Bellying up with Barking Duck Brewing Company

“This is awesome, it’s like my garage at home except there’s a bunch of beer and my wife’s not here nagging me.” Barking Duck co-owner and brewer Josh Carl, quoting one of his Mint Hill brewery’s first customers.

If you visited D9 Brewing Co. during their humbling beginnings in a cozy industrial unit, you’ll get an almost identical view when you visit the Barking Duck Brewing Company in Mint Hill. Owners Josh Carl and Jake Reynolds are grateful to be operating their 1-barrel brewery on top of full-time jobs at US Airways. Jake handles the bulk of the brewing operations while Josh manages the business side of the brewery.

The two friends were often joined by Josh’s barking, sniffing golden labs during homebrewing sessions giving them the “Barking” part of their brewery’s name, and the duo spent many hours brewery-planning at Duckworth’s Grill and Taphouse giving them the “Duck”.

QCBF made a recent trip to Barking Duck to try a flight at Mint Hill’s finest brewery.

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Barking Duck is Mint Hill’s first brewery. Tell us about your experience finding a location and is your plan to remain in Mint Hill for the long term?

Josh:  I started the search in Pineville because that’s where I live, but quickly found the real estate prices to be pretty ugly. Now that we’re established in the Mint Hill community, we truly feel like we’re becoming part of the community so it’s where we want to stay. Whenever I’m driving, I’m constantly scanning buildings for what could be our brewery’s next home.

Jake:  It was actually Aaron from D9 Brewing who tipped us off about this spot because he lives in Mint Hill. The town has been super receptive about our brewery’s opening and potential for expansion in the future. What started as “why in the world did you guys pick Mint Hill to open a brewery?” has quickly changed to, “why in the world aren’t there more breweries in Mint Hill?” We consistently hear our customers say that it is amazing to have a brewery in their town.

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You’ve cited Ass Clown and D9 as breweries that helped you with some pointers as you got started. What was the most helpful piece of advice they gave you?

Josh:  Grow organically. Those were the two words that Matt [Glidden, owner/brewer Ass Clown Brewing Co.] told us to swear by. He bought a 15BBL system thinking he’d scale his beers up to much bigger production and I’m pretty sure his equipment is for sale on Craigslist. Knowing who you are as a brewer is going to influence how or how quickly you’re going to grow.

Jake:  Don’t overextend your production capabilities. Andrew from D9 shared some lessons his brewery learned when they participated in so many festivals and events coming out of the gates. At one point they didn’t have more than a couple types of beer to serve out of their their taproom. Festivals are great for getting your name out there and to support a good cause, but you also have to be prepared for taking care of business on the home front. When we sold out of all of our beers the day we opened, we knew we had to be better prepared.

Barking Duck was one of the featured breweries in 106.5’s “12 Days of Craft-Mas”. Before that you sold out all of your beer at your grand opening. How have you been successful in getting the word out about your nanobrewery?

Josh:  Like a lot of breweries, social media has been our go-to for getting the word out. I’d like to be out at more events, meeting people and promoting our brewery but there’s only so much time after I finish my other job or spend time with my family.

Jake:  It’s really been a lot of good old-fashioned word of mouth advertising. Making the rounds at places like the Carolina Beer Temple and other breweries and introducing people to Barking Duck is something I really enjoy doing. Plus, whenever I’m out and about you can be sure I’ll be sporting my Barking Duck Brewing t-shirt [laughs]!

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Barking Duck’s first-ever tap takeover at the Carolina Beer Temple)

Your beer lineup is pretty diverse including a Belgian Amber, which is not too common. What is your favorite beer to brew and what are some future styles/flavors we can expect?

Josh:  Hands down my favorite beer of ours right now is our new Barking Dead Black IPA so no surprise it’s also my favorite beer to brew. Before that it was our Halfsies Double IPA.

Jake:  Well, I’m a big dark beer fan and it was the Vanilla Coffee Stout I brewed for my wedding a couple years ago that really jumpstarted the idea of opening a brewery. I got a couple of kegs from Ass Clown to go with some of my homebrew and over the course of the reception I kept hearing from friends how much they liked the Coffee Stout from Ass Clown. I’d tell them that beer was made on Josh’s back porch; it’s mine [laughs]! Yep, that was the light bulb moment for starting a brewery and I’ll keep brewing tasty dark beers.

