We can thank Microsoft for personal computing as we know it, but did you know we can also thank the software behemoth for the Carolina Beer Temple in Matthews, NC? Thanks to frequent work travels to the Pacific Northwest as a Microsoft Project Management specialist, a beer-focused adventure to Belgium and a thorough tour of breweries across North Carolina; owner Rob Jacik and his wife knew they had the beginnings of a recipe for a craft beer business back home in Charlotte.
Carolina Beer Temple, which just opened in May, combines a premium mix of craft bottles, cans and growlers along with 16 rotating taps (and several interesting craft beer books are tucked into its shelves). Naturally, North Carolina and Belgian-based beers are the stars of the store and QCBF was eager to meet them.
So bring us through the process by which we are now sitting in Carolina Beer Temple?
Well, we can thank Highland Brewing’s Oatmeal Porter for my gateway into craft beer. I remember specifically I was at the Rheinland Haus in Dilworth in ’94 or ’95 when the manager at the time, Charlie Emmanuel, offered me a pint and it was unlike anything I had ever had. That beer opened my eyes to craft beer, which was fortunate because at the time I was working for Microsoft and traveling frequently to what is essentially the craft beer capital of the world: the Pacific Northwest. It was there that I really became one with a phenomenal craft beer scene.
About five years ago it was clear that after 15 years hammering away in a corporate role – I guess barrel-aging is more appropriate (laughs) – I needed to soak up a new challenge. So during my five year plan to wind down my corporate gig and open Carolina Beer Temple, several quality stores like Salud, Good Bottle and Davidson Beverage opened in and around Charlotte. That ultimately led to my wife and me opening up shop here in Matthews.
How do you go about selecting your inventory? Is there a formula?
I’d say 80% of what I carry I’ve tried. The other 20% have a strong reputation or it’s a matter of customers asking for that particular brand. The hard part is keeping up with the number of new releases to market, but that’s a good problem to have (laughs). On the draft side of the business I have noticed a trend: 40% of my customers look for an IPA, 40% want a stout or porter and the other 20% are on the fringes which is where I’ll mix it up with Belgians ales, one-offs and so on.
Do you feel safe saying that Charlotte is a bona fide craft beer destination?
Definitely. I’m so glad to finally be saying that having lived in Charlotte since 1985. Before Charlotte craft beer took off in recent years, we had Highland, Duck Rabbit, Mother Earth and a few others in the area making some really good beer. But it excites me to see Charlotte evolving from a very corporate and chain-based environment to a place where several independent small businesses are making an impact in the community. Case and point right here on this strip – we’ve got the Black Chicken next door, a creperie, Thai Taste is family owned – it’s an overall shift for Charlotte and definitely one that is worth checking out.
Why should a craft beer fan – local or visiting – spend some quality time at Carolina Beer Temple?
You know it can be hard to distinguish ourselves from a selection standpoint because there is so much variety out there. But I’d say one distinction is that we offer a wide variety of North Carolina beers, and Belgian beers you’re not accustomed to seeing. Those are the two categories you could say that we specialize in because, truthfully, those are the beers I believe in the most. Having traveled Belgium extensively and obviously knowing my North Carolina beers inside and out, I’m able to connect with my customers through those beers so you get the best of both worlds at Carolina Beer Temple.
With several hundred brands and every type of beer flowing through your store, but you were required by law to only drink one specific beer, what is it?
(Nervous laugh) It all depends on the day you summon me. Today, it would be Kasteel Cuvee de Chateau.