Many Charlotteans enjoy sipping on locally brewed pints after yoga classes, run clubs, and socializing with friends, but do you know the people who actually craft the frothy refreshment people love so dearly? In this series on Charlotte’s brewers, you’ll get to know the people and the passion behind the brew.
This week, I met with Birdsong Brewing Company head brewer Conor Robinson, the person behind that Jalapeño Pale Ale and the MexiCali Stout. Our Q&A is below.
Tell us a little about yourself—what’s your background and what brought you to Charlotte?
I grew up in Clemmons, just outside of Winston-Salem and am very much a North Carolina guy. My girlfriend even calls me “Mr. North Carolina.” I just really love this state a lot.
I came to Charlotte in 2006 to attend Johnson & Wales University and I earned my degree in Baking & Pastry Arts. After graduation, I began working for Great Harvest Bread Company and worked there for about four years. That’s where I met future Birdsong owners, Chris and Tara Goulet.
And a brewery was born?
Yes, but it didn’t happen overnight. After I signed on, we did research, recipe development, and general business planning for almost a year before opening the brewery. We presented plans to investors and, after we were able to get the capitol we needed, we were able to start the brewery.
Did you have any experience brewing beer when you signed on to be head brewer?
No, not really. I had never worked in a brewery or brewed beer on a large scale. I had been homebrewing for about two years and was brewing some pretty good beer. I was brewing 10 gallons per week and had a decent surplus of beer, so I started trading my beer for eggs from their chickens. That’s how we were introduced from a brewing perspective and they liked what I was doing, they really enjoyed the beer, so they offered me the job.
Things have been going really well for Birdsong, you’ve successfully expanded operations, and people really enjoy your beer. Do you feel any pressure in regards to maintaining this great momentum?
The expectations are very high and it’s something that I do struggle with on occasion. Most of the pressure I feel is to maintain the highest quality and to successfully bring new beers to our lineup.
I want to make sure I can take a 10-gallon test batch and turn it into a 30-barrel batch and do it successfully, which can be intimidating, but I take it in stride. Every job is challenging and being a brewer is no different.
Do you see yourself staying with Birdsong in the long term?
Absolutely. I’m very emotionally connected to this place and I love my job. I’ve been here through the successes and struggles and Birdsong is very much a part of me.
What can we expect from Birdsong? What beers are on the horizon?
We’re working on consistency within our barrel aging program and I want to start doing quarterly releases with those. Until now, our barrel aged beers were more experimental, so consistency is definitely a focus.
We’re doing small-batch can releases with beers like Honey Pie (a double IPA), and we’re also going to can Doin’ Thyme Wit (a witbier with thyme and coriander), which will be coming up soon.
Photos: Taylor Slaughter