One hundred beers in a year. That was the goal Justin and Sarah Brigham set for themselves when they opened Sycamore Brewing in Charlotte’s South End a year ago, and one they will cross off their list this Saturday at the brewery’s one-year anniversary party.
Brewing beer isn’t easy to begin with. Brainstorming and brewing 100 different beers in a year is harder still, but Justin Brigham would have it no other way.
“It’s been the best part of it – the creativity and getting to put that many recipes out,” said Justin Brigham. “But if people don’t drink the beer, you’re never going to get to that number. So we’re really fortunate to have the community around us coming in and being willing to try new things.”
The Brighams – along with brewers Jordy Smith and Andrew Viapiano – have given them plenty to try. The brewery’s 28 taps have poured everything from pitcher-friendly summer seasonals to barrel-aged beers best sipped from a snifter. Sarah’s favorite was the Charlotte Yacht Club, a refreshing beer that fell somewhere between a wheat beer and a blonde ale. Justin’s include the Peak Farm Double Pale Ale, Countryside IPA and Southern Girl Lager.
He should be especially proud of that last one, since it won a bronze medal in the Great American Beer Festival’s American-style Lager or Light Lager category earlier this month. Even more impressive is that you would have to go back to 1998 to find a winning entry in that category that was not brewed by Anheuser-Busch, Coors Brewing, Miller Brewing or Pabst Brewing.
As proud as the Brighams were of the beer, they didn’t expect to win a medal their first year. Nor did they expect to at this point be able to purchase their building, which they recently did.
“It was really important for us to have the buyout clause be a part of our lease,” said Sarah Brigham. “We were hopeful we would be able to purchase the property after three years of being in business. We didn’t anticipate it being something we could do so early on.”
Yet as their peers move into bigger buildings, the Brighams are drawing up plans to expand on their existing property at 2161 Hawkins St. The plans are in the early stages, but include a separate building bordering the Rail Trail that would boast an additional taproom and beer garden.
“We just really do want to keep growing on this bit of property,” said Justin Brigham. “This is where we always wanted to be. We always wanted to be a place in South End that people wanted to come, and to be a destination. It’s the perfect opportunity for us to introduce new people to our beers and grow organically.”
This new building would also house a canning line churning out 16-ounce cans of four beers to start with: Countryside IPA, Peak Farm Double Pale Ale, Southern Girl Lager and Foxhound American Ale. Since the new building likely won’t open until next summer, the Brighams will work with Land of the Sky Mobile Canning to get their beers to market before then (possibly even before the end of this year).
They will also soon release 22-ounce bottles of Bourbon Pecan Porter and a rum barrel-aged version of their Salty Coconut Red Ale.
But before all of this – the new bottles and cans, taproom and beer garden – the Brighams are going to celebrate one year, and 100 beers.
Event of the week
Sycamore Brewing’s 1-year anniversary
When: Noon-10 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Sycamore Brewing, 2161 Hawkins St.
What: Sycamore Brewing’s one-year anniversary will have a music-festival atmosphere, with 10 bands playing on two stages at different times throughout the day. There will also be food trucks and, of course, beer. The brewery will tap some special beers and new releases, including Recipe 100 – a new IPA brewed with hops that co-founder Justin Brigham had to “beg, borrow and steal from friends to get.” Admission is free. Details: www.facebook.com/SycamoreBrewing.