“The Rat” is not back. But the Raleigh-based brewery Gizmo Brew Works has now opened a second location where the historical Ramshead Rathskeller served Chapel Hill residents for over 50 years.
Gizmo Brew Works opened in Raleigh in April 2013 and began expanding its brewing capacity last year, including its first satellite location in Chapel Hill.
“We have been able to grow with this amazing industry as craft beer has become more and more mainstream,” Joe Walton, co-owner of Gizmo Brew Works, said. “After outgrowing our original facility, unable to make enough beer to satisfy demand, we knew it was time to open a new production facility and taproom.”
Walton said Gizmo patrons will be able to enjoy nightly events like live music, trivia and watch sporting events. He said Gizmo has partnered with local eateries, such as Bandidos and Imbibe, that will allow customers to order food to their tables.
Walton said the original plan was to have a new production facility and taproom to be in the same location, but they were unable to find an appropriate space. He said another co-owner passed the former Rathskeller location and saw it was available.
“I think Gizmo found a great location in the old Rat space and thought they could do something special here,” Matt Gladdek, executive director of The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, said. “The Rat closed in 2007, and I came to UNC in 2008 for grad school and have only ever known the legends of the space. I think it is far past due for new memories and legends to be made here.”
Now that Gizmo has expanded, Walton said patrons can expect to see two major changes to the beer that will be produced. He said the new production facility is capable of brewing 5,000 barrels annually and able to expand to 10,000 barrels, which is significantly higher than the 1,000 barrels the original facility in Raleigh was capable of producing.
Walton said the second location also allows them to be more creative and produce more one-off beers.
“It will take a month or so to get going, but our goal is to have at least two new beers a week being released at the new taproom,” Walton said.
Gizmo patrons are optimistic about the brewery and the future of downtown Chapel Hill despite the number of businesses that have closed in the area over the past couple of years. Derek Ludwig, a Chapel Hill resident, said he enjoyed his experience at the brewery and hoped the business would find success in Chapel Hill.
“The more of these types of establishments on Franklin Street, I think, the better,” Ludwig said. “I hope that they last. It seems like a lot of times these places move in, and six months later they’re gone.”
Gladdek said although the restaurant business can be difficult, there are still a lot of great restaurants that have been in business for a long time. He said the businesses that do well are the ones that build relationships with the community and students of Chapel Hill. Patty Griffin, communications director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, also pointed out the large number of long-time businesses that continue to succeed in the area.
“Businesses come-and-go in downtown,” Griffin said. “The two breweries downtown — Carolina Brewery and Top of the Hill — have been here nearly 25 years. I think it will bring a more mature crowd and be another destination for locals and older students who are looking for a vibe that a taproom environment brings.”
Walton said the brewery's goal is to respect and acknowledge the great history of the space and also make it their own.
“Our goal was to create a space for the community to get together and enjoy great conversations and great beers,” Walton said. “I think we have accomplished this, and we can not wait to share it with all of you.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.