Carolina Brewery, one of the Triangle's first craft breweries, is celebrating its 22nd anniversary Feb. 9. Customers can park in the Carolina Brewery's own parking lot off Rosemary Street and park on the street — the brewery is implementing a new program to make street-side parking easier. Jason Gilbert, the general manager of Carolina Brewery, and Jon Connolly, director of brewing operations, sat down with The Daily Tar Heel's 1893 Brand Studio to introduce us to craft beer and
the lively West Franklin Street night scene.
Daily Tar Heel: Why drink craft beer instead of some other beer?
Jason Gilbert: The best part about our beer is that it’s the freshest
you’re going to get. You can see our fermenting tanks right here, and then it’s
direct to our storage tanks downstairs. From there to your glass, the beer is
guaranteed fresh at all times.
Jon Connolly: Craft beers are better because generally you have more options for flavor. With beers, there’s a wide variety of different beer styles, so now we have the option of instead of just one style of lager beer, now we can choose from a variety of ales and lagers of different colors, of different strengths, and of different ingredients.
DTH: How do you decide what’s on tap?
JG: It’s basically an open idea amongst our brewers. Jon
Connolly has regular brewer’s meetings and that’s where the magic begins. After
deep discussion and approval from Robert Poitras, our owner, and Jon, a plan is
hatched. Two beers that are currently slated for release in the next month are the Chapel Hill 22nd
Anniversary Cream Ale followed by a Honey Brown Ale. The honey brown is
actually very unique in that we use locally sourced honey in the recipe.
DTH: Which drinks would you recommend to someone new to craft beer versus a craft beer connoisseur?
JG: Regardless of your go-to beer, I always suggest to people
that are new to craft beer to start with our Sky Blue Golden Ale. It’s far and
away our most popular beer. Sky Blue is a Kolsch style ale that is light, crisp
and easy to drink. From there, you can get as adventurous as you like. My
personal favorite is the Pamlico Pale Ale.
DTH: Could you explain how your craft beer is brewed?
JC: We have all the ingredients available to us from all over the world so that enables us to make styles that are similar to beers produced all over the world. On an interesting note to this, we have a beer that we make right now that we’ve actually used locally made malts from a malting company in Durham. So we can use ingredients from all over the world, including local. We’re also using local honey as well as an ingredient.
DTH: What do hops (flowers used to give beer flavor) do to change the flavor of the beer?
JG: Hops are added for aroma and flavor. Without them, most beer
would be very sweet and dull. When you take that first whiff of one of our
beers, the smell is courtesy of the hops. There’s a vast variety of hops so our
brewers can create a great variety of flavors.
DTH: Any tips on how to enjoy craft beer?
JC: With the variety of beer styles, you can pair food with beer in different ways, so you can actually match flavors. Let’s say you’re going to have spicy food, you could use a hoppier beer because hops are sort of the spice that are in beer. So basically you could match the strength of the beer with the strength of the food.
DTH: How do you get
to Carolina Brewery?
JG: We located right on West Franklin so access is easy. Parking
however can be difficult. We do have free brewery parking behind our building
but we always need more. With that being the case, we looked to The Downtown
Chapel Hill Partnership for help in regards to parking in the area. They have
been very helpful. We also just began a program with Park Mobile. We have
basically purchased time on parking meters directly in front of and across from
our brewery. Our managers hand out these cards, which are worth one free hour
of parking, to our guests with the understanding they can use it the next time
they dine with us.
DTH: What makes
Carolina Brewery different from every other place on Franklin Street?
JG: History of course. We have a 3rd generation
Tarheel as owner/operator. We’ve been a staple on Franklin Street for 22 years so
we know we’ve been doing something right. We’ve regularly been the place to be
for all of UNC sports as we are the only establishment that will take all of
our guests to and from all UNC football and basketball games via our Sky Blue
Bus. With these features and our commitment to provide fresh from scratch food,
amazing fresh beer and over the top service, we can easily make it another 20
years. If that wasn’t enough, we also have our Brew Crew program that rewards
the loyalty of our Carolina Brewery faithful. So for those of you who haven’t
been here before or maybe it’s just been a while, I personally invite you to
come check out what’s new at Carolina Brewery. You won’t be disappointed.
DTH: What makes the food at Carolina Brewery stand out?
JG: Our use of local ingredients and the perfect example would
be our “Local Burger”. We get our beef from Lily Den Farms and their cow’s diets
consist of our very own malted barley that is left over from the mashing
process during brewing. The burger also gets served on a Pittsboro bread shop
bun with hand-made cheese from Boxxcar cheese in Cedar Grove. I think this
paired with a commitment to serving the freshest food by performing daily
inventory is what makes our food so good.
DTH: What's your goal for the Brewery at the end of the day?
JG: Our focus is just trying to get people to understand that we’re still here down on West Franklin and there are a lot of great places to eat and a lot of great places to shop down here and our vicinity to Carrboro as well as our vicinity to Columbia and Franklin makes us a good starting point if you ask me, a great starting point for you to go one way and come back and go the other way and come back and always have your car just waiting for you right in front of Carolina Brewery.