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Lenny Boy Brewing Fills Out

QCBF last sat down with owner/brewer Townes Mozer back in December 2012 when his company was then called Lenny Boy Tea. Almost two years to the day we find ourselves in a totally revamped tap room bearing 14 taps; the majority of which now flow with wild and organic beers. Hence the company’s modified name, Lenny Boy Brewing Co.

It seems time flies even faster when you’re brewing kombucha and beer. We catch up with Townes and co. before Lenny Boy hits its next growth spurt.

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Rewind the clock two years and Lenny Boy was brewing organic kombucha exclusively. Was beer always in your  master plan, and will you expand to even more varieties of fermented beverages in the future?

First off, I have to say that the 2013 QCBF was huge for us. It was our second-ever festival [Charlotte Oktoberfest 2012 was Lenny Boy’s first fest] and it gave us a big boost to start off the year. So cheers to that [taster glasses clank].

There’s no question Lenny Boy has evolved since we sold our first bottle of kombucha back in December 2011. It was January of 2013 when we became certified organic, and god bless all the paperwork, we got our microbrewers permit in September of 2013.

Beer wasn’t part of the master plan; it was just wholesale kombucha, not even a taproom. We took it one step at a time and though we’ve experienced some growing pains [Lenny Boy was forced us to shut down the tap room for a few months in 2013 to upgrade its power supply], we’re in a good place. After several festivals with the same feedback, we knew we needed to offer a beverage with alcohol. So I did a little hunting and discovered this three-barrel beauty from a brewery in New Hampshire that was upgrading to a 30-barrel system.

As for other offerings like mead, that would require a winery permit and I’ve seen more than enough paperwork for the time being. But I’ll never say never [laughs].

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Your taproom has also undergone an extensive transformation and expansion. What do you like most about its atmosphere and any further enhancements on your mind?

We call this the Lenny Boy living room [motions to the taproom bar and lounge area]. I like the hominess to the taproom; it’s manageable and totally non-overbearing.

Improvement-wise, I’d really like to add more taps for more kombucha styles, but we’re pretty much maxed as is. By next football season I’ll put a nice big TV up on the wall so folks can kick back during game time.

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Lenny Boy’s bottled kombuchas can be found at a wide variety of retailers like Harris Teeter, Healthy Home Market and a number of healthy living stores. Will you bottle your beers in the future as well?

That is the plan in 2015. I’m in the process of looking at a bunch of different beer label designs, including a redesign of our kombucha labels. As far as the beers, they’re all organic and we’ll use 12oz bottles with some really cool branding to differentiate from the kombucha bottles.

You can expect to see specialty beers like our coffee stout, The Magellan (spiced brown ale), The Mirage (Belgian Tripel), a couple of our sours and one or two others that’ll complement our core year-round beers that you can find on draft throughout town.

What new ingredients – kombucha or beer – are you most looking forward to brewing with in 2015?

My favorite time of year is the last month of spring and the first two months of summer where there’s a new fruit or variation of produce we get our hands on. From blueberries early in the season to melons later in the grow cycle; it’s a really fun time to be brewing our kombuchas, and to work closely with the farmers.

On the beer side, we’re coming out with a yet-to-be-named blonde ale brewed with grits. It’ll come out in March to be on the front end of spring, and it has a really nice crispness to it which pairs perfectly with the early part of the season.

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Lenny Boy recently collaborated with the Cabarrus Homebrewers Society on a specialty beer and has held brewing demonstrations with the Carolina BrewMasters. How does our award-winning homebrew community inspire/motivate/challenge you and your brewers?

The homebrew clubs have welcomed us with open arms. I think they can relate to Lenny Boy because most would consider our scale to be glorified homebrewing [laughs]. The Carolina BrewMasters have been big advocates for us through Charlotte Oktoberfest, inviting us to present at a club meeting and even putting on a brewing demonstration here at the brewery.

One event I’m really looking forward to is the release of the CABREW Common on Jan. 17 here at the taproom. We’ll have about a dozen different beers made by members of the Cabarrus Homebrewers Society using our Lenny Boy Common as the base beer and all sorts of hop additions from nearby Elma Lomax Farm in Concord. Yes, all the hops used in the beer are organic [laughs].

Another connection that we, along with a number of Charlotte breweries, have is brewing talent from Alternative Beverage [homebrew supply store]. John, our beer brewer, was working at pretty much the Charlotte brain center for recipe formulation, efficiency and problem-solving. Homebrewing will always be in our blood.

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Sycamore Brewing Lets the Good Times Roll

Approachable
adjective

  1. capable of being approached; accessible
  2. (of a person) easy to meet, know, talk with, etc.

