Pintful

Pintful: As one of Raleigh's newest craft breweries, Gizmo Brew Works picks up where Roth left off

jfrank@newsobserver.comJuly 9, 2013 

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    5 p.m. July 19 at Village Draft House, 428 Daniels St., Raleigh

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Even as one of the newest microbreweries in the area, Gizmo Brew Works feels familiar.

It is the reincarnation of Roth Brewing Company – located in the same back corner of a northwestern Raleigh industrial park and brewing the same staple beers, such as Raleigh Red and Dark Construct.

The former owners, brothers Ryan and Eric Roth, sold the 2 1/2-year-old brewery to six Roth Brewing loyalists Jan. 1, and the new team took the brewing paddle under the Gizmo name in April.

But for all the similarities, Bryan Williams, one of the new owners, said the brewery is going its own direction. The biggest difference – especially for those who knew Roth Brewing’s credo – is sitting in the fermenting tank right now: an India Pale Ale.

The popular style known as IPA is marked by the pleasingly bitter taste from a load of hops used in the brewing process. It attracts a loyal following in the craft beer world, where the most dedicated disciples are known as hop-heads.

“They were not fans of IPAs,” Williams, 31, said in a recent interview. “We were the IPA fans.”

“I wish we brewed more bitter beers,” added Matt Santelli, 33, another of the new owners.

With its contrarian image, Roth Brewing shunned the IPA, focusing on more malt-flavored beers and creative combinations, such as a cinnamon porter and chocolate mint stout.

Gizmo is setting a different course. “We are going to be focusing on getting back to basics and making good beer that doesn’t have to be crazy to make you want to drink it,” Williams said.

The new IPA recipe is guided by Gizmo’s new head brewer, Tyler Cox, who most recently worked at Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem. It’s one of a few new beers that will debut in coming months, along with tweaked versions of the original Roth offerings.

Right now, Gizmo is limited by its size. It can’t add different beers because “our demand is so high for our core beers that we are just trying to keep up,” Williams said.

The current brewing capacity is two barrels, or four kegs of beer per batch, making Gizmo the smallest production brewery in the state, Williams said.

But an expansion is in the works. A new seven-barrel brew system is expected to come online in early 2014, setting the stage for more growth.

Other recent changes include an expanded tap room and new distribution focus. Gizmo beer is now available at more than 30 craft beer destinations in the Triangle. “Our sales are going up and up and up,” Williams said, noting the brewery started at 15 accounts six weeks ago. “And the tap room is booming.”

From an industry standpoint, Gizmo’s model is a hybrid. It is part production brewery, which means it’s a facility that makes beer to sell off-premise, and part neighborhood taproom. So in local terms, part Lonerider Brewing, a more established brewery with a Southeast regional distribution network located 2 miles down the road, and part Trophy Brewing, the small operation in downtown Raleigh with a corner pub feel.

“We are able to take our weakness and make it a strength,” Williams said of Gizmo’s size. “Our batches are brewed small, which means we can do things that other breweries can’t do. … I think the great thing about the brewing industry is there is no right way to do things.”

Even as the Gizmo growlers hit local shelves, the taproom – open Thursday through Saturday – remains half the brewery’s sales, attracting craft beer fans from the sprawling neighborhoods nearby along Interstate 540. This is another contrast with Roth, Williams said, which had a younger clientele.

“We are a neighborhood brewery,” he continued. “We are not going to all of North Carolina; we are not necessarily going throughout the whole Triangle. … We wouldn’t be successful if it weren’t for the people who live very close to us.”

What I’m tasting

Being familiar with Roth’s Raleigh Red, an amber ale, and Dark Construct, a formidable stout, I opted to try a growler of Gizmo’s summer seasonal, Bee Keeper Honey Wheat. Williams said the beer is named for one of the new owners who is a beekeeper.

The beer’s hazy straw color may be intimidating for those who don’t like unfiltered beers, but its appearance belies a light, smooth taste, accented by the orange blossom honey. It’s easy to sip. 5.5 percent ABV. Growlers about $10. Info:.

Contact John at 919-829-4698 or jfrank@newsobserver.com. On Twitter @ByJohnFrank.

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