If there’s one word Dustin Gatliff has said and heard a lot over the past month, it’s “thanks.”
“I thank them for coming in, and they’re like, ‘No, thank you for doing this!,’” said Gatliff of his patrons. “They just didn’t have any options before.”
They’re grateful because Gatliff and his fiancé, Elise Porter, opened Southern Range Craft Beer & BBQ in May. It’s Monroe’s first true craft beer bar, and it looks a lot different than it did when I first met Gatliff last December.
At that time furniture from Gatliff’s refinishing business filled the white brick building at 151 S. Stewart St., but plans were to bring in a two-barrel brewery acquired from Rivermen Brewing Co. That’s still in the cards, but while Gatliff wrestles with the requisite TTB paperwork he’s decided to bring a beer bar to a town sorely in need of one.
Being the first to bring craft beer to Monroe means he’s also had the chance to meet two types of patrons over the last month: those familiar with craft beers, and those approaching them for the first time.
“Some of them are really into craft beer, and others just want a cool place to hangout,” said Gatliff.
For those who might be new to craft beer, Gatliff and Porter make sure to keep plenty of accessible styles (think pilsners and wheat beers) on among the bar’s 16 taps. Southern Range also offers flights of four for $8, which have proven popular in the bar’s short history.
When I visited there were also many choices that would appeal to beer geeks, including several IPAs and Olde Hickory’s Imperial Stout served from the nitro tap. Usually 60-70 percent of the beers on tap are from North Carolina.
Getting more limited beers will come in time as they build relationships with distributors. Being so far south of Charlotte, Gatliff has had trouble getting beers from the local breweries that self-distribute their beers (which is the vast majority of them) — but he’s trying to get accounts started with many of them so that he’s able to make a beer run to Charlotte and back worthwhile.
As for his patrons, they’re just thankful they don’t have to make a similar trip to grab a beer.
In addition to the beer, they can also fill their bellies with barbecue (which is decidedly less difficult to find in Monroe). The bar works with a local mom-and-pop place for their barbecue platters and “BBQ sundaes,” which is a cup layered with barbecue, baked beans, mac and cheese, coleslaw and barbecue sauce. (It’s just as delicious as it sounds.)
Soon they will have someone out on Saturdays smoking barbecue outside, where the bar has a number of small tables and umbrellas.
Eventually, Gatliff and Porter hope to brew their own beer and supply 4-6 of the bar’s taps with their own offerings. But for now you can visit the bar for beers on premises or to grab a 64-ounce growler of beer to go. There’s a small selection of bottles and cans, and that too will grow.
The bar is open from 3-10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; noon to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and closed on Sunday and Monday.
Photos: Daniel Hartis