If there’s one thing I can say about my past five years of enjoying beer in Charlotte, it’s the simple fact that anything craft beer-related is part of an ever blossoming beer community here in the Queen City. Homebrewing in Charlotte is definitely no exception.
By its very nature, homebrewing is a community-oriented activity, whether you’re sharing your carbonated concoctions with friends in town, or talking brewing techniques with the guys and girls at one of the local supply shops. Of course, anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit can set up a homebrew store and hustle grains and gear, but as the owners of the newest Charlotte homebrew supply shop will tell you, any shot at long-term success starts by connecting with Charlotte’s beer community. So when I sat down and talked with House of Brews owners Patrick and Heather Lewis, it was easy to see that their goals aren’t about pushing product, but all about helping Charlotte’s beer community flourish.
“We don’t have these lofty growth aspirations,” says Patrick. “For us, it’s about creating the community around us and letting that community steer us. What does the community want out of us and what can we do to serve that community?”
Much of the inspiration behind House of Brews comes from Wilmington Homebrew Supply, where Friday night homebrew tastings in their taproom and free brewing courses on the weekends are just as important as the ingredients and supplies. As Heather explains, her hope is to follow in the footsteps of Wilmington Brew Supply, at least some of the way.
“We would love to be able to open a 3-barrel system one day and have a homebrewer come in every other Sunday to brew on our system, and then spotlight their beer,” says Heather. “We also don’t think that it needs to be a $7 glass of beer. We want it to be very reasonably priced, and we want you to come in to taste what a homebrewer can do. We really want to try to shine a spotlight on some of the great homebrewers in the area.”
After opening an online store in September of 2013, House of Brews officially opened a brick and mortar store this past June, specializing in offering a wide variety of both rare and basic ingredients. Patrick says that offering unique ingredients and taking special orders is House of Brews’ “bread and butter.”
“Really for us, it’s about innovation. That’s the trend you see in the brewing industry today, and homebrewing is following suit. We do shoot for very unique products- we actually just brought in Chilean malt. For us, it’s really about what the customer is looking for. I love it when customers want new items because that means I get to bring it in and play with it too.”
Heather chimed in and mentioned that House of Brews is now carrying Vic Secret hops, a brand new Australian hop variety that was just released this year. “Anytime we see anything new, we want to bring it in,” says Heather. “If people see something out there online that they want to try, we always bring it in for them. If we don’t have what you’re looking for, we’ll order it. We’re not scared to bring in a new product. We have over 70 different hop varieties, including Equinox, Lemon Drop, and other rare hops.”
While stocking cutting edge ingredients is a huge focus for House of Brews, it’s the unforgettable customer experience that truly sets them apart, as the husband and wife explain.
“For us, it’s always about customer service,” says Patrick. If nothing else, we’ll always provide a great experience. We have a great relationship with the other homebrew shops in town, so if there’s something a customer wants that we currently don’t have in stock, we’ll reach out to other homebrew shops to see if they have it in stock. If so, we’ll send the customer right up the road to them.”
For Heather and Patrick, earning that invaluable community loyalty has been their biggest challenge and goal since opening House of Brews in September, 2013. As an example of their commitment to the Charlotte beer community, House of Brews currently shares space with the studio where the Fermentation Nation podcasts are recorded. They also plan on holding free monthly brewing education classes at their store, some in tandem with the Fermentation Nation hosts. However, these classes won’t only be focused teaching new brewers to boil, according to Patrick.
“Our goal is to have some advanced technique classes peppered in there, as well as classes for new brewers,” said Patrick. “For example, there’s the Learn to Brew in a Bag class on August 22nd at 10:00 AM with Joe from Fermentation Nation. We’re also talking to some guys looking to bring their RIMS systems up here and show how their RIMS systems function. And we actually have a few folks who are interested in doing some seminars around the malting process, as well as hop growing and how you pick hops. So we want to get into some more advanced stuff in these education classes too, that explore the science behind the art of brewing.”
When it comes to homebrewing, Patrick’s favorite beers to brew are Hefeweizens, Irish Reds, and Shelby June Peach Blonde Ale, an innovative style he first brewed two years ago to celebrate the birth of his oldest daughter, Shelby. But like most craft beer fanatics in Charlotte, Patrick couldn’t come up with a quick answer when asked to name his favorite Charlotte beers.
“Man, that’s a tough one,” says Patrick. “One of my favorite beers in the Charlotte area is OMB Fat Boy Baltic Porter. I’m also really enjoying Red Clay Ciderworks Noreaster.”
Unlike her husband, Heather’s Charlotte beer of choice was a no-brainer- NoDa Brewing’s Cavu.
House of Brews is located on 3611 Tryclan Drive, Charlotte, NC, 28217. Their hours are Thursday and Friday from 11 AM-7 PM, Saturday 10 AM-7PM, and Sunday 10 AM-1 PM. For more information or to learn about their upcoming education classes, check out http://house-of-brews.com/, or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writer by day, beer fanatic always, Jeff Sheerin hails from Philly but proudly calls Charlotte home. When he’s not writing about beer or brewing it at home, Jeff is hanging with his pitbull-mastiff mix, riffin’ on his Gibson Les Paul, or working towards new personal strength records with the barbell. E-mail Jeff at email@example.com