North Carolina Breweries and Distributors Battle Over Bills

The e-mail was meant for employee eyes only.

It was sent by Chris Caffey, president and CEO of Greensboro-based Caffey Distributing (as well as Carolina Premium Beverage and Craft Central, their new craft-focused division). Caffey began his e-mail by explaining to his employees that two bills — House Bill 278 and House Bill 625 — would soon be considered by the NC House committee for alcoholic beverage control.

He asked them to visit www.ncbeerjobs.com and sign the petition, using their company e-mail address. They would later receive a “call to action” with further instructions.

That e-mail would eventually find its way out of the employee list and into the inboxes of several local brewers, who asked not to be identified. But on Tuesday, the word about www.ncbeerjobs.com was out. And some of the state’s brewers weren’t happy about it.

In recent years, brewers in states like South Carolina and Georgia have published similar sites (www.scbeerjobs.com and www.gabeerjobs.com, respectively). Those sites were done in the interest of the states’ brewers, advocating that they be allowed to sell pints directly to the public. On first glance, one might think the same of the similarly-named North Carolina version, which in large, block letters asks visitors to, “Protect North Carolina Beer Jobs.”

The jobs the site aims to protect, however, are not those of brewers but distributors. The website’s text alleges that House Bills 278 and 625 “are misguided attacks on North Carolina jobs and workers” that would create “an unfair, competitive advantage for a select few who want to do an end-around of the state’s regulatory system.”

At this point it is unclear who put up the site. Chris Caffey denies any involvement in its creation. Tim Kent, the executive director of the North Carolina Beer and Wine Wholesalers association, simply stated that the site resembled those campaigning for beer jobs in South Carolina and Georgia.

House Bills 278 and 625

In North Carolina, breweries are currently allowed to self-distribute their beer up until they reach an annual production of 25,000 barrels of beer. Once they eclipse that amount, by law they must sign over their brands to a wholesaler, who will then control the sales, marketing and distribution of their beers.

The bills in question would change that. If passed, House Bill 278 would quadruple the amount of beer a brewery could produce before signing with a distributor, raising the cap from 25,000 barrels to 100,000 barrels. House Bill 625 seeks to allow contract brewing in North Carolina and to allow breweries to serve unfortified wine, but there is also language in this bill regarding self-distribution. This bill would retain the current cap at 25,000 barrels, however it would make an amendment that would exempt any beer sold at the brewery’s taproom from counting against that cap.

“Our association is strongly opposed to the expansion of self-distribution,” wrote Kent in an e-mail.

The Select Few

Very few of the state’s 130 breweries produce more than 25,000 barrels a year, and most of those that do — brands like Highland Brewing, Natty Greene’s Brewing and Foothills Brewing — signed on with distributors well before reaching that cap. Many brewers prefer to focus on what they do best, and have someone else focus on the distribution side of things.

There are several breweries that could approach the 25,000-barrel production amount in the next year or so. The “select few” as referred to on the www.ncbeerjobs.com site might refer to breweries like Red Oak Brewery, Wicked Weed Brewing, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and NoDa Brewing Co. All four of these breweries have been outspoken in the past about the desire to continue distributing their beers even after hitting 25,000 barrels. NoDa Brewing is on track to produce 14,000 barrels of beer this year, and could hit 20,000 next year when they are operating out a new 32,000-square-foot production brewery.

“It’s a very inefficient way to distribute beer,” said Todd Ford, who owns NoDa Brewing in Charlotte with his wife, Suzie. “But what we lose in efficiency, we gain in customer support and customer knowledge. It’s so much better to deal with a person who has a name and a face. They know they can call my cell phone or Suzie’s and have a resolution right away, rather than someone who has 35 stops a day. Often distributors don’t understand all the products in the truck because they have so many brands to represent.”

Jobs in Jeopardy

Ford was taken aback when he first saw www.ncbeerjobs.com.

