I’m convinced God created coconuts so that Catawba Brewing could brew the King Coconut Porter, so I was more than a little bit excited when I learned the brewery was coming to Charlotte.
Catawba Brewing, which has their sights set on a March 2017 opening, will set up shop in the Belmont neighborhood, occupying 10,000 square feet in the same building as Advent Coworking and Codescape (933 Louse Ave.). The Charlotte facility will be in addition to Catawba Brewing’s main production brewery in Morganton and its two Asheville locations.
“We’ll bring a little of what you know from us in the mountains, which tends to focus on the outdoors, to Charlotte,” said Billy Pyatt, who, along with his wife Jetta Pyatt and brother Scott Pyatt, opened Catawba Brewing in 1999. “Only here, we’ll tie in our new outdoors with views of the city from our taproom and patio.”
The Pyatts also have a few surprises planned.
Catawba Brewing is by no means new to Charlotte.
In fact, the 17-year-old brewery traces its roots back to the Queen City, where Jetta traveled to buy Billy’s first homebrew kit as a present back in the mid-1990s (think pre-Amazon) from Alternative Beverage. “There wouldn’t be a Catawba if there wasn’t an Alternative Beverage,” said Billy.
A few years later, that hobby grew into a small business.
“When we first started selling kegs, I remember bars asking if it was legal for us to brew and sell them beer,” said Billy. Some of those early accounts were right here in Charlotte where locals have been enjoying Catawba Brewing beers almost since the brewery’s inception in 1999.
Catawba Brewing grew the old fashioned way – through hard work and the occasional bank loan. Catawba Brewing produced 1,000 barrels in 2012 and looks to close out 2016 at 11,000 barrels.
That growth has led Catawba Brewing back to Charlotte, where Catawba aims to be an active member of a growing beer scene.
“The Fords (of NoDa Brewing), Brad Shell (of Unknown Brewing) – these are our friends. I want to help them continue to make Charlotte a great beer city,” said Billy.
Catawba Brewing plans to do that by creating a brewery that blends some of the boutique aspects found at their Asheville location with some of the production and distribution aspects found in Morganton. Six thousand square feet of their new space will be dedicated to the tap room while 4,000 square feet will house the 10-barrel brew system they’re moving down from Morganton.
The system will allow Catawba Brewing to not only brew their core beers (think freshly-brewed White Zombie) but also experimental and small batch beers – including a barrel program.
The difference between Charlotte and Asheville is that the size of Charlotte will allow more volume and frequency here,” said Billy. Translation: That one-off you so loved will stay on tap longer. There’s also a chance it could end up in a bomber, as the brewery will house a 22-ounce bottle line.
As for the tasting room, Catawba Brewing plans to draw the customer into the brewing process in a way that Billy claims beer fans have never seen before. Not only will customers have a glimpse into the brew house from the main bar, which will host 30 taps, but they will also have a chance for a very hands-on brewing experience. I asked for details, but Billy is holding tight to his surprise.
That main bar will be one of two. The second bar – the Skyline Bar – will be located in the corner of the taproom closest to the Uptown views. It will be surrounded in glass and offer another 20-30 taps. If you’re doing that math, that’s somewhere between 50-60 taps.
The brewery will also have a space for private events that also enjoys views of Uptown. All told, the brewery plans to hire roughly 20-25 employees.
When asked if Charlotte was one of many satellite breweries that Catawba Brewing plans to open, Billy responded with a sly look on his face. “We have to decide what we want to be. My wife says she would like to just operate and not invest for a while. We’ll see if I can do that.”
Photos: Bryan Richards; Renderings courtesy of D3 Studio