New Cabarrus Breweries: More to Sip
Oct 01, 2017 08:30AM
● By Jason Huddle
New Cabarrus Breweries: More to Sip
0In its March 2016 issue, Cabarrus Magazine introduced readers to the first microbreweries to open in Cabarrus County after Concord City Council passed an ordinance amendment in May 2015.
Prior to that vote, the law prevented breweries from having taprooms. It took little time for homebrewers who’d envisioned opening their own microbrewery to do so: first High Branch Brewing Company, then Cabarrus Brewing Company. Today, there are three more to raise a glass to.
Commoners Brewing Company
Become part of the story. That’s the underlying philosophy of Thomas Murray, Marty Jackson and Jonathan Woodward. They’re owner/partners in Commoners Brewing Company. Located off Copperfield Boulevard in the ever-expanding corridor of Concord near I-85’s Exit 60, they celebrated their grand opening over Labor Day weekend.
“The grand opening was busy,” Murray says. “We had 350 people come through on Friday when a thunderstorm blew through. There was a tornado watch, and the Waffle House and restaurants on the hill lost power. Saturday and Sunday were perfect.”
Murray and Jackson met at church several years ago and were also members of the Cabarrus Homebrewers Society (CABREW), a local homebrewers club. (See the March 2016 issue of Cabarrus Magazine.) “One weekend, we took a trip to Yadkin Valley to see some wineries. They had a brewery as well so we did the tour. By the end of the tour, we were hooked. We decided to open a brewery and start brewing. On the way home, we already had several names for the brewery and for the beers, so here we are,” Murray shares.
Woodward became part of the group when planning to open a restaurant that offered its own craft beer on tap. “After talking a little bit more, we looked at moving the brewery to the front of the
restaurant. Then the brewery size increased and the restaurant decreased. The restaurant was eventually reduced to a meeting room. Then the City of Concord passed the brewery amendment,” Murray says.
The name? It’s meant to evoke a time in history when there was a two-tier society: the common men and kings...or working men and the elite. Commoners Brewing is meant to bring everyone together under one roof to share in a pint.
The atmosphere utilizes time-worn elements as well, from reclaimed barn wood to tin roof tiles from Jackson’s hometown school. “The bell came from an old log house. It was used to call the kids home. We ring the bell with a hammer if someone comes in for a birthday or anniversary party – to celebrate life. We also ring the bell to get everyone’s attention, then tell a story and raise our glasses,” Murray says.
“We tend to put stories with a lot of our beers. With First Kiss – a blonde – picture sitting outside on a starry night and enjoying a pint of beer. Or you’re in the back of a pick-up truck with your girl. Or maybe First Kiss is the first time a commercial beer drinker has tasted a craft beer. With Mollie’s Revenge, the story is about an Irish redhead. A lady comes to her door one day and asks for Mollie’s husband. A gun comes to the door; Mollie does the shooting.”
On a four-barrel system, Commoners is looking to introduce some beers that haven’t been made at the brewery yet. One is a pecan mocha porter.
“Because of the area we’re in – racing – and because of the growing interest in craft beer, a lot of people that normally drink commercial beers are hesitant to drink craft beers. So we’re brewing a couple on an introduction level,” Murray adds. “They’re easy to drink, but still have flavor and are easy to enjoy. They’re also enjoyable for people who do drink craft beer.
Additionally, Commoners is flanked by eateries that can cater to beer drinkers: Copper Alehouse, Frosted Butterfly Bakery and the newly-opened Sabaidee Thai & Sushi Bar. “Copper Alehouse is starting fresh. It is under new ownership and will have a new name,” Murray says.
A unique enhancement to Commoners is its tap offering to homebrewers. “Because homebrewers are limited, we want to make them a part of Commoners,” Murray explains. “The homebrewing club meets here one time a month, we pick a beer and have them brew it on our system. Then that beer will be on tap here, with their name and a description of the beer. Doubler will be the first one. We’ll start brewing it next week; it should take about a month (end of October).”
The brewery is also looking to obtain ingredients locally. “The Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm in Concord grows its own hops. We’re looking to support them by purchasing hops from them,” Murray says.
When asked about the increasing number of craft beer breweries, Murray says there’s room for everyone. “We just reached the number of breweries open before Prohibition, about two years ago. Beer is more accessible now. When people go to the store, they want to see what’s locally available. Even if I’m traveling, I look for beers made locally there. People tend to travel across town to their go-to brewery.”
Commoners’ taproom is open Thursday through Sunday. Visit commonersbrewingcompany.com for more information.
Red Hill Brewing Company
Red Hill opened its doors in November 2016 during the Christmas tree lighting festivities in historic
downtown Concord. Located behind the Cabarrus Creamery at 21 Union Street S., it took its business name from local history.
The historical marker at U.S. highways 29 and 601 says, RED HILL: Home and tavern of John and Martin Pheifer. Gov. Wm. Tryon and President George Washington among guests. Stood 1 1/2 mi. W.
It was also said to be an inn and was located on what is now Poplar Tent Road.
Martin Pheifer Sr. (also spelled Phifer) was a Swiss immigrant who moved to North Carolina prior to the Revolutionary War. Owner of Red Hill as well as two other plantations, he was a planter that became involved in the local political arena. He served as a colonial militia officer (major), colonial assemblyman, member of the North Carolina House of Commons and as a justice of the Mecklenburg County court. Unfortunately, the home was destroyed during the first half of the 20th century.
Friends Chris Abney, Jeff Switalski and Hunter Huss enjoy working out and drinking beer together. They also share more than 10 years of homebrewing experience and decided to take that experience a step further.
“We wanted to extend that passion beyond our circle and into the neighborhood,” Abney explains. “Our desire is to be a community brew house, a place for the locals to start and/or finish their days. Red Hill is, if nothing else, a public house for Concord, NC.”