“I’m a realist,” he said. “I know how business works. I know how campaign contributions and lobbying work. But I guess what most disappoints me about this is that it’s so misleading. It talks about how my company and Red Oak, Wicked Weed and others are jeopardizing jobs.”

The site does allege that passing these bills would “create an unlevel playing field in an otherwise highly-competitive beer industry while threatening the livelihood of 1000’s of North Carolina workers.” It then goes on to mention the 544 workers employed at the MillerCoors plant in Eden.

That point was lost on Ford.

“How is it that me self-distributing jeopardizes the jobs of people that already work at MillerCoors?” he asked.

Ford began to talk about the implications on his own sales staff, which has grown tremendously since the business opened almost four years ago. With their new brewery opening later this year, they expect that number to only grow larger.

“Ultimately they’re the ones whose jobs are in jeopardy,” he said, before hesitating. “And I don’t even want to talk about that because I don’t want to scare them.”

That point is echoed by Margo Knight Metzger, executive director of the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild. She notes that breweries like The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte have invested heavily not only in their staff, but in fleets of the delivery trucks they use to distribute their beer.

“When they hit that cap all of a sudden, what happens?” she asked. “Are they just supposed to liquidate it? Are they supposed to lay off all of those people? If you have to turn that business over, they’re going to lose their jobs. Craft brewers are the job creators in this state. Our breweries are growing by leaps and bounds, hiring people in communities across the state and contributing in a big way to our economy.”

Metzger also notes that distributors play a vital role for craft brewers across North Carolina.

“We’re not foes,” said Metzger. “Craft brewers have successful relationships with distributors all over the state. That’s been the case for 20 plus years. We commend them as our partners in helping craft beer grow in North Carolina. But there are several breweries that prefer a different business model. We feel it ought to be a business decision, not an arbitrary cap.”

And Caffey, whose distributorship represents a variety of craft breweries, agrees.

“I think there are some out there that want to make the story that beer distributors don’t want to grow craft beer or want to see craft brewers do well, that we’re trying to keep them down,” said Caffey. “That’s just not true. I think sometimes it gets blown out of proportion and taken out of context.”

North Carolina’s “Best in the South” Beer Laws

Caffey is quick to point out that he is not behind the NC beer jobs site, even if he shares some of the viewpoints voiced there. He echoes the site’s statements that North Carolina has some of the most favorable and progressive beer-related laws, and that these laws can be credited with helping many breweries succeed. He notes that the state has passed and amended many new laws in recent years, from allowing breweries to open restaurants to allowing breweries to opt out of distributor agreements.

The state also raised the self-distribution cap once back in 2003, largely at the request of Red Oak Brewery. The cap has been set at 25,000 barrels ever since, despite the state’s breweries growing at a rapid rate. North Carolina’s brewers have not been fighting the same laws that have plagued breweries in South Carolina, Georgia or Florida.

“Yes, it’s true that we have the best beer laws in the south,” said Metzger. “But why in the world would we want to be the best of the worst when it comes to that? We have the potential to be the best on the East Coast, but not if we sit here and are satisfied with being the best in the south.”

Like Caffey, she notes that the state does have some progressive laws in place for breweries, which is why businesses like Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and New Belgium Brewing decided to locate their East Coast breweries in the state. But if breweries are to continue growing, she says, then North Carolina’s beer laws have to change with the times.

“We’re the best in the south because we’ve made some progressive changes,” Metzger said. “For our craft brewers who are working based on a set of rules and regulations that date back to 1983, we need our laws to evolve with this industry. When most of these laws were written, there weren’t many craft breweries in North Carolina. I think it’s fair for us to advocate for some measured changes that help craft breweries grow.”

When asked if more progressive laws could again lead to growth, Caffey paused for a moment before responding.

“Look, some of my distributor peers would cringe at me saying this,” he said. “But raising the cap? There’s not a strong argument against it as long as you maintain some of the integrity and ensure it maintains a competitive market.”

