“District 9 is rising up for craft beer.” Brewer and owner Aaron Burton recalls the slogan he and fellow brewers/owners Andrew Durstewitz and John Ashcraft joked about for their brewery. The area of North Carolina where D9 Brewing Company is located is indeed called District 9, but the name District 9 also draws influence from District 9 the movie, the Hunger Games and 1984 to name a few. The common theme among those works is people coming together to rise up against oppression. While there isn’t a great deal of oppression in the Cornelius area of North Carolina, it’s the sense of community and beer as a culture that gives meaning to the D9 Brewing Company name.
We sat down with Andrew Durstewitz and Aaron Burton in none other than North Carolina’s District 9 (Duckworth’s – Huntersville to be exact) to get to know more about their brewery and mission. They’ll make their festival debut at ACEing Autism’s Queen City Brewers Festival in just over two weeks.
Your launch party on Nov. 9 had incredible support with a line in the hundreds. To what do you attribute D9’s eager fan base considering you ramped up so quickly?
Andrew: Our launch event was tremendous. We counted 325 thirsty and patient visitors. One person showed us the timer he set on his phone which turned out to be more than a 40 minute wait. I did the math the next day and we ended up pouring one beer every 30 seconds for four hours. And I sure felt it the next day too, who knew pouring beer was such a workout [laughing]!
We love the community component of making interesting, quality beer, and that started with brew sessions at my house. Our family, friends, friends with kids, other home brewers; they all came together with beer as the common connection. Even though it’s a little harder to capture that essence being in an industrial park, we think it’s those roots that have rubbed off on people, and that has us off to a successful start. We really love how beer brings people and communities together. That really is our purpose; to brew outstanding beer that unites people.
What was the signifying moment when you realized you were ready to turn homebrewing into a commercial venture?
Aaron: Well, there was both that single moment where we knew it was going to happen, but it was also like a rolling boulder picking up more and more speed. It was very evident we needed to do something after we built a cold room in Andrew’s garage.
Andrew: As soon as we bought a 1-barrel system – which took me and John about a year to finally pull the trigger – we knew that commercial scale brewing was part of our future. It was at that point that Aaron officially came on board and we had our team set. Equipment aside, it was also a big jump for the three of us from a friendship standpoint. We’ve been good friends for over a decade, and now we had to ask what we could expect from one another on a business level. So it was pretty scary and stressful to go through with it, but we also absolutely love every minute of it.
A beer‘s name is so key these days. How do you arrive at your brews’ names?
Andrew: The themes come from the struggles people have in the world. If we can enrich the lives of people and be a grassroots organization, to us, we’re making a positive impact and hopefully leaving the world a better place. The Battle Hymn [Black IPA] is that moment when a soldier steps forward to do something righteous. And if you notice the artwork for this beer, you’ll see the soldier battling smokestacks, alluding to the taking down of a corporate enemy. We try not to go overboard with beer names, but as with everything we do, we want to reinforce our commitment to the well-being of the people, and a movement to a positive community.
What led you to D9’s nondescript home in a Cornelius commercial strip?
Aaron: It was going to be Davidson or Cornelius, and Cornelius has been incredibly welcoming toward us.
Andrew: The lake-area is where we all live too so going back to the brew sessions I hosted, we wanted our brewery to be an extension of our backyard.
What is your ideal size brewery?
Andrew: Culture comes before size, so it has to be large enough and small enough to serve everyone in our community. From a financing standpoint, we’re looking at a 10-barrel system. There’s a lot you can do scaling-wise and there’s little complexity so we won’t have to rely on designers or architects compared to a much larger system.
My dream is to have a setup with some live music where families with kids and pets can come together by day, and by night it’s adults having a good time. To put it in perspective, at Avery Brewing in Colorado, you’ll see picnic tables outside, kids running around and dogs everywhere; at Lagunitas Brewing they have an amphitheater with sod around it and regularly have three and four-piece bands playing. So if you combine the culture of an Avery with the setup of Lagunitas and serve D9 beers, that’s exactly what I’m envisioning for the amazing people in our community.