By Taylor S. Rousseau
“Craft beer has personality – unlike big name beers it’s made with more care and more focus on taste,” said Tim Walker, part owner of downtown Winston-Salem’s newest local brewery, Small Batch Beer Company set to open in early November and located in the former Kopper Kitchen on the corner of Fifth and Trade.
Within the past few months Winston-Salem has become home to two new local breweries. Small Batch Beer Company and Hoots Roller Bar have joined long-standing
Foothills Brewing Company in creating a growing trend of microbreweries in Winston-Salem.
Craft brewing, or microbrewing, has become widely popular over the past 30 years and its presence has done much to spur economic growth in cities across the U.S. Craft beer trade group, Brewers Association, reported the number of craft breweries in the U.S. since 1980 has since catapulted from 92 to 2,483 as of June 2013.
Eric Weyer, a Winston-Salem native, former member of band Codeseven, and current part owner of the recently opened Hoots Roller Bar, located on Manly Street just off of Northwest Boulevard on the West End, explained why the recent trend is just what the city needs.
“I was born in Winston and spent a large part of my twenties on tour traveling the states, and I can honestly say Winston-Salem is the best city in America,” said Weyer with a smile. “The people who live here want to live here – they shouldn’t have to drive out to Greensboro or High Point for a decent beer.”
With three separate breweries within and just outside of the downtown district, both Weyer and Walker were sure to note that the diverse business models of each brewery will allow for the city to support all three.
“Brewing beer is an extremely scientific process, for big barrel batches maintaining consistency is hard -one degree off can change the quality and the taste of the blend, but we embrace the change,” said Walker of Small Batch.
Embracing the change is where the local part of ‘local brewery’ comes into play. Craft brewing, Walker explained, isn’t the process by which a beer is made, but the quality put into the limited amount of beer that is produced. Unlike mass marketed, large scale corporate breweries, craft breweries are independently owned and produce less beer with more emphasis on flavor.
The Small Batch brewing model is done on a single batch barrel system; because no two batches are the same, Walker and his Small Batch partners, Ryan Blaine and Cliff Etchason, use the variety to their advantage, experimenting with seasonal tastes and blends offered at the Winston-Salem Farmer’s Market. On average, Walker said, Small Batch hopes to offer over 60 specialty beers a year, maintaining the brewery’s eight signature in-house brews on tap.
The Hoots model is different. Performing on a ten batch barrel system, Weyer and his partners, Eric Swain and Ralph Pritts, are hoping to brew and distribute a few more consistent blends of beer, ultimately creating a signature Winston-Salem Lager – what Weyer describes as a working man’s beer.
John Mark a patron of the longest standing of the three breweries, Foothills, raised a dark beer mug full of coffee-infused People’s Porter to display his high hopes for the success of the three breweries.
“For a small Southern city, three decent breweries is pretty good,” said Mark
when asked for his reaction of the emerging microbrewery trend. “Winston, it’s such a great place, and it’s ready for the growth.”