Pintful: Mystery Brewing plans to keep innovating in second year

March 6, 2013 


John Frank.


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Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough broke the mold when it debuted a year ago with its seasonal-only craft beer lineup. And don’t expect anything less in the second year.

Founder and head brewer Erik Lars Myers plans to offer Mystery beer in seven-ounce bottles sold in four-packs later this year.

The miniature bottle is a rarity in the craft beer industry, where 22-ounce bombers and champagne bottles typically showcase a brewery’s special offerings. But the smaller size makes more sense for Mystery, which offers four different “flagship” beers each season.

Myers envisions offering four-packs of one beer and mixed packs with one of each seasonal beer, essentially a take-home tasting flight.

“This is going to sound funny as a brewery owner, but I don’t drink that much,” Myers explained last week as the brewery celebrated its one-year anniversary. “Twenty-two (ounce bottles) are really easy, but that’s a lot of beer. Sometimes when I’m sitting down and drinking a beer, I don’t want a ton of it.

“To me it’s about variety, and that fits our model really well,” he continued.

Another reason, Myers explained, is price point. He’s conscientious that Mystery’s select 22-ounce bottles and growlers cost more than most craft beers on the shelves.

“I want to try to make that accessible and small packaging is a way to do that,” he said. Myers said he is aiming for a $5 price point.

A year ago, Myers opened Mystery with great fanfare after writing a book on the state’s craft beer industry, “North Carolina Craft Beer & Breweries.” Even with all his research, Myers said his brewery’s first 12 months were “a year of rolling challenges.”

The major difficulty at the start was getting drinkers and the larger market to understand Mystery’s seasonal-only menu. Unlike most breweries that offer a handful of beers year-round, Mystery’s entire lineup rotates four times a year. A number of restaurants and bars just didn’t get the concept and made sales difficult, he said.

Looking back, he laughs about his first nine months self-distributing in his station wagon, “loaded down with kegs, scraping the fenders, the bumper hitting every time I went over a bump.”

Now signed with a distributor, he is proud of what Mystery accomplished. “I think going from zero to statewide for a brewery our size in under a year is actually quite an achievement,” he said.

In addition to the bottling line, going forward Myers plans to double the brewery’s fermenters and open a tap room at 230 Nash St. in Hillsborough this spring that will feature more experimental batches.

“I think we are continually making better and better beer,” he said.

What I’m drinking

An arcade game that dispenses beer? It’s all the advertisement I needed to get to Big Boss last week where “Beercade: The Last Barfighter” debuted.

The hand-built arcade game features players that resemble the characters in the brewery’s flagship beers – each equipped with a signature move. (Hell’s Belle spits fire and Bad Penny gives opponents a butt slap.)

It was designed as a side project by Adam Carroll, a designer, and Owen Tingle, an associate creative director, at the advertising firm McKinney, which represents Big Boss.

Set against a biker bar backdrop, the players battle in a best-of-three format.

The winner receives a beer dispensed from a tap attached to the front of the game where the coin slots normally are located.

The secret: The loser gets beer, too. On this night, it was Bad Penny Brown Ale, a delicious complement to any video game.

Contact John at 919-829-4698 or On Twitter: @ByJohnFrank.

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