The Three-Tier System

The three-tier system — which delineates between breweries, distributors and retailers — was instituted after the repeal of Prohibition. The system was created to ensure a separation of those three parties, so that breweries couldn’t own bars (this was called a tied house) and so that distributors couldn’t sell the alcohol. The specific laws regarding this three-tier system vary from state to state.

Despite his obvious objections to House Bills 278 and 625, Caffey says he is not completely averse to allowing breweries to distribute past the 25,000-barrel mark.

“I’m a free market kind of guy,” Caffey said. “I think we’re the most efficient, best way to market for a brewer. I personally can’t understand why someone who wants to grow would choose a different route of market. If there’s a way to maintain the integrity of that system and allow them to supply their products if they want to, then have at it.”

Kent voiced some of those concerns in an e-mail: “The three-tier system exists to promote excise tax compliance, product safety, fair competition in the marketplace, and responsible consumption. Our association is firmly against the erosion of those principles.”

The integrity of that system is not in question, according to Metzger.

“We’re not interested in dismantling the three-tier system,” she said. “We just feel like 25,000 barrels is not sufficient and there has got to be some breathing room. Our laws need to evolve with this growing industry.”

The Future of House Bills 278 and 625

Suzie Ford of NoDa Brewing and John Marrino, the founder of The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, have been vocal in asking for proponents of these bills to write into their elected officials, and Jonathan Wells has a form e-mail over at Creative Loafing.

Right now, both House Bill 278 and House Bill 625 have been referred to the committee on alcoholic beverage control. Any bills that do not move from committee and pass one of the chambers by April 30 will not be able to be passed this year, though they could be taken up next year.

 

Upcoming Charlotte Beer Festivals

Let’s cut to the chase: there are a lot of upcoming Charlotte beer festivals. Enough, in fact, to carry us through spring and into summer with a fest just about every weekend.

And while I wish I had the time to write individually about all of them, I’ve been a little swamped lately. So in the interest of time, I’ll briefly add the ones I know of below (if I’m missing one, please let me know!).

Spring/Summer Charlotte Beer Festivals

Saturdays and Sundays until May 17: Carowinds Taste of the Carolinas focuses more on food than beer, however the iconic amusement part has made it a point to bring some craft beers into the mix for this festival.

Saturday, April 18: The Battle of the Brews pits 10 of Charlotte’s breweries against other, but for charity.

Sunday, April 19: For the third year in a row, Beer Me BrewFest will celebrate National Beer Day in South End. UPDATE: Due to the threat of inclement weather, this one has been postponed until May 31. 

Saturday, May 2: For the seventh year in a row, the Gastonia Grizzlies Ballpark Beer Fest will take place under the lights of Sims Legion Park.

Friday, May 8 to Saturday, May 9: Like camping, music and beer? The North Carolina Brewers and Music Festival is for you. It’s always one of the area’s more popular festivals.

Saturday, May 16: The South End Hops Festival returns for its second year, featuring local breweries and food trucks in support of the Chronic Illness Relief Fund.

Saturdays in May: Speedway All American Craft Brewer’s Festival: You know craft beer is hot when NASCAR, long a bastion of big beer, is holding its own beer festivals. Personally I think it’s great that Charlotte institutions like Carowinds and Charlotte Motor Speedway are making an effort to bring in more craft beer. And while this mobile beer garden hasn’t yet announced a brewery list, events at other tracks seem to have a big craft focus. And the NC Craft Brewers Guild is partnering with them, which is a good sign. There are three different days this festival will take place: Saturday, May 16; Saturday, May 23; and Sunday, May 24.

Saturday, June 13: Fonta Flora’s State of Origin festival is actually outside of Charlotte in Morganton, but it’s worth a drive. This year, every beer served will incorporate NC-grown ingredients.

Saturday, June 13: The USNWC Brew Stash Bash starts in the morning with a 6K, though if you’re like me and have no interest in running you can just show up for the festival itself. This one’s unique in that you purchase cards to cash in for beer samples, as opposed to unlimited sampling.

