Half a year ago, Concord had no breweries. Now the city boasts two, and they’re right next door to each other.
Cabarrus Brewing Co. (329 McGill Ave.) opened last month in Concord’s historic Gibson Mill. Looking out from the brewery’s roll-up garage doors, you can see the mill building that houses High Branch Brewing Co. (325 McGill Ave. Suite 148), which opened last November.
A large conveyor system once ran between these two buildings. Now, Cabarrus Brewing Co. and High Branch are connected in their quest to brew beer in and for Concord.
They’re going about that in very different ways, however.
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“I think we’re two extremely different breweries,” said Steve Steinbacher, one of the owners of Cabarrus Brewing Co. “We want to have this broad appeal.”
To that end, the brewery’s core lineup features a range of different beers, all of them designed to be approachable to someone who might be new to craft beer. There’s a blonde ale, a golden ale, an amber, a brown, an IPA, porter and stout. Steinbacher anticipates the Cabarrus Cotton Blonde Ale will be an especially good “bridge beer” for newcomers.
Next door at High Branch Brewing Co., TJ Creighton brews beers that usually fall into one of two camps: hoppy or Belgian-inspired. Saisons and sours are frequently found on tap, and often brewed with local fruits. The lucky ones spend time in barrels that once held Chardonnay.
High Branch is a nanobrewery, capable of brewing as much as three barrels of beer at a time. That’s the size of Cabarrus Brewing Co.’s pilot system. The main brewhouse at Cabarrus Brewing Co. is a 15-barrel system, which is the size that The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and NoDa Brewing Co. started with.
Aside from a few select accounts, this means that High Branch will be keeping most of its beers in its taproom. Cabarrus Brewing Co. will look to get its beers into Concord bars and restaurants, as well as Kannapolis Intimidators games.
But the two breweries have much in common as well.
Namely, both Steinbacher and Creighton were attracted to the Gibson Mill because the property – with its tall ceilings and rustic charm – offered an ideal site for a brewery.
Cabarrus Brewing Co.’s 15,000-square-foot building can hold just north of 600, and with its communal seating resembles a German beer hall. They’ve retained much of the building’s industrial nature by using lumber and tin from around the mill property to build the bar and other features.
At High Branch, old white paint peels back from the red brick wall behind the bar, making the newly-painted orange and gray walls opposite it pop all the more. Creighton used shipping pallets to cover one of the walls, and also used pallet wood to build some of the taproom’s furniture.
Steinbacher is right that they are different breweries, and that’s a great thing for anyone looking to visit the Gibson Mill area. You can spend a day getting lost among the antiques and Americana inside The Depot at Gibson Mill, and then visit two very different breweries afterward.
What fun would it be if those two breweries were brewing the same styles? And how often have we seen breweries in Charlotte set up shop next door to another, offering complementary but not competing beers?
Concord residents will no doubt be thrilled to have two breweries to call their own. And residents of Charlotte and neighboring cities should consider paying them both a visit as well.
Cabarrus Brewing Co. is open from 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 2-10 p.m. on Friday, and 12-10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. High Branch Brewing Co. is open from 4-10 p.m. on Friday and 2-10 p.m. on Saturday.