Music & Nightlife

Brewery news: Pineville’s Middle James will cater to sports fans, offer ‘upscale bar food’

Middle James Brewing Co. will open its doors in Pineville this Friday.
Middle James Brewing Co. will open its doors in Pineville this Friday. Courtesy of Maglaris Photography

Most breweries these days have run clubs, cycling groups or yoga nights.

But when Middle James Brewing Co. opens in Pineville this Friday, they’ll have something the rest of Charlotte’s breweries don’t: a driving range and par-3 golf course.

Okay, so that’s a separate business, but the fact that the new brewery is perched atop The Golf Village of Charlotte will make it all too easy for golfers to grab beers after hitting a few balls.

“I think with the golfers and the CrossFit gym next door, there are a lot of people already on this property,” says Michael Smoak, who is opening the brewery with partners Shannon Wallace and Andrew Viapiano.

Of course, the rest of Pineville is thirsty for a brewery as well. While Smoak and his partners have had a long road to opening the brewery, it wasn’t due to any objections from the town. Smoak petitioned Pineville’s town council to allow breweries in 2017, and they approved it quickly.

“Pineville has been great to us,” he says.

The town already has quality beer bars in Kit’s Trackside Crafts and Pintville, but no brewery to call its own. The building, which previously housed Players Sports Bar, was vacant for many years and needed a lot of work. Smoak and his team have now renovated it, with a large bar, seating for around 150 people and a patio that overlooks the driving range.

You’ll also find more TVs — 14, plus a projector — than you might expect at a brewery. While Smoak hastens to call the brewery a “sports brewery,” he does note that the brewery will cater to sports fans.

“We wanted to create a place where you could come watch the game, drink good beer and eat good food,” Smoak says.

On those screens, you’ll find just about every NFL game (they’ll have the NFL package). Smoak is a Cleveland Browns fan, and often had trouble finding places that showed the games. He’s also a fan of English Premier League soccer, so expect some early-morning “kegs and eggs” events in the future.

Behind the bar is the brewery, which features a 15-barrel brewhouse, five 15-barrel fermenters and two 30-barrel fermenters — with room to expand in the future. Brewer and co-owner Andrew Viapiano, who has brewed for several years here in Charlotte, will run Middle James.

Viapiano first met Smoak in 2015, through the Cheers Charlotte Capture the Crown Homebrew competition. Smoak took first place in the competition, and Viapiano was one of the judges. The two have different preferences in beer — Viapiano often gravitates to lagers, while Smoak prefers IPAs and barrel-aged stouts — so expect to see a wide range of styles among the brewery’s taps.

“I feel like it’s good to have a variety and it keeps it fun trying new stuff,” Viapiano says. “We’ll keep new stuff coming for people to wonder what’s coming up next.”

The brewery is opening with eight beers: Made in the Shade, an American lager; First Half Pale Ale; Holy Bananas, a hefeweizen; Squatch Berry, a hefeweizen with strawberries; American Hooligan, an IPA; Highly Dramatic V. 1, a New England-style IPA; Mike’s Nightmare, a red ale; and Car Lava, an imperial porter. All are available in pours of 4, 10 or 16 ounces.

Variety is especially important for Middle James Brewing Co. Viapiano wants to provide a range of beers that complement the offerings coming out of the kitchen, where executive chef Perry Saito will be preparing “upscale bar food” that includes dishes like pulled duck totchos, poutine, a variety of salads and wraps, and even a “lil’ brewers” menu for kids. Saito previously had his own sushi restaurant in Myrtle Beach, so don’t rule out Middle James flying in fresh fish for the occasional sushi night.

Middle James Brewing Co. is located at 400 N. Polk St. in Pineville. The brewery will open its doors at 11 a.m. Friday, after which its hours will be 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Event of the Week

It’s back-to-school time, and not just for students. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about Belgian beer, you’ll want to check out the first in Carolina Beer Temple Charlotte’s beer education series this Saturday. Certified Cicerone Aaron Gore will pour several different beers, all while walking you through Belgium’s rich history of beer and the distinguishing characteristics of each style. There will be two sessions: 6-7 p.m., or 7:30-8:30 p.m. 2127 Ayrsley Town Blvd. Tickets can be purchased at Carolina Beer Temple’s Ayrsley location for $10 in advance, or $15 the day of the event.