To date, 19 breweries exist on the Cape Fear beer scene. Connoisseurs can sip their way from Makai Brewing down in Ocean Isle all the way up to Salty Turtle in Surf City (an expensive Uber ride but totally worth it).
Time has shown some breweries stay small, some breweries get bigger, and some just don’t make it. I have read a lot of talk on social media about the “brewery bubble” bursting—and I’m sorry to burst your bubble, folks, but I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon.
Many breweries in the region have gone through equipment upgrades or begun packaging into bottles or cans so they can meet demands of ravenous consumers. Three local ones are following in the footsteps of Broomtail Craft Brewery and opening second locations, all with their own flair of course.
Wilmington Brewing Company, owned and operated by local husband-and-wife duo John and Michelle Savard, will open an event space on Kerr Avenue next to their taproom-brewery-homebrew-supply-shop combo platter. They purchased the adjoining lot to build the new space from the ground up.
“We are planning on 5,000 square feet,” Michelle says, “and expecting to hold about 225 people. We think it’ll be ready in a year or so.”
It’ll be open for events only (think can releases) and will be available for rent to the community. The inquiries never stop for the popular brewery.
“We cannot be more excited for our new neighboring event space and look forward to serving Wilmington as a much-needed midtown venue,” Savard says. The addition also will allow them to make better use of their current location, to accommodate sippers with a larger taproom.
Bill’s Brewing Company and New Anthem Beer Project have a different approach to their expansion projects. Bill’s is currently situated in Bill’s Front Porch at 4238 Market St., in front of the Wilmington volleyball court Captain Bill’s. Bill’s Front Porch is a brewpub, in that they have a kitchen, but the brewery team decided they want more.
Brookes Musser and her husband Donnie Stone own and operate Bill’s Front Porch; head brewer Jim Deaton is the man behind the liquid.
“I’m really excited about the production facility for Jim because he’s designing it,” Musser tells. “He’s specified what kind of equipment he wants; we’re putting a lot of trust in him to make it his brewery.”
Deaton has been with Bill’s since the beginning and heavily was involved in the design and build process. The new space will be located at 107 Cinema Dr., directly behind Captain Bill’s. It’s a 10,000-square-foot warehouse and will be transformed into a 20-barrel brew house, complete with a taproom and administrative offices. The taproom will open up to face the volleyball courts, and give folks the opportunity to watch their friends compete while they drink a pint of delicious and refreshing Wave Break IPA.
Since Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria has opened up in the South Front District, the area has started to flourish—now complete with Yoga Salt Studio and Celeste Glass’s latest culinary and vino-driven venture The Second Glass. Soon enough New Anthem Beer Project will move in (and I’ll never leave).
New Anthem signed a lease at the CAPPS building in early 2018, so we can expect to score a pint in the new taproom sometime in the spring of 2019. Currently operating at 116 Dock St., in between Front and Second downtown, the brewery is working on a 10-barrel system. Best known for their 16-ounce cans of dank, juicy IPAs, the brewery has gained popularity throughout the state for their beer.
The new facility will feature a spacious taproom and a 30-barrel system, which allows them to give the people what they want: more beer. Aaron Skiles, co-owner, operator, and head brewer, is an unabashed audiophile (see: the records on the walls in the current taproom and pay attention to the names of their beers), so folks will also see more live music in the new taproom.
But it is the barrel aging program that has Skiles most excited. “[It will give] us the flexibility to do something completely different here [on Dock Street].” The brewer has a passion for aging beers in spirit barrels and has big plans to bring more of that liquid to the Port City. The Dock Street brewery will focus on sour and funky beers, while Greenfield Street will keep all of the “clean” beer.
Expansion comes in all shapes and sizes. One brewery’s small step might be another’s giant leap. Take, for example, Flytrap Brewing and the bottle program they launched at their fourth anniversary party late last year. The brewery opened with a 20-gallon system in 2014. (A little perspective for the people in the back: Classic frat-party size kegs rolling around town hold 15.5 gallons, or half of a barrel, of beer; 20 gallons is not very much liquid.)
Owner-operator Mike Barlas did back-breaking work before upgrading his system to a 3-barrel brewhouse in 2016. For all intents and purposes, the system is still tiny, but Barlas and his team are cranking out some really special beer. It’s all locally focused, honing in on indigenous ingredients (much like the carnivorous plants of the brewery’s namesake) and uniquely brewed Belgium-inspired beer.
“We try to be intentional about what we’re brewing, how we’re presenting it, and all the details,” Barlas says of the bottle program. He also decided to purchase a label printer and do design work and printing in-house. It provides him and his team with the autonomy of branding.
Flytrap’s bottles can be found at the brewery at 319 Walnut St., and select bottle shops around Wilmington.