Spend much time at Tasty Beverage Co. in Raleigh, and you’re bound to hear the word “chombers.”
The made-up word that can be used as a substitute for “cheers” or simply as a way to express happiness was first coined by the store before it opened in 2011. It has gradually worked its way into the bottle shop’s marketing, but is perhaps most synonymous with the shop’s series of anniversary beers.
Tasty Beverage Co. is just one of a growing number of bottle shops collaborating with breweries. Their first collaboration beer, Chombers One, was brewed with Fullsteam Brewery in Durham. The fifth beer in the series, a saison brewed with Fonta Flora Brewery in Morganton, will be released on draft on Aug. 22 and in bottles on Aug. 27. Früt Lüps is brewed with sassafras leaves and lemon and lime zest, and will no doubt soon have people saying “chombers.”
For owner Johnny Belflower, the Chombers series allows the shop to do something different with their friends in the industry.
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“It’s just nice to work with our suppliers in a way that’s not just sales,” said Belflower. “That’s kind of my favorite thing about it.”
The same is true for Chris Riley, beer manager at Peabody’s Wine and Beer Merchants in Boone. In 2011 the bottle shop introduced the first in its Blendiculous line of beers, a blend of several vintages of Olde Hickory Brewery’s Irish Walker barleywine (a style of beer) that had all spent time in bourbon barrels. Unlike Tasty Beverage’s Chombers line, the Blendiculous beers aren’t released with any regularity.
“The deal with Blendiculous is that we don’t rush it,” said Riley. “When it’s ready, it’s ready. We had almost a two-year lapse between two and three. We just weren’t happy with the barrels that were coming in. The line itself has gotten a lot of acclaim, and we don’t want to mess that up.”
While Riley is quick to note that they rely heavily on the breweries for the production of the beer, Peabody’s helps with the recipe creation and sources all of the barrels. Those barrels are getting harder to find as more breweries add barrel-aged offerings, and Peabody’s has adjusted by looking for barrels from more exclusive distilleries or wineries that might not often sell their barrels to breweries.
“We’re going to pick high-end, very fun barrels that are going to be accentuated in the beer,” he said. “With that series, the barrel is as important as what’s going into the beer.”
The fourth in the Blendiculous line is Blendy Bar, another collaboration with Olde Hickory that earns its candy bar-inspired name with coconut, cocoa and vanilla. For the last two years, the beer has aged in a variety of barrels, including some from High West Distillery. Blendy Bar, as well as Manhattan, the shop’s first release in a new cocktail series of beers, will be released at Peabody’s on Sept. 24.
These two bottle shops are not alone. Bottle Revolution, which now has three locations in the Raleigh area, has collaborated with breweries like Deep River Brewing Co., Evil Twin Brewing, Finch’s Beer Co. and Haw River Farmhouse Ales. To commemorate its 10th anniversary, Brawley’s Beverage in Charlotte partnered with New Belgium and NoDa Brewing Co. to create Funkaversary, a blended sour. Charlotte’s Salud Beer Shop took things one step further and added a nanobrewery earlier this year, and the founder of Carolina Beer Temple in Matthews is opening a brewery down the street inside the Seaboard Taproom and Wine Bar.
Beer Study in Chapel Hill is taking its collaboration with a brewery further than most. The bottle shop has collaborated in the past with Burial Beer Co. for Book of the Dead Belgian Stout, and partnered with Haw River Farmhouse Ales, Bluejacket and Starpoint Brewing on Brah’klava, a “baklava-inspired Belgian Golden Strong.” It also partnered with Starpoint, which is located just down the road from the shop in Carborro, on that brewery’s first Whiskeytown beer.
Beer Study also recently announced plans to open a bottle shop in Durham, with Starpoint running a seven-barrel brewhouse in the back that should supply about a quarter of the shop’s 40 taps.
“Originally the plan was to pretty much open (Chapel Hill’s) Graham Street in Durham, in one location,” said Beer Study founder JD Schlick. While the new space didn’t have enough room to accommodate their neighbors at Al’s Burger Shack, Schlick does plan to bring in some arcades and pinball machines from The Baxter in Chapel Hill. Because what would a new bottle shop be without a little collaboration?
Daniel Hartis is the digital manager at All About Beer Magazine in Durham and author of “Beer Lover’s The Carolinas” and “Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing in the Queen City.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @DanielHartis.