Saturday, June 27: All About Beer Magazine is no stranger to beer festivals, as they put on the World Beer Festivals in Raleigh, Durham, Columbia, SC and Cleveland. Now, they’re coming to Charlotte. They’re partnering with the NC Craft Brewers Guild to put on the North Carolina Brewers Celebration at the BB&T Ballpark.

The Dreamweaver’s Brewery is coming to Waxhaw

The Dreamweaver's Brewery in Waxhaw, NCAfter almost a year of searching for a location in Waxhaw, The Dreamweaver’s Brewery has just signed a lease to move into the building at 115 East North Main Street, the former home of the Waxhaw fire department.  Founder Neil Gimon has lived in Waxhaw for the past 13 years.

“This area is a bedroom community of Charlotte,” said Gimon. “There are fantastic breweries in Charlotte, but after driving for 40 minutes to get home, do you really want to drive another 40 minutes back north, then back to home?”

Gimon has been planning the brewery for the last three years. The building will afford him the ability to open the brewery in downtown Waxhaw, as he had hoped. He is working with Deutsche Beverage Technology in Charlotte to procure a 10-barrel brewery.

On that system, Gimon will craft a variety of beers. He has 16 “tried and true” recipes that he plans to scale up and experiment with. He also plans to offer several core beers, including a “Booty Brew” that will raise funds and awareness for the 24 Hours of Booty bicycle ride in Charlotte (Gimon just recently beat prostate cancer).

And yes, the brewery is named after the song. Says Gimon: “When I first started brewing, I was joking with a friend that thanks to the high alcohol content, he would have interesting dreams that night. And he looked at me and asked if I was then the Dream Weaver, and the name stuck. That was the first name for my first beer.”

Unknown Brewing celebrates 100 batches with dollar beers

To celebrate brewing one hundred batches of beer, The Unknown Brewing Co. will be selling beers for just 100 pennies each this Wednesday, April 1. Yes, that’s April Fool’s Day, but the brewery assures us it’s no prank. Besides, dollar beers are pretty tame by Unknown’s standards. Remember, this is the brewery that made a beer with 99 scorpions.

That beer isn’t on tap tomorrow, but check out the full currency-inspired taplist below:

  • 100 Pennies, a 4.5 % session ale
  • 42 Dalasi, a 5.1% wheat beer
  • 446 Kwacha, a 4.9% small-batch IPA
  • 533 Colón, a 5.5% small-batch chile beer
  • 1.27 Loonie, a 5.6% Northwest ale
  • 63 Som, a 7.7% Scotch ale
  • 8 Krone, an 8% porter
  • 2.93 Lita, a 5.8% small-batch light brown ale
  • 32 Baht, an 8.2% Belgian dubbel
  • 1.9 Pa’anga, a 4.3%, orange-infused ale

Charlotte Craft Beer Week runs from March 20-28

Charlotte Craft Beer Week

Now in its sixth year, Charlotte Craft Beer Week returns to the Queen City with a bevy of special tappings, festivals and other events running from March 20-28.

Events are still being added to the Charlotte Craft Beer Week events page, but those familiar with past beer weeks will notice some old favorites. Duckworth’s on Park Rd. will once again hold its cask festival from 1-5 p.m. this Saturday, March 21. Tickets to the event are $25 and can be purchased at Duckworth’s (or call 704-527-5783), which gets you a tasting glass and a six-ounce pour from one-off casks created by the following seven breweries: NoDa Brewing, Birdsong Brewing, Wicked Weed Brewing, Olde Hickory Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, Terrapin Beer Co. and Stone Brewing. You’ll be asked to vote in the “Battle of the Casks,” with the winner being deemed the 2015 Cask Festival Champion.

