Lynnwood Grill is a classic neighborhood sports bar. Or at least it was, until it started brewing beer about three years ago.
But respect and recognition weren’t automatic, since visitors to the bar would also see taps of domestic beers next to the in-house selections.
“I think that’s why we flew under the radar,” says Ted Dwyer, who owns the grill as well as Lynnwood Brewing Concern. “People thought the brewery was just an afterthought.”
And that’s if they even knew about it. Ted Gross, the founder of Bottle Revolution who owns its Lake Boone Trail location, knows about craft beer here in the Triangle. But he still remembers being surprised the first time someone offered him an IPA from the northwest Raleigh restaurant.
“I went, ‘Really? Lynnwood’s making beer?’” Gross said.
They were, and Gross liked it so much he’s now in charge of marketing for the brewery.
Gross wasn’t the only one taken by surprise.
“You think, ‘Oh they’re just a little brew pub, gastro pub kind of thing,’” said Antares Nicklow, co-owner of the Beerded Lady Bottle Shop in Garner. “And then all of sudden they’re knocking it out of the park and had to buy a second facility just to keep up.”
Lynnwood recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of that second location, a tap house on Whitaker Mill Road.
The brewery is still flying a bit under the radar locally, but in craft beer circles it’s becoming more famous. It’s far from the biggest or most famous brewery in Raleigh, but if awards are anything to be believed, it might just be one of the best in North Carolina. National bloggers have even started including it on lists of must-visit breweries in the Tar Heel state.
All the medals
Why the love? Every two years, the Great American Beer Festival holds contests for breweries all around the nation, giving out gold, silver and bronze medals in several dozen categories of beer.
Lynnwood made a small splash in 2014, and then this year it was the only brewery in North Carolina to win multiple gold medals. It won for its “Once You Go...” black IPA in the Black Ale category and its “Drop Bear” in the international-style Pale Ale category.
Gross said out-of-town tourism – mostly in-state but some from out-of-state – has ramped up since the awards were announced, even leading the tap house to open several hours earlier on Fridays because so many vacationers were showing up early. More people are also buying beer to go, so Dwyer ordered a truckload of cans to keep up with the demand.
The brewery’s most popular beer is its Hop On Top, a west coast IPA. Nicklow said he’s preferential to their Full Nelson imperial red ale – made with atypical New Zealand hops that make it stand out – but that he likes pretty much anything Lynnwood puts out with a lot of hops.
“They do some of the most top-notch IPAs in the area, I think,” he said.
Awards back that up. Lynnwood won those gold medals in black ale and pale ale at this year’s Great American Beer Festival, as well as a gold medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup for its Hop On Top IPA. The back of the bar holds more than a dozen other medals.
And for a brewery that has very little distribution in grocery stores, its beer is starting to fly off the shelves thanks to in-the-know bottle shop owners, like Nicklow. Last week, Lynnwood canned a batch of Hop On Top on a Wednesday and sold out before lunch on Monday.
So people are slowly but surely learning about the brewery, whether at the main restaurant off Glenwood Avenue, or the tap house closer to downtown.
The former warehouse the tap house is housed in is starting to become a little less oppressively industrial, too. A craft distillery, Pinetop, opened next door just a couple weeks ago. There are also two art galleries and a furniture store, all relatively new, and Lynnwood is revamping a large empty space into a room that can hold casks for barrel-aged beers as well as host private events.
But Dwyer says despite the awards, he doesn’t want the brewery to get in over its head by adding too much capacity too quickly. So don’t hold your breath for Lynnwood to become widely available in local grocery stores just yet. But if that’s the strategy behind winning so many awards, who can blame him?
“It’s quality first, before growth,” Dwyer said.
Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran