Earlier this month beneath the towering Corinthian columns in the majestic National Building Museum, titans of the American craft-beer world showcased artisan creations fit for one of the industry’s swankiest events.
In the middle of it all, surrounded by well-dressed beer connoisseurs, Dino Radosta and Harmony VanGundy shared the story of White Street Brewing’s small-batch beer made in sleepy Wake Forest.
“It gave us a chance to rub elbows with some of the big dogs in the business,” said VanGundy, the sales director, who poured at the event with Radosta, the owner. For those who didn’t know the brewery, VanGundy added, “it gave us an opportunity to share what we are doing here in Wake Forest and bring some light to North Carolina.”
As the only North Carolina brewery at SAVOR, the industry’s beer prom, White Street served as a fitting representative for the state’s craft beer scene: emerging but gaining stature, both in size and recognition.
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White Street boom
Like so many breweries in the state, White Street is booming right now, growing double in sales every month since January and aiming for 2,000 barrels this year – a big leap from the 700 barrels in 2013. (A barrel is 31 gallons.)
More growth is expected as the brewery adds a production facility with a 9,000 barrel capacity later this year in Youngsville that will allow it to start distributing 12-ounce bottles of its three flagship beers.
The expansion comes after White Street won a gold medal in the 2014 World Beer Cup, a premier competition, for its light-bodied and delicately flavored Kolsch. A Bon Appetit magazine story by the well-known beer writer Joshua M. Bernstein named White Street one of 10 new breweries in the nation to watch.
The SAVOR elite
Only 76 breweries from across the nation were selected to attend SAVOR on May 9 and 10. Set in a grand venue with beer logos lighting the columns, men in jackets and women in dresses, the event is unlike any other with crowds limited (4,000 over two nights) so that lines are essentially nonexistent and the brewers can mingle with the fans.
The Brewer’s Association annual event is a beacon for uber-enthusiasts, pairing rare and hard-to-find offerings with food prepared to match the beers. White Street’s Scotch Ale came with a pork belly brioche and its Hoptimist IPA with a brie tartlet.
Both beers won new fans. “I think it’s the best one we’ve had here tonight,” said Kerry Carruthers, a 44-year-old who lives in northern Virginia, of White Street’s beers. “I appreciate that they let the beer speak for them, not the awards.”
VanGundy said the experience is much different than typical beer festivals.
“It's very upscale for a beer festival,” she said. “I think the allure for us is being able to be a part of something with some of the most famous breweries in the country.”
What I’m tasting
A brief hiatus to cover the May political primaries left me needing a beer. And it’s the perfect season for one best served ice cold, such as White Street’s Kolsch.
Clean and crisp like a lager, the German-style beer is nuanced with a slight fruity aroma and touches of pear in the taste.
It’s a flavorful beer for longtime craft fans and newcomers migrating from light American beers. Find it at local bars or get a growler at the brewery. Info: whitestreetbrewing.com.