Ever since December 15, 1874, the town of Matthews has been tied to the train tracks that travel through downtown. On that day, a train from the Carolina Central Railway Company made the inaugural stop at the Matthews Depot, as it passed from Wilmington to Rutherford.
This was a time of great change for all involved. Carolina Central Railway Company was soon swallowed into the Seaboard Air Line rail network. Even the town’s name changed: what we know as Matthews was once Fullwood, with the town adopting the namesake of the Depot (which was itself named after a Railway director).
While the train no longer stops, and the Depot houses the Matthews Chamber of Commerce, the name Seaboard now carries a different connotation: brewery.
Though buffered by a 90-car public parking lot, Seaboard Taproom & Wine Bar (213 N Trade Street) shakes whenever a train rumbles through town. They opened last summer pouring outside beer and wine, but March 31st saw in-house beers officially grace the 24 taplines.
Beers are all on the more-sessionable side for now, with nothing rising above 6% ABV. Expect standard styles such as witbier, red ale, and stout; though a New England IPA should be coming online soon, it’s followed swiftly by a kölsch. Connections to the railroad carry through to beer names as well: Silver Meteor IPA derives its name from a luxury line of train cars, and Tidewater Red is an homage to the Wilmington terminus of the Carolina Central Railway spur.
Seaboard didn’t just appropriate the rail line’s name; they’ve even secured rights to the company’s logo, which was retired in 1967. Their agreement allows them rights to put the logo on shirts and other merchandise, interestingly just not on toy trains or in a movie.
There’s a great view of the five-barrel brewhouse from the back patio, which is where brewer Adam Glover calls home. You may remember him from Salud Cerveceria; he’s been officially brewing for Seaboard since early April. He already has a few toys to play with (three five-barrel fermenters, one 10-barrel), with five more five-barrel fermenters on the way to accommodate summertime demand.
For those on a walking tour of downtown Matthews, stop by sister spots Carolina Beer Temple (2 minutes southeast) or Temple Mojo Growler Shop (1 minute southwest). All three carry Seaboard’s beers as part of their tap lineup (as does the Carolina Beer Temple in Ayrsley), though with a unique selection of guest taps: Carolina Beer Temple carries several Belgian-born beers, Mojo stocks craft from contiguous states, and Seaboard leans more on national and international lines.
Not in the mood for beer? There’s a large selection of wine for sale, perfect for fueling an evening on the large patio (capacity 200).
Come hungry for the house-made pizza as well; the wild mushroom offering from The Exchange Pizza Depot is well worth the drive out.
“With a coffee shop nearby, cigar shop next door, and all this beer, we’ve got your vices covered,” jokes Russ Conrad, general manager for Seaboard and its sister locations. There’s also a Pizza Peel across the street, and Moe’s Original BBQ sits catty-corner. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of recent changes in Matthews’ downtown, but the atmosphere remains welcoming.
“Nighttime here feels like an off season beach town,” says Adam Glover. “It’s got a very unique vibe.”
For now, Seaboard stands as Matthews’ only brewery; a proposed Matthews Brewing Co. hasn’t progressed beyond an announcement. Demand for house-made beer has steadily increased in recent weeks, but expect demand to skyrocket with warmer weather upon us. Summer nights call for a beer on the patio, so gather your friends and watch the trains rumble by.