Later that Saturday night, Salud Beer Shop will celebrate three years by tapping a variety of North Carolina beers. Fonta Flora is bringing their Hop Beard IPA, Year of the Goat Saison and red wine barrel-aged Barleywine, as well as Baba Budan Coffee IPA — the collaboration they did with Boone’s Appalachian Mountain Brewing. Wicked Weed will have their XL whiskey barrel-aged Peppercorn Saison and Genesis Blonde Sour. Fullsteam will be contributing the Deus Ex Machina, a sour stat aged on cherries, as well as the Hop Rocks Sour IPA they brewed with Wooden Robot Brewery, which is set to open in Charlotte later this year. Rounding out the all-NC tap list will be NoDa’s Salted Caramel Stout, Steel String’s Zupfen Gose, Burial Skillet Donut Stout and Natty Greene’s Brett IPA.

For the fifth year in a row, The Liberty will be hosting “The Lost Founders” event in their private downstairs room at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24. They will be pouring rare Founders beers like CBS, KBS and Breakfast Stout (as well as some aged bottles of those last two). Pay by the pint or flight.

Both the South End and Plaza Midwood Common Market locations will be bringing back their well-known events. For the South End location, that means Freak Fest — a mini festival held from 6-11 p.m. on Thursday, March 26. Freak Fest features “fire twirlers, light bulb eaters, suspension, drag show” and other assorted oddities. The Plaza Midwood location (which just remodeled its bar) will once again host its annual Rumble in the Alley, wherein 15 North Carolina breweries will compete in a blind tasting competition. For $25, you get in between 6-7:30 p.m. to judge these beers blind and vote for your favorites. The winner will be crowned at 7:30 p.m., after which you can continue to drink until the kegs are gone. DJ ThatGuySmitty will be providing the music.

Of course, there are several other events — including many new, first-time happenings — that you can find here. Many breweries and bars are putting on their own events that may not be listed on the official page, so keep an eye out for those.

The official closer of the week for the second year in a row will be the All Ale to the Queen beer carnival, held Saturday, March 28 at Amos’ Southend. Like last year, you can expect such sideshows as jugglers, acrobats, hula hoopers, glass eaters and belly dancers. There are two sessions, tickets for which can be purchased at www.allaletothequeen.com.

North Carolina Brewers Celebration on Saturday, June 27

North Carolina Brewers Celebration

All About Beer Magazine, in conjunction with the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, will present the North Carolina Brewers Celebration, held at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte on Saturday, June 27. The festival will feature around 50 North Carolina breweries, plus samples from local farmers, retailers and beer stores.

General admission tickets for the festival are $45 and include a 4-ounce commemorative glass and unlimited samples of more than 150 beers from 1-5 p.m. VIP tickets are $70 and provide the aforementioned samples, early entry at noon, a festival gift, and access to 20-30 limited beers not available to general admission ticket holders, plus access to private bathrooms and an air-conditioned lounge in the club level.

Tickets for the North Carolina Brewers Celebration will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 26 at NCBrewersCelebration.com.

The Durham-based All About Beer Magazine also puts on the World Beer Festival events every year in Durham, Raleigh, Columbia, SC and Cleveland, Ohio.

The Fussy Pumpkin and Peach Craft Beer Brew Off at D9 Brewing on April 25

Remember Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad, wherein they poked fun at craft beer drinkers who fussed over their “pumpkin peach ales“?

D9 Brewing in Cornelius wants to have a little fun of their own, and for a great cause. The brewery is inviting area homebrewers to submit their own pumpkin and peach beers in The Fussy Pumpkin and Peach Craft Beer Brew Off, which will be held at the brewery from 2-10 p.m. on Saturday, April 25.

It is free for homebrewers to submit their beers. For the price of a pint, anyone who visits D9 Brewing that day can sample the various homebrews and vote on their favorite. The winning homebrewer will get to brew their recipe on the brewery’s pilot batch system as part of D9′s “Community Brew” series.

