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Mystery Brewing is closing in Hillsborough

Mystery Brewing is Hillsborough’s first microbrewery and will celebrate five years Saturday, Feb. 25, when it unveils its expanded seating and new menu.
Mystery Brewing is Hillsborough’s first microbrewery and will celebrate five years Saturday, Feb. 25, when it unveils its expanded seating and new menu.

Hillsborough’s Mystery Brewing will close at the end of the month.

The brewery announced the Oct. 31 closing on its Facebook page Thursday afternoon in a post signed by brewer and founder Erik Lars Myers.

“We’re enormously proud of the community that has grown up around Mystery, and we’ll miss being here every day for Hillsborough,” Myers said in the post.

Mystery Brewing is made up of a production brewery in a warehouse on the banks of the Eno River and a brewpub on South Nash Street in Hillsborough. Though the bar has been successful, Myers said, the production and distribution side of the business isn’t moving enough beer to be sustainable.

“We’ve had a hard time getting all the ends to meet,” Myers said in an interview. “The pub and restaurant are doing really, really well, but there’s a deficit in distribution. It just doesn’t make sense to keep kicking the can down the road.”

Myers said he told the brewery and pub’s staff about the impending closure at the beginning of October. Mystery closing its doors will put 26 people out of work, but Myers said his focus in the last days of the business is helping employees find new jobs in the local beer industry.

“I’ve tried to be straightforward with everyone from the beginning,” Myers said. “Everyone who’s been here has been seeing this path for a while; they’re not really surprised.”

Mystery opened in 2012 after a successful Kickstarter campaign raised $44,000. The brewery was influential in the rise of Triangle beer, and its tallboy cans could be found statewide in bottle shops and on grocery store shelves. At one time, Myers served as president of the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild.

In a beer world dominated by IPAs, Mystery largely focused elsewhere, developing a following for Belgian-style ales and saisons as well as stouts and dark English ales. Most of its beers are only around seasonally, with the pale ale (the Golden Hind) and the Belgian white ale (the Orbiter) available year-round.

Mystery’s beers collected state and national awards, including a gold for Orpheus in Belgian dubbel category in the 2016 U.S. Open Beer Championship.

But craft beer shifted from the time Mystery opened to today. Myers said most breweries were part of a restaurant brewpub operation just a few years ago, and he saw space for a small production craft brewery. Unfortunately, he said, others saw that too, and recently, the trend has swung back to breweries running taprooms, banking on beer tourism without the costly overhead of distribution.

“We made the best decisions we could with the information we had at the time,” Myers said. “If I could go back and be just a brewpub, that would be great. But I don’t think we would have survived that way.”

Mystery said the last weekend will be spent trying to go out the right way. He said Mystery will tap some cellared kegs he had been saving for special occasions.

“It’s a sad thing that’s happening right now, but I want to thank all the employees and people who have made it what it is,” Myers said. “They’re all going on in the local industry, and I hope people will continue to support them.”

Mystery’s closing comes within a day of Raleigh’s Oak & Dagger announcing it will close the bar side of its operations, but continue brewing beer elsewhere. Oak & Dagger will close its Seaboard Station pub on Sunday, Oct. 28.

Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson
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