This is the entry you’ll find using dictionary.com. And this is the experience you can expect entering Sycamore Brewing’s taproom and meeting the brewery’s owners, Justin and Sarah Brigham.

The always-smiling, ever-gracious couple took a beer break and chatted with QCBF about their journey leading up to their Nov. 1st grand opening, brewing (of course) and sprinkled in some Charlotte trivia for good measure.

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Sycamore came out of the gates strong at its grand opening a few weeks ago. Did you anticipate such an enthusiastic turnout and how did you make such a strong connection to the Charlotte beer community before opening your taproom doors?

Sarah:  It was overwhelming, in a good way. We always knew we had strong support from the South End and surrounding neighborhood, but we didn’t anticipate our reach to go so far beyond that so it was a welcome surprise and very gratifying.

When you talk about the Charlotte beer community, I don’t think you can say enough good things. We wanted to bring people into the process of what we were doing through our social media, and at the moment it’s more about the production side of the business. It’s a fascinating business on so many levels and I think our audience really enjoys being a part of it with us.

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Speaking of your taproom, it is quite stunning and the only place in Charlotte to enjoy a Sycamore brew. What is your favorite aspect of the taproom?

Sarah:  We wanted to create an atmosphere that was warm and welcoming, kind of like your home away from home – that was the mission throughout our build.  We just announced that some of our bottle shop friends will be offering Sycamore beers:  Chris at Good Bottle, Michael at Brawley’s Beverage, Rob at the Carolina Beer Temple and Jason at Salud are carrying our kegs so it’s a bit of a brave new world for us [laughs].

The taproom feature I’m most fond of is the beautiful wooden walls. It’s poplar wood from a farm in Pittsboro that Justin and his dad drove home on Father’s day. They’ve got a beautiful patina to them and I just love what they add to the taproom’s feel.

Justin:  I’m pretty sure I lost a few years of my life to the bar so that gets my vote. The copper sheet on there started out totally raw, which we then sealed and added its patina and turned it into what it is now. It really was an act of love.

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(Photo credit:  Eric Gaddy, Casting Shadows Photography)

Sycamore Brewing puts a strong emphasis on the ingredients it uses in its beers. Tell us about your beers.  What is your most popular so far and any talk of collaborations with other brewers?

Justin:  That’s right, high-quality ingredients are a priority. We use local ingredients whenever possible, which is a seasonal thing and that will make for a really interesting lineup of summer beers. Our base malt, with the exception of two or three beers, comes from Scotland. It’s an heirloom grain, non-GMO and it’s the same type of grain you’d use to make a high-quality scotch so that’s pretty cool.

Collaborations, yeah, it’ll happen [smiles]. We’ve talked with our South End friends down the road at Triple C about it so at some point we’ll do something. Who knows, it could be a South End friends kind of thing. We had all the South End breweries, Triple C, Lenny Boy and Unknown, on tap at our grand opening so it would be pretty cool to bring us all together and make a beer.

One of our most popular beers is the Blonde which really showcases the Scottish malt; the IPAs we’ve released have been really well received and Jordy’s small batch Peanut Butter Porter was our fastest-selling keg.

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Justin: as a native Charlottean, which Charlotte athlete, celebrity or person of notoriety would you most like to serve at your bar?

Oh wow, probably Muggsy Bogues. I remember going to his house trick-or-treating back in the day and he definitely had the best candy. So maybe I can return the favor in beer form [laughs].

How did you arrive at the name Sycamore Brewing?

We wanted a name that conveyed something natural that also spoke to a place, and the Sycamore tree is found predominantly in the south so it fits us really well.

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Bonus question for Sycamore brewer, Jordy Smith:  with which brewer, national or international, would you most like to create a recipe?

I’m a big fan of Jolly Pumpkin in Michigan and have traded a couple emails with Sean Brennan so it’d be cool to collaborate with him. Sorry, but I can’t guarantee you’ll see a sour beer from us just yet.

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QCBF 2015 Tickets On Sale Now

You’re invited to the 4th annual Queen City Brewers Festival and tickets are on sale NOW! QCBF will take place Saturday, January 31st at the legendary Bojangles’ Coliseum. ACEing Autism is the event host as we shine the spotlight on our city’s growing crop of breweries, brewpubs, bottle shops, and craft beer-focused restaurants.

Tickets are limited, $40 per session and attendees must be 21+. Admission provides unlimited beer tasting, food sampling from a variety of craft beer-focused restaurants, live music and local artists will be displaying their works.