While the event is a fun way for area homebrewers to fire back at Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad, it’s much more than that. It will also raise funds for the Purvis family. Two years ago, Jim and Shawna Purvis’s sixteen-year-old daughter Shelby was diagnosed with  High-Risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She spent the next year quarantined at home, or at a clinic receiving chemotherapy.

Two years have passed, and Shelby — now eighteen — hasn’t let her diagnosis stop her from serving others. Her efforts raising funds for charities like Hope Cancer and the Make-A-Wish Foundation led to her being nominated as Woman of the Year by the Leukemia and Lymphomas Society. Shelby will graduate high school this summer and undergo her final treatment on July 29.

So in addition to the beer and food trucks, you can also expect to see representatives from the Be The Match bone marrow registry, Alex’s Lemonade Stand (they fund childhood cancer research) and Ace and TJ’s Grin Kids. When the winning homebrewer’s beer is later tapped at the brewery, all proceeds will go to the Purvis family.

The Fussy Pumpkin and Peach Craft Beer Brew Off

An Elaboration on Collaborations

Earlier today, I posted about Birdsong Brewing and Hi-Wire Brewing collaborating on a beer, which will be released Friday. And a couple months ago, I wrote about The Boozehound, a collaboration between Triple C Brewing and Sycamore Brewing that was tapped on Valentine’s Day.

Well, these breweries aren’t the only ones feeling the collaborative spirit. This Thursday, March 12, NoDa Brewing is doing something they’ve never done before: brewing two collaborations with two different breweries and in two different cities. Head brewer Chad Henderson is out in Portland, Oregon, where he will be brewing an Imperial IPA with Ben Edmunds at Breakside Brewery. The beer will feature 180 pounds of NC honey and 180 pounds of Oregon honey. Both breweries know a thing or two about IPAs: last year NoDa Brewing won gold at the World Beer Cup for its Hop Drop ‘n Roll, and Breakside won gold at the Great American Beer Festival for its Breakside IPA. This collaboration beer will make its debut at the Craft Brewers Conference in April (and will find its way into NoDa’s taproom in late April as well).

While Henderson and Edmunds are pouring 360 pounds of honey into a massive Imperial IPA, NoDa’s lead brewer, Bart Roberts, will be across town brewing a hoppy bock with Lenny Boy’s John Watkins. This one will later be brewed at NoDa as well, and both versions will use organic malts. Roberts and Watkins are just two of a handful of brewers who worked at Charlotte’s Alternative Beverage homebrew store, so this will be a reunion of sorts.

Also this Thursday, Salud Beer Shop will be tapping Hop Rocks Sour IPA, a collaboration between Fullsteam Brewery in Durham and Wooden Robot Brewery, which is currently building in Charlotte’s South End.

So that’s Thursday, and a busy one. Then this Saturday morning, Kevin Kozak and Kelsie Cole from Wilmington’s Front Street Brewery are making the trip to NoDa to brew an oyster stout — but this is not the same one you might have had in previous years. This one will be a 9 percent ABV, imperial version of that beer brewed to celebrate Front Street’s 20th anniversary. And instead of being called “Mother Shucker,” this one will be called “Muthah Shuck Yo Mouth.”

 

Birdsong Brewing and Hi-Wire Brewing collaborate on “Bird on a Wire”

Hi-Wire and Birdsong Bird on a Wire Collaboration

Last month, Birdsong Brewing’s Conor Robinson made the drive up to Asheville to brew a collaboration beer with Hi-Wire Brewing. That beer — a peated Wee Heavy ale called “Bird on a Wire” — will be released at both breweries this Friday, March 13. They will retail for $8 a 22-ounce bottle, with a two-bottle limit per person.

Employees from the two breweries met last year at the Craft Brewers Conference in Denver. Robinson and Luke Holgate, the head brewer at Hi-Wire, were at Great Divide Brewing Co. discussing what they had learned at their seminars when they realized they had very similar brewing styles. They even talked of doing a collaboration, though at the time it was more of a joke since both breweries were at capacity and doing everything they could to brew their own beers.

