Even if you don't like beer, Town Brewing hopes to help you discover your palate.
Operations manager Heather Wendrow and head brewer Brian Quinn are focused on educating the staff on beer styles and flavors to help those who come through the doors find a beer that they didn't know they liked.
"When someone comes in here, we want our staff to be able to have a conversation with you and see what kind of flavors you like," Wendrow said. "So you might not be into beer or know what you like yet, but going off of what you would say, that's when we would start to approach it."
Quinn agreed, stating that it can be intimidating for someone new to the craft beer scene to find something that they like other than typical mainstream pilsners.
"There's a lot in craft beer. It's a lot for somebody who's new," he said. "But [it's helpful] if you have somebody there that has the knowledge and has the experience that can help to guide you down the path of finding something that's for you."
Through the Cicerone Certification Program, bartenders and servers will complete the first level of certification, a comprehensive overview on proper serving glassware, ABV, color and flavor of different brew styles. This will equip them to not only make thoughtful suggestions for those new to the beer scene, but also have informed conversations with the "beer nerds" of the community.
Town Brewing, which opens its doors to the public on September 28, followed by a blow-out grand opening bash on October 13, is also focused on being the neighborhood hangout in the FreeMoreWest area. The large and open space of the taproom, which includes a couple of couches and plenty of breathing room, is decorated less in an industrial-warehouse style and more like a cozy living room with warm wood accents and deep cerulean chair rail panel moulding.
- Heather Wendrow (left) and Brian Quinn in front of the tanks in the production room of Town Brewing. (Photo by Courtney Mihocik)
"We definitely want to be that neighborhood spot, we really want to have a lot of regulars. We will be family-friendly," Quinn said. "Obviously we want to focus on the beer, we're gonna have some great beer, but beyond that we want to make an experience that pretty much anyone could enjoy ... Everybody in the community, not just the beer drinkers and the beer nerds of the community."
This includes having housemade sodas and root beer on tap for underaged guests to enjoy, and Allen West, one of four Town Brewing owners, emphasized that the brewery will be a welcome spot not just for those looking for a beer, but those looking for a good time.
"We want to have people come have fun during the day, bring their family, play bocce ball, hang out outside," West said. "That's all part of the experience we want to build in. Once we finish our patio, we think it's really gonna be something special for this area and for Charlotte."
The focus on community is not just to bring customers in the door, but also for philanthropic purposes. The grand opening in October will have a philanthropic focus, although owners and organizers won't yet reveal which organization they'll partner with.
What can be revealed about the grand opening, however, is the types of beer Town Brewing plans to serve. For October 13, Quinn landed on a champagne-esque, spritzy and high-gravity Belgian-style beer with American dry hops for a dry, champagne-like finish.
He said he has a long list of styles that he's ready to roll out and each beer will be crafted to the highest quality.
He described a Citra- and Mosaic-hopped IPA, that he's sure will be a crowd pleaser, as the style is one of the most popular in local breweries as of late.
- Brian Quinn pours the yet-to-be-named IPA from the tank. (Photo by Courtney Mihocik)
On the other hand, Quinn is also in the process of brewing a Belgian table beer that will include chamomile, grapefruit, lemon peel and some grains of paradise. Although it's still warm out, Quinn said he also has a porter lined up, created with local malt and coffee from just down the road at Enderly Coffee Company.
While they don't have any flagship beers picked out, Quinn said that they will let the community decide.
"My thinking is that I want to, early on, brew a pretty large variety and really explore the full spectrum of flavors and styles that are out there," he said about his plans for a core brew lineup. "And then just see what resonates with the consumer, then really honing in on a few that are going to be our mainstays."
The team hasn't settled on names for any of their brews yet, but could only say that some of them would be a play on words of the Queen City's history.
"We definitely want to have fun with a lot of the names, some of them will play off of Charlotte and Charlotte history," Quinn said. "But a lot of them will be ones that we find particularly amusing on any given week."
History is important to the whole operation, as the owners of the brewery named the it after the Queen City's original designation: Charlotte Town.
Along with West, co-owners George Sistrunk, Ric Morton and Mark Kutny are four homebrewing buddies that used to get together on the weekend to brew and drink beer.
Little by little, they increased their homebrewing operation to make it more commercial-level. One thing led to another, and they found themselves increasing from small-scale production to a 15-barrel system.
- Brian Quinn (left) and Heather Wendrow behind the new bar in the taproom. (Photo by Courtney Mihocik)
According to West, the group originally wanted a small and cheap warehouse in which to settle their operation, but after almost a decade of looking for the right spot, they found their location in the FreeMoreWest neighborhood. And they hope to add something to the growing area.
"We want to be part of the west side community, Wesley Heights and FreeMoreWest, the district there, we want to be part of that," West said. "And that really informs everything that we do, including what the beer selection is."
To West and the rest of the owners, that means having a diverse beer selection in which everyone can find something that they like.
Not wanting to quit their day jobs, the four decided to hire someone with professional brewing experience to produce the diverse beer program, and additional staff to handle day-to-day operations, but they still had their hands in the entire process of construction, design and staffing.
And it seems that Wendrow and Quinn were perfect additions to the team. Quinn has professional training in beer production with Siebel Institute and Doemens Academy in Munich, along with experience working in breweries stateside.
- The unfinished patio portion of Town Brewing. (Photo by Courtney Mihocik)
Wendrow, who moved to Charlotte the previous year, was at Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware before she met Quinn in Charlotte. He was riding down the sidewalk on a scooter, wearing a retro Dogfish Head T-shirt when Quinn drove by and noticed the rarity of his shirt. She stopped and flagged him down, the two exchanged information and she was pulled on board.
For Wendrow, seeing everything come together is exciting, and she — along with Quinn — believe their location and atmosphere will draw crowds throughout the whole year. A fire pit, games and cushy leather couches round out the aspect that tie into the comfortable and inviting ambience.
"I feel like our atmosphere and our location is so key for us. It's not even done yet but our outside and our inside, it's comfy, it's cozy. The outside piece when it's all done is gonna be awesome for any time of year. We're gonna put a fire pit out there; it's gonna be a place to come and hang out with whoever you're with," she said. "I look at it, and I think I would come here in a heartbeat even if I didn't work here."
They hope that the community helps make the cozy taproom a go-to hangout. And if someone discovers a new love for beer, all the better.