Heist Brewery joined the Queen City Brewers Festival lineup just a week before the Feb. 4th event date, making its first-ever beer tasting festival appearance in the process. The brewpub is slated to open this spring (early May, possibly sooner) in NoDa’s historic Highland Mill, just a 3-wood from downtown NoDa.
Owner Kurt Hogan dusted himself off after clearing out some old drywall and we kicked back at his blueprint table. Piles of dirt, gravel, lumber and Heist’s shiny copper brew house equipment (brew equip formerly belonging to Larry Sidor from Dechutes Brewery in Bend, OR) kept us company during this happy hour Q&A session.
“Not too long from now picture us sitting up here in a plush booth. They’ll be set up a few steps giving you a sense of privacy, and well, a better view,” the ever-energetic Hogan said. “I know every single solitary square inch of this space and we’ll be using all of it to deliver an experience for every type of customer that walks through our door. Oh, did I tell you about our plans for the door?”
The extent of detail considered for every facet of Heist Brewery is incredibly impressive. “We’d love to pull out all the stops now, but we also need to focus on opening for business.” Hogan acknowledged. With a Great American Beer Festival award-winning head brewer and gourmet chef at the helm, we couldn’t agree more.
How did you decide on creating a brewpub as opposed to a pure brewery?
It was a combination of bringing an original brewpub to the Charlotte market and the fact that I became passionate about food before beer. I’m from New England and fell in love with a concept that combined authentic, gourmet brick-oven pub fare with hand-crafted beer brewed on premise. But when you see me at Heist, you’ll be more likely to find me in the brew house. My brother got me into home brewing right around the time I went to college and I’m really looking forward to getting back into brewing.
Where did the name “Heist Brewery” come from and how much of a factor did Charlotte’s reputation as a bank town play?
We all know Charlotte is the 2nd largest banking hub in the
country so the name Heist of course made sense. But I’ve got to credit my brother for suggesting the name. When he mentioned it at first, I wasn’t sold, but it grew on me and I’m also a huge fan of the 1920’s bank robber and gangster era so that’s a theme among others we can play off of. And if you can believe it, I’m a distant relative of Baby Face Nelson, so I can count bloodlines as another reason why we chose the name.
Which styles of beer will Heist brew? Will you offer commercial beers and how will your beers and menu work together (i.e., beers paired with food, food prepared with beer, etc.)?
If I were brewing it would be double IPAs and big Belgian beers all day long, but while I know there are a lot of fans of these types of beers in Charlotte it’s still the minority. Our head brewer Zack Hart will be bringing his GABF medal-winning recipes to Heist and some new ones he’s wanted to unveil that he didn’t get a chance to brew at his previous gig [The Mash House in Fayetteville, NC]. Plus we’ll feature a weekly or bi-weekly beer using our pilot system, so no, we won’t offer commercial beers. However, our servers will gladly help a customer find a Heist brew based on what he/she likes for commercial beer.
As far as food and beer working together, this is an area that’s going to set us apart from anything in the area and it excites me the most. We’ll be incorporating ingredients of the highest quality from the brewing process into our pizza dough and artisan breads. I just hired a baker whose mission will be to push his creativity to the limit using our custom built 10’x10’ brick oven. Imagine a gourmet sandwich made with organic meats, cheeses and vegetables from local farms served on naturally fermented sourdough bread; add a pint of freshly made beer; in a one-of-a-kind historic setting; in NoDa. Yeah, I wish we could open tomorrow.
With several new breweries and craft beer concepts coming to the Charlotte market, how will you build your brand?
Our brand is growing organically at this stage in the game. I have a
vision of what I want the Heist brand to be, but it starts with the people you surround yourself with and I’m fortunate to have such a talented team come together [counts them off using his fingers]: an award winning brewer, a baker who knows no limits, my general contractor has been so valuable I brought him on as a partner and our general manager is a close friend I was able to pry away from Boston. We are all of the same frame of mind; no limits or boundaries when it comes to creative ideas. We are going to deliver an unbelievable brewpub experience and that’s how our brand will be built.