A few months ago, though, the breweries got back in touch and decided it was time to revisit the idea of a collaboration beer. Both Robinson and Holgate are Scotch drinkers, and so the decision to brew a Wee Heavy — and  especially one with some peaty notes — was an easy one.

The beer will be on draft and available in bottles at 4:30 p.m. this Friday when Birdsong opens their doors. It will also hit local accounts closer to Charlotte Craft Beer Week, which runs March 20-28.

New Duckworth’s Uptown to open on Monday, March 2

The new, uptown Duckworth's will open to the public on Monday, March 2.

In 2004, Rob Duckworth built the first of the five restaurants that share his name. This original Duckworth’s — located in Mooresville — offered a menu of Philly cheesesteaks, hand-cut fries and ice cream.

And while that sounds like a winning trio, the ice cream just wasn’t moving. After about a year in business, Duckworth decided to part ways with the sweet stuff. But what to do with all of the ice cream freezers?

He already had the cold storage space, and it didn’t take much work to convert those old freezers to coolers. Soon he was swapping chocolate ice cream for chocolate stouts. In the decade since, Duckworth has applied this same craft beer focus to four more locations.

The latest, located right at the intersection of Tryon and 7th St., opens this Monday, March 2. Despite it being brand-new, the building — which was constructed in 1912 — actually has an older, more historic feel to it than the older locations.

Of course, the building does have a history, and one that Duckworth’s will be continuing. It was once home to Jonathan’s Uptown Bar and Restaurant (and Jonathan’s Jazz Cellar) in the early ’90s, before the owners of Dilworth Brewing opened Atlantic Beer and Ice Co. there in 1994. That business gave way to Fox and Hound, which was the previous tenant prior to Duckworth’s moving in.

While the building has some history, you might not have known it if you went in while it was Fox and Hound. That bar covered the old brick with sheetrock, and hid the thick floor joists with drop ceilings. Fortunately, Duckworth saw the value in bringing some of these elements back to life.

All of this is juxtaposed by new paint, fixtures and modern amenities as well. If you want to watch a game uptown, I’m not sure you could find a bad spot at Duckworth’s. New flat-screen TVs are everywhere, hanging above the tables, the booths, the bar.

How many? “Too many,” said Duckworth, who noted there are upwards of 180 screens spread across the two floors. The only thing that might rival the number of TVs are the taps: there are 150 behind the bar on the main level, 16 self-serve taps on the second floor, and 20 more down in the basement.

The kegs supplying those taps are stored on the second floor in three separate glass-lined coolers, each with its own temperature range to allow the bar to pour different styles at their appropriate temperatures. And while this building has held its share of bars, none of them had their coolers on the second floor. These massive coolers and their accompanying kegs added 92,000 pounds of weight to the upper level. Burly as those old floor joists are, they just weren’t up to the task. Duckworth had steel I-beams installed for extra support, and even added a small elevator that allows them to bring up kegs with ease.

Head to the basement and through a dungeon-esque door and you’ll find The Cellar at Duckworth’s, which is not yet open (Duckworth anticipates an early May opening date). While the menu on the upper levels will be identical to other Duckworth’s (think cheesesteaks, pizza, sandwiches and salads), the cellar’s menu will be comprised of local ingredients and small plates. Because they hope to source many ingredients locally, the menu will change seasonally. From twenty taps will pour more exclusive beers, and they will also use style-specific glassware.

There will be two 50″ screens in the cellar, though unlike the TVs upstairs they won’t be showing any sporting events. No, these will display information on the 20 beers on tap, including ABV, style and what volume is left in the keg. That limited barrel-aged stout you’ve been looking for is on, but will kick after just a few more pints. Better get it quick.

This booth is tucked into the walls down in The Cellar at Duckworth's. Best seat in the house?

The Cellar at Duckworth's will offer a very different ambiance than the floors above it. Look for it to open in early May.

The leather is new, the brick and plaster are definitely not.