The craft beer brewing industry is growing and sweeping across North Carolina, causing many towns to examine their zoning codes so they can make amendments to allow these businesses to operate. Concord is the latest small town to change their restrictions to allow breweries to have taprooms to sell their products.
Grasping the piece of tree branch that serves as a tap handle, T. J. Creighton, founder of High Branch Brewing Co., slipped the glass under the tap, pouring the first beer to be sold at a taproom in Concord, on Nov. 20. As the Belgian Blond beer, named Crazy Lucia, filled the glass, Brad Hughes, president of the Cabarrus Home Brewers Society, could not hide his anticipation.
Hughes said, "I'm excited. I planned my whole afternoon so I could drink the first beer at the first brewery in Cabarrus County."
A home brewing kit given to him by his wife, Maureen Creighton, about eight years ago started T.J. on his brewing journey. "I kind of take things overboard," he said.
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"I studied, learned and then started adding different things," said Creighton. Friends and family enjoyed his creations and encouraged him to start his own brewery. "I really enjoy the science behind it," he said.
The brewery is relatively small, only 1,400 square feet, but has room to expand. He can produce 45 gallons of hand-crafted beer per batch – which takes up to two weeks to ferment – and had 180 gallons on hand for the grand opening.
High Branch Brewing Co. currently offers four draft beers: Autumn Tweener, a Seasonal saison; Big Sister, an American double IPA; Crazy Lucia, a Belgian blond; and Late Addition, an American stout. Creighton said he would like to have 6-10 beers on tap in the future, which would allow him to experiment with other fruits and ingredients.
Creighton lives with his wife and two daughters in Davidson, just inside the Cabarrus County line. He said they looked for a location close to home but none had the "vibe" he was looking for until he came to Gibson Mill.
"Like the old windows in the brewing area. They (the Mill owners) said they could change them out but I said – no, we want them." The fading glass and old paint was perfect. "It was what we were looking for," he said.
The table tops and benches, with multiple shades of color, were made from materials he found on site. "We built a lot of the furniture ourselves. The palettes actually came from the mill so who knows how old the wood is," he said.
The new taproom would not have been possible without the efforts of Steve Steinbacher, one of the owners of Cabarrus Brewing Co., another brewery that will be opening in Gibson Mill in late February to early March of 2016.
Before this year, the zoning codes did not allow for breweries to sell at taprooms in the city.
In June, the City Council pased an amendment to the text of Concord’s Unified Development Ordinance, allowing the industry operate within city limits.
But Creighton doesn't see the larger brewery, projected to occupy 15,000 square feet, as competition. "I think of it as more of a collaborative-type relationship, similar to the breweries in Charlotte," he said.
"We can create a little bit of a destination for people to come out here and try a few beers. If we could add a few restaurants it would be even bigger," he said.
On the opening night Creighton and his sole employee, his wife, sold between 600 and 700 draft beers to a steady crowd from 4 to 10 p.m. The following day they sold another 500 glasses. "We are excited about the handmade process and we're excited to grow here," said Creighton.
Marty Price is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to go?
The High Branch Brewing Co. is inside the Gibson Mill, 325 McGill Ave. NW in Concord. The taproom is open two days a week, Fridays from 4 to 10 p.m. and Saturdays from 2 to 10 p.m. Go to www.highbranchbrewing.com or its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/HighBranchBrewing/timeline