“Watch your feet, we’ve got kegs going out the door,”
NoDa Brewing owner Todd Ford warned with a friendly gesture as Assistant Brewer Matt Virgil weaved a hand truck around the end of the bar.
It was shortly before 5 p.m. on a Wednesday and the NoDa Brewing tasting room was humming with activity. “We haven’t really noticed a slow day of the week just yet,” owner Suzie Ford mentioned before taking care of a customer order. Thinking our Q&A session would have a tame backdrop on a midweek visit, there is no doubt NoDa Brewing is off and running as Charlotte’s most anticipated addition to the Queen City’s brewery scene.
You have a serious “NoDa” theme: location, brewery name, and the theme is even built into the names of your beers. How do you arrive at your creative beer names and what is the process?
We are such proponents of the neighborhood; we try to incorporate the environment and the arts feel into the brewery and our beers as much as we can. Plus, we have a young staff that really embraces the challenge of naming our beers and uses the “NoDa” terminology as a benchmark to their creativity.
What led you and Suzie into the brewery business?
It was certainly a number of factors. We had just come into an empty household with all our kids out to college and we were looking for an opportunity where we could do something together. My previous job as an airline pilot had become a grind over the last few years of a nineteen year career and Suzie’s job as an Operations Manager at a community bank ran its course after her bank was acquired. I had been home brewing since the mid 90’s so we thought that if we can connect with the right people, we can contribute to the great beer that is being made today. It’s definitely a day and night business and Suzie is kept busy with the business aspect of the brewery, but if I ever want to see her or ask a question I just have to walk a few feet. So it’s much more of a normal lifestyle now coming from a schedule that had me away 17 or 18 days out of the month.
You’ve done a great job developing a following and a real buzz in the Charlotte craft beer community. What has been the key to your success during these early stages?
Fortunately we’re blessed with a very active beer community. The Charlotte Beer Club has embraced us and we have a strong group of beer bloggers, like Charlotte Beer, so people like Darrin Pikarsky and Daniel Hartis have been great about helping us get the word out. There is also a very well-established home brew club which we’re members of, the Carolina BrewMasters. They have been extremely helpful not only in their support of our brewery, but the good, critical feedback that they’ve been able to offer. That is something very important to us so we know what people like and what we can do better.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when creating new beer styles and flavors?
It’s really a number of areas. Personally, I’m a big fan of IPAs and double IPAs. We also pick up ideas from friends on the West Coast where they are a bit ahead of the trends we see here. We also have a young, ambitious Brewer who really sees no boundaries as to what possibilities exist, so that contributes to our beers, particularly the NoDable series. Since we have the ability to brew small batches of one-off beers, which essentially live in the brewery, we don’t have the pressures of brewing something that has to go right out on a full commercial scale. We can brew an experimental 24-gallon batch and that in itself allows us to be very creative. I love having the ability to do historical beers. One I think is interesting is a German-style beer you’d find if you were living back in the 1100’s. Making a beer that is not only educational to the consumer, but to the brewer as well, is important to us. And if you don’t like it, that’s fine, you can have a house beer, or come back and try something new the following week.
What is it about Charlotte that makes it an attractive city to open a brewery?
We have two interesting worlds going on here. We have
a good crowd of knowledgeable craft beer drinkers and we also have a great number of people that haven’t even come across the line from American Lite Lagers. So to have the potential to draw from a large population to try malty, hoppier beers is a great growth possibility. And I know that Charlotte has the potential to develop a great beer culture like Asheville. I’ve enjoyed voting for Asheville the last few years as Beer City USA, but they’re going to have to do it on their own now since Charlotte will be getting my vote.