Besides being the brewmaster at Foothills, you’re the president of the North Carolina Brewers’ Guild. What do you see in the future for NC breweries?
I think therewill continue to be an awakening of spirit in the state’s breweries as people gain confidence. They’ll push the envelope of brewing styles and business plans will develop, and hopefully lead to some larger microbreweries. The largest guys here in North Carolina and the South―barring Sweetwater―are pretty tiny compared with the rest of the country.
Hopefully we’ll increase collaborations among brewers here in the state as the guild develops. We can reach out to each other for innovation and to do business together.
You’re involved in a collaboration brew right now.
Yes, that’s a perfect example. It’s collaboration between Olde Hickory Brewery, Duck-Rabbit and Foothills. Basically, me and one of my guys drove to Kentucky and bought a bunch of special bourbon barrels, a very nice bourbon in particular. It’s our philosophy that the barrel is what makes the beer better. There are two philosophies: one, people say that the freshest barrel is better; and other people say that the best bourbon is better. I go for the better liquor, versus the absolute freshness of the barrel.
All three breweries made an imperial stout. For Paul [Philippon] at Duck-Rabbit, it’s his Rabid Duck. Ours was our Sexual Chocolate, and Olde Hickory made an imperial stout just for this project. We’re going to blend them, and―after several steps required for federal label approval―we’ll hopefully be selling the bottles on November 21. It’ll be called Olde Rabbit’s Foot.
How much will you make?
Seven hundred bottles, approximately. We’re actually bottling it at Olde Hickory Brewery: as part of the collaboration, we’re splitting up the duties. The Duck-Rabbit guys are going to put in a lot of the labor for bottling and labeling, and we’re going to sell it here. We think we have the best vehicle for the release of the bottles, based on our geography and our success with the Sexual Chocolate release.
How long has that been going on? It’s become quite an event for beer lovers.
Just two years. We’ve made Sexual Chocolate for three years. After the first year, I started getting e-mails from people asking me how I’d recommend hand-bottling it from the growler. One guy said he wasn’t even a homebrewer, and he was wondering how to sanitize and hand-fill bottles. And I said “My recommendation is that you don’t do that. In fact, please don’t. It could mess up the beer.”
So, as a reaction, that day we cut off growler sales of the beer. The next year, we started bottling it ourselves so it could get out to people and we could control the quality and make sure it was going out as we wanted it.
The first year we made one batch; the second year, two; the third year, three; and this year we’ll probably make four batches, which will be about 60 barrels. Last year we had to turn away about 80 people who got no bottles, and we may try to change some of the rules to try to accommodate more people. We’ll bottle some more, but since we’re still basically hand-bottling, we don’t want to do a whole lot more.
Is that the only beer you bottle?
Yes. It’s worth it, just to get it out there. We hand-number each bottle.