With a one-barrel production, Red Hill is considered a nano-brewery. According to probrewer.com, “The most widely accepted description of nano-breweries is a brewery that produces in batches of three barrels or smaller. Based on that criteria, there were upwards of 300 breweries operating in the United States as of summer 2014 that would qualify as nano-breweries. That would mean nano-breweries account for nearly 10 percent of the nation’s craft breweries.”
“We can make up to 30 gallons per batch of beer and produce no more than 200 barrels in a year. We truly are hand-crafted,” Abney says. “We showcase four staple house beers: Austin’s Amber Ale, Janes Blonde Ale, Murph IPA and our house stout. Along with our staples, we rotate seasonal favorites such as our mango-infused IPA called Blown Fuse and our sour ale named Weighted Vest.
And with the success of the craft beer industry in general, size doesn’t necessarily matter. For the past dozen or so years, more breweries have started out with smaller than typical batch sizes and are very successful in their own right.
“Craft beer is an extension and promotion of local communities who pride themselves in where they come from and what they can create together. This is the brilliance of the craft beer industry,” Abney says. “Its roots are tangible, you can see and feel it. You can see and feel it because it exists in your neighborhood instead of in large corporate brewhouses from cities you have never visited. Patrons of craft beer have a sense of ownership in their industry because the beer is made right where they work and play and live.”
If Abney sounds excited, it’s because Red Hill has been so well received. “We have grown solely on the word-of-mouth of our patrons,” he says. “Our taproom has grown from the ideas and loyalty of those same folks. We are the Concord neighborhood brewhouse and look forward to continued growth of our partnership with the community of downtown Concord.”
With its convenient location, Red Hill is partnering with local restaurants to provide food to its patrons. “We currently keep menus in-house of the downtown Concord restaurants who will deliver to our taproom. We also frequently invite the same partners to bring their offerings in the taproom, acting as a food truck for our patrons. This allows our folks to taste new items from the local scene while sipping on a pint,” Abney explains. “Along with this partnership we allow guests to bring in whatever they would like to eat or snack on. We even had a family bring in a picnic basket of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches one Saturday afternoon. We call ourselves a BYOF (bring your own food) establishment.”
Red Hill Brewing Company is open Wednesday through Saturday; visit redhillbrewing.com for hours. The Maple-Cinnamon Porter, Hoppy Pale Ale, among others, are waiting on tap.
Twenty-Six Acres Brewing Company
Twenty-Six Acres opened in October 2016. Owned and operated by three Cabarrus County natives – Joel Padgett, Eric Troutman and Wes Ports – they were securing a location for their tap room/brewery when Cabarrus Magazine first spoke with them. A year later, an 8,700-square-foot space at West Wind Business Park (near Concord Regional Airport) is home.
So, where did the name come from? According to concordnc.gov, “Back in the late 1700s, it seems there was a disagreement between the German and Scots-Irish settlements in the area over exactly where the county seat of the newly-formed county of Cabarrus should be located. A compromise was eventually reached, and the new city was founded in 1796 on a 26-acre site. The city was named Concord, meaning ‘harmony,’ to reflect the spirit in which the issue was settled.”
Twenty-Six Acres started business with a two-barrel pilot system that gave way to a 15-barrel system. “We’ve got 20 to 25 different beers,” Padgett says. “Nine are produced on the 15-barrel system. The seasonals are produced on the two-barrel; we double batch them to about four.”
In the taproom, Twenty-Six Acres has found Corban Avenue honey blonde to be a favorite, saying people who are not typically craft beer drinkers come in and ask for it.
“We also produced a vanilla cream for the Queen City Brewers Festival (every February) named Unicorn Milk. It was a big hit,” Padgett says. “The citrusy beers are doing okay: Pineapple Coconut Wheat, Blood Orange Rye. With the darker beers, we have coffee versions. Then you get people that prefer liquor over beer. You can make beer with booziness. It’s the same malt. One’s just distilled, one’s brewed. Take the Viking Spider Double IPA (9.4 percent ABV).
“We have made changes to what our beers were going to be at the beginning. You can’t say, ‘I’m going to just make THIS beer.’ We’ve had about 60 to 70 percent acceptance. We get creative with the other 30 to 40 percent. When beer tourists make up more of our customer base, there will be more experimentation.”
He adds, “We want our beertenders to talk to our customers, ask them questions over time. The more we do that, the more we’ll learn what they’ll go for. People love it when they can find three or four new beers they like.”
With regard to the growing number of breweries and beer festivals, Padgett says, “There are so many beer festivals, it’s getting saturated. But the festivals are still full. This was our first Charlotte Oktoberfest and we got a great reception. We had some of the most fun beer drinkers.”
With a growing fan base comes the expansion to local restaurants. Applebee’s on Concord Parkway, Full Moon Oyster Bar, Joe’s Sports Bar and Sticky Fingers’ Concord Mills location, among others, now carry Twenty-Six Acres beers on tap. “The more people ask for us (at restaurants), the more phone calls we get (to put it on tap),” Padgett says.
The brewery has been successful with bringing in food trucks for its patrons and will continue with that through the winter months. A fall fundraiser is also in the works for Halloween. “We’ll invite people from area neighborhoods who don’t necessarily want to clean their bathrooms or kitchens the day after to bring their party here,” Padgett explains. “Before you know it, parties join together and we have one big party.”
With business going very well, Padgett sees Twenty-Six Acres as a destination. “Each environment is different, but people always like beer,” he says. The taproom is open seven days a week and is celebrating its first anniversary with a birthday party on November 11. For more information, visit 26acres.com.
Article by: Kim Cassell
Photos Courtesy: Michael A. Anderson Photography and Commoners Brewing Co.