Pintful: Expert sees big future for NC craft beer

jfrank@newsobserver.comMay 7, 2013 

  • What’s On Tap Grand Opening Party at Steel String in Carrboro

    6-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday at the brewery

    Steel String Craft Brewery officially opens Wednesday, but it will celebrate this weekend with two days of craft beer, music and food. The parties require $25 tickets. The brewery’s regular hours: noon-2 a.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-10 p.m. Sunday. Info:

    Olde Hickory Tap Takeover

    Friday, Village Draft House in Raleigh

    A special cask of the Hickory craft brewery’s acclaimed Death By Hops, with added Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand, is the featured beer. Others from the eclectic brew pub’s lineup on tap, too.

    Triad Craft Beer Week

    Through Saturday

    Greensboro and Winston-Salem are showing off their craft beers this week with a variety of events. On Saturday, City Beverage in Winston-Salem will offer a cask of Liberty Steakhouse, big winners in the recent Carolinas beer competition. Check other Triad breweries for more events.


Wearing a floral print shirt with a camera slung around his neck, Charlie Papazian wandered through the throngs of craft beer enthusiasts in North Carolina, mostly unaware that others were staring.

Few people in the beer world are more recognizable than the man with the easy grin and salt and pepper beard. He looks a bit like the “most interesting man in the world” character from the Dos Equis commercials. And he is a star in a mostly anonymous industry.

But Papazian – author of the landmark “Complete Joy of Homebrewing,” founder of the all-important Great American Beer Festival and president of the Brewers Association – is one of the most unassuming people you’ll ever meet.

I ran into him at the Hickory Hops Brew Festival a month ago. Papazian takes regular beer journeys, and the festival occurred in the middle of his trip through the Southeast to visit breweries from Virginia to South Carolina.

Between interruptions from fans, we talked about the state of the beer industry and how North Carolina fits into the national picture.

Papazian thinks North Carolina is just on the cusp of the craft beer explosion. “People think things are really blowing up right now,” he said. “Five years from now, they are not going to know what hit them. They better enjoy the kind of relatively slow growth right now.”

Papazian leads the country’s largest organization of brewers, one he helped create more than three decades ago, so he surveys the scene from a broad perspective. By 2017, craft beer consumption is expected to easily reach 10 percent of the entire beer market, he said.

“Places like North Carolina, Virginia and the Southeastern states are kind of the tail end of what’s happened in Colorado and California and Oregon and Washington,” he said. “It will happen here. Those markets are 15 to 30 percent craft beer. So whether it will get to that much (in North Carolina), I don’t know.

“If people know there is something interesting about beer, they might continue to enjoy their light lagers, but maybe 15 percent of the beer they buy will be something other than that. That’s light years different than what it is now.”

The growth is so fast – one expert I heard recently used the term “beer shortage” – that it seems the bubble will burst. Papazian isn’t worried. “At some point, it can’t continue to grow at the current growth rate, but that’s beyond the horizon,” he said. “There is a lot more room.”

More Mystery ahead

Mystery Brewing opened its long-awaited tap room last week in west Hillsborough.

The Public House, as founder Erik Lars Myers put it, “will serve as the main public face of Mystery and carry every beer we produce.” It also will serve other craft beers from around the world, a testament to Myers’ refined tastes.

For months, the mostly unadorned warehouse brewery served as the home for Mystery beer tastings. But the new confines are much more comfy and more likely to draw a lingering crowd. The tap room doesn’t have a full kitchen, but bar snacks are available and Hillsborough BBQ Company is next door.

Myers hopes to show movies on the outdoor patio and host live music acts. “There’s a lot more to Mystery than just great beer, and this public house gives us the opportunity to show all of those things off,” he told me by email.

It is open 4 p.m.-midnight weekdays and noon-midnight Saturday and Sunday.

The other big news from Mystery: It’s going primetime. The seasonal-only brewery is a contestant on a new CNBC show called “Crowd Rules,” in which emerging businesses compete to win $50,000. The show debuts Tuesday, and Mystery Brewing will compete in the second week, May 21, against two other businesses.

Myers can’t talk much about the show at this point, except to say the experience was “crazy.”

What I’m drinking

A new offering from the West Coast recently hit Triangle beer shops. No-Li Brewhouse touts its Spokane, Wash., roots where its ingredients derive. The name is pronounced “no-lie” and has an interesting story behind it.

Read about it at the company’s website – – while drinking a 22-ounce bomber of Jet Star Imperial IPA. It’s full of the crisp, clean Northwest hoppiness the region is known for producing.

Stats: 90 IBU; 8.1 percent ABV; about $10.

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

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