a spreadsheet with tons of words sorted into different combinations. They landed on Tipsy Goat because the Heath household in Rocky Point is home to two goats—Sweetie and Amelia. And after a beer or two, well, who isn’t a little tipsy?
Similar is his Castle Hayne Road shop, located near the corner of 23rd Street, toward downtown Wilmington in Cape Fear Plaza. Heath chose the location because there wasn’t anything like it in the area. There’s a Food Lion down the street, a nail salon, a McDonald’s, but nothing selling craft booze. He wanted to provide for others what Lighthouse, Hey!Beer, and Cape Fear Wine and Beer did for him for so long.
According to Heath, the property has new owners who took time to renovate the spaces so they were more palatable to potential renters. The twinkle in his eye lights up the room with warm personality, and comfy living room furniture and a big bar to belly up to detract from the florescent lighting. But what people really will be impressed by is the inventory—specifically found in coolers he rescued for a dime from a Dollar General sale. The amount of cold stock will have customers stopping in on their way home from work and happy to not have to wait for it to chill when they get home.
The draft list features new school favorites, as well as classic standbys, and will change occasionally. Victory Dirt Wolf Double IPA (one of my favorites) and Allagash White (a tried and true for many) are included. I settled on the New Anthem pilsner Poets and Fools, and had a half of Wilmington Brewing Company Tropical Lightning.
Heath and I talked about the state of the industry—where we’ve come from, where we’re going. When he mentioned he didn’t sell a single bottle of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout on Black Friday, I was stunned. Sippers-in-the-know are aware Black Friday isn’t just a day to be at Best Buy by 5 a.m. to get the best deal on a computer or a TV. It’s a day to celebrate big, boozy stouts, and most of all, the aforementioned Goose Island. It’s the beer that built the holiday. Not selling any of it is akin to not selling Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day—unheard of.
We discussed the decline of the large-format bottle and the uptick in lager love. He boasted his very favorite glass to drink out of (I’ll let him tell you; I don’t want to spoil it). He made it a really comfortable place to share and explore and also leave feeling inspired.
As I worked through some standard-issue interview questions, our conversation shifted toward the shop’s long-term goals‚ about what would most serve Heath’s vision.
“I want it to be a place where people want to be,” Heath says.
It’s definitely a place I want to be. As long as Heath’s friendly warmth and cold beer keep flowing, I have no doubt everyone else will, too.