Tickets can be purchased online via Ticketmaster OR directly from the Bojangles’ Coliseum box office beginning today at 10AM. Click here for box office hours (please note: the only fee charged at the box office is a $2 facility improvement fee per ticket).

The event’s lineup of breweries includes newcomers Barking Duck Brewing, Salud Beer Shop Nanobrewery, Sugar Creek Brewing and Sycamore Brewing. Expect a variety of their beers including one “Super Brew” per session!

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In addition, QCBF welcomes a number new and returning craft beer and food Exhibitors for your sampling delight! Please visit them leading up to the event and check our website regularly to see who has been added.

A big thank you to our sponsors for enabling us to deliver you a high-quality experience, including Responsible Patron Partner, East Charlotte Nissan. Don’t forget to register for a free ride!

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 On behalf of ACEing Autism, we can’t wait to welcome you to the upcoming Queen City Brewers Festival!

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 Two Tasting Sessions:

1 – 4 PM

6 – 9 PM

Tickets are $40 per session

Buy Tickets

See you there!

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Giving Thanks for the Beer Growler

A half-gallon — 64 ounces or four pints — no matter how you do the measuring, growlers are meant for sharing. With Thanksgiving feasts fast-approaching, bringing varying extensions of family and friends together, the beer growler serves as the perfect accoutrement to scenes of celebration and homecoming.

Earlier this year, Charlotte welcomed its first growler fill shop when The Beer Growler opened at 1427 South Blvd on the fringe of Uptown, essentially across the street from World of Beer. The store has 45 rotating taps with a focus on fresh, local, regional and a few national breweries. In the near future, expect a few more taps featuring cider and sodas.

Owners Brandee, Jessica and Kristen finished topping off a few growler refills to fill us in on their operation, and we can’t to welcome The Beer Growler to QCBF on Jan. 31.

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(The beer growler positioned for holiday celebration)

Tell us about your first beer growler experience, and how did it lead to you opening Charlotte’s first-ever growler fill shop?

We were celebrating Brandee’s birthday in Savannah, GA, when we came across this growler filling store. The owner was incredibly nice and informative so each of us picked a beer, got our growler and went on our way. The next day we went back to the store to get a fresh growler filled to bring home. It was on that ride home that it occurred to us that Charlotte had nothing like this, and as huge craft beer fans, it became our mission to open Charlotte’s first growler fill store.

 
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For those unsure about growler care and upkeep, what exactly should one do once his or her beer growler is finished? Bonus question:  what is your gnarliest growler refill experience?

We’re a very welcoming bunch at The Beer Growler. Any size, shape, or type of growler; we’ll clean, sanitize and fill it. Because we’ll fill any growler it also means we see all kinds of conditions, and yes, that does include some gnarly ones [laughs]. Nothing too over-the-top comes to mind, but one guy brought in what must have been a relic from his garage, caked with dust and complete with scum. But we got it totally cleaned up for him and I’ve never seen a customer leave our store so happy.

In terms of care, there’s not much to it. We suggest a good rinse, then drop a little detergent into it, or Star San for our homebrewer friends. Keep an inch or two of water in there before sealing it up nice and tight. Then, bring it back to us of course [laughs].

How do you select your tap lineup and what trends have you noticed so far?

It wasn’t originally our intention to feature almost all North Carolina beers, but what we’ve found is that North Carolina beers are so plentiful that we can maintain a great variety without really having to go outside the state.

Beers that are not bottled or canned and not necessarily distributed in our immediate market are the beers that sell really well. For example, Raleigh Brewing Company and Asheville Brewing’s seasonals are very popular.  Any beer we literally have to travel to and pick up ourselves is going to sell well, which tells us we have a customer base that is totally dialed-in to the beer scene. We also update our taps via social media pretty much in real-time and we’re getting solid feedback right away.

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The Beer Growler has recently introduced growler punch cards and flights. Anything else new we can expect in the future?

Yes, we’re seeing people start with our 4-beer flights and then select their growler. The Frequent Filler Cards are being redeemed so that’s been great for our regulars. In terms of new offerings, we love hosting beer education nights. Cam from Great Lakes was our first brewery presenter and was awesome, so we’ll continue to invite breweries to serve up knowledge and fresh beer.  We also continue to explore the possibility of serving pints, but just like our brewery friends have experienced, rezoning takes time. In the meantime, we’re going to keep doing what we do best. So if you have an empty growler, we can fix that [laughs].
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