More beer brewing in southwest Wake

Several breweries plot major moves

akenney@newsobserver.comJanuary 12, 2013 

The beer is going to flow like wine in southwestern Wake County.

The area’s two largest breweries, Aviator Brewing Co. and Carolina Brewing Co., are ramping up production and tapping into new markets.

Locals will also get a taste of some new brews in the near future. Hosanna Brewing plans to open a brewery and brewpub in Fuquay-Varina, while Burbs Brewing is working on its new home in downtown Holly Springs.

“You’ve got a large population, people coming in from all over, and a lot of people like craft beer,” said Geoff Lamb, owner of Big Boss Brewing Company in Raleigh, one of the Triangle’s best-established breweries.

Aviator takes off

Aviator owner Mark Doble has new plans for his downtown Fuquay-Varina smokehouse: He just bought the restaurant property for $640,000 so he can install a bigger smoker and renovate the decor.

“It’s the building part that’s fun – the growing and the building,” Doble said. Plus, he said, he doesn’t have to finance his company on credit cards anymore.

Simultaneously, a major expansion will put 12,000 square feet onto the main warehouse-style facility, more than doubling the space available for vats, tanks and coolers. Construction on the $500,000 project should start by March, Doble said.

The project, combined with new gear at the brewery, will allow the company to brew 40,000 barrels of beer a year, compared with the current 12,000 barrels, he said.

“That’s the theoretical limit,” Doble said. “We still have to go out and sell that beer.”

That’s why the company is planning to push its product beyond the bars and stores of North Carolina and South Carolina. New and near-future markets include Washington, D.C., southern Virginia, Miami and more of South Carolina.

Locally, Doble is also sketching plans for a pizza-beer joint and a bottle store, which would sell Aviator and other craft beers.

He’s not sure where he’d place the new eatery, but he knows one thing: He’s not hot on Holly Springs, the suburb next door to Aviator’s home base.

“A lot of the space is just strip mall, and I’m just not a huge fan of being in a strip mall,” Doble said. “It just doesn’t have a whole bunch of appeal.”

The Aviator SmokeHouse and the taproom anchor Fuquay-Varina’s downtown, where they’re touted as local success stories. The restaurant has hit its marks since opening in March 2011, Doble said.

Surprisingly, “a lot of those customers are unaware that we brew our own beer,” Doble added. He theorizes that he just chose the right food for the right market.

It may also be that he’s offering food and drink in a fast-growing area hungry for local culture.

Either way, Aviator’s not ready to say “when.”

“We’re not even close,” Doble said. “Ideally, I would like to build a new brewery – something around 100,000 square feet, with a bar/restaurant attached to the brewery, a big space. It’d be cool to have a small runway behind it, with a hangar, and some barley and hops fields.”

Carolina expands

Carolina Brewing Co. is pushing into new markets too. The company’s beer is now available in 30 North Carolina counties – a three-fold expansion in 2012 alone.

The Holly Springs company’s four partners are planning an expansion to markets across the state. But they put one caveat on their plans: They’re going to do it slowly, because they see overexpansion as a trap for brewers

“If you have too much territory and too much demand, then as soon as you start slipping, people start dropping you,” said Mark Heath, a partner in the brewery.

The 17-year-old brewery has intentionally limited its growth for the past decade.

“The sales have essentially been stagnant,” Heath said. But a partial change in ownership has brought the new direction.

Currently, the company can do just short of 4,000 barrels per year, but it plans within five years to reach 10,000 barrels.

In the short term, the company will install new equipment, allowing it to brew more kinds of beer simultaneously.

More brewing

Plans for smaller breweries are also rolling ahead in Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs.

The downtown Holly Springs venture is called Burbs Brewing, and its owners are currently renovating the former Fidelity Bank building at 100 N. Main St.

Mitch and Laurie Woodward bought the building from Fidelity for $225,000 in November, according to property records.

“We started demolishing the inside of the building,” Mitch Woodward said. “We’re trying to see how we can upfit the building and not spend the whole bank.”

He and his wife, who are Cary residents, hope to brew just 150 barrels per year.

Other small brewers are looking to the area too: Hosanna Brewing plans to open a brewpub at 2916 N. Main St. in Fuquay-Varina, about three miles north of downtown, according to the company’s website.

“Maybe we can make that southwest corner a beer destination” for Wake County, Woodward said.

Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary

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