Friends doggedly pursue brewery
Monday, June 8, 2015
The moment the top was pulled off the container, a smell of oranges permeated the kitchen. The beer was not carbonated, but everyone was eager to try it even before it was siphoned from the bucket.
They smelled it, tasted it and analyzed its color in clear glasses. Their tastes are discerning, and they are hard on themselves. They discuss tweaking the recipe, the technique. They already are thinking of the next, perfected batch.
Five brewers, five years of experience, a lot of passion. That is the driving force behind Nauti Dog Brewing Co., a microbrewery startup looking to locate in Greenville.
Chuck and Janis Smith, a married couple, have formed a partnership with friends Brian Leonard, Chris Wheeler and Justin Stroud to perfect their home-brewing strategies and recipes. Those recipes have become so popular that the group has set its sights on building it a business in Greenville, home to all five of them.
But Nauti Dog won’t stop at making innovative beer, its founders said. It also will give back to its community.
Part of the proceeds from the brewery will go to benefit animals in need.
“That’s something that we’re all really looking forward to,” Janis Smith said. “We all have dogs, and we love them. We want to help others.”
The group is planning a brewery and tap room in the city and is looking for a location that would fit their needs. But it’s a long process.
“One of the permits we’re getting will take six months at least,” Wheeler said. “It’s a process, but we want to do everything right.”
Wheeler and the others said it could be six to 18 months before the brewery opens, depending on the location, permits, construction and other factors.
But the door has been opened for them to make their dream a reality, especially now that the City of Greenville has passed policy to allow microbreweries to locate in specific commercial areas of the city.
The group wants to make the brewery accessible to everyone, from those inexperienced with craft beer to those with more discriminating tastes.
“We just want it to be a comfortable place for people to come and hang out,” Chuck Smith said. “And we want to make it as family-friendly as possible.”
The brewery likely will offer four core craft beers that will be the taproom staples, along with a rotating selection of other brews. The core beers likely will include an India Pale Ale (IPA), a wheat beer, a porter and a cream brown, Chuck Smith said. But members of the group said they have made about 10 different brews, including beers flavored with grapefruit, coffee or habanero peppers.
Beers will be offered on tap and may also be bottled. Growlers will be available for people to purchase tap beers to take home, Nauti Dog partners said.
If you have a recipe, brewing beer is just like cooking, Chuck Smith said.
“If you can cook, you can brew,” he said.
“We’ve gotten a lot of our ideas online and have tweaked them over time,” Leonard said.
Water is boiled in a large pot on a burner in the yard while the group jokes and talks beer. When the water is ready, hops and other seasonings are added. Hops are the female flowers of the hop plant. They are used as a flavoring and stability agent in beer, giving it a bitter, tangy flavor.
The process depends on the type of beer being brewed, but the group said it usually takes about four to six hours to brew a batch at home, which can fill 50 bottles.
Once the mixture has cooked and cooled, yeast is added and the fermentation process begins. Sugar is added later to carbonate the beer, and the mixture is siphoned into bottles or other containers to wait until it is ready to consume.
What’s left behind is a muddy mixture of yeast and other debris at the bottom of the container.
The group has learned not to waste anything.
Bottles are sanitized between batches and are reused.
Spent beer grains are not wasted, either, Janis and Chuck Smith said. They can be used in bread, but the Nauti Dog Brewing crew uses theirs to make biscuits for their dogs. Jessie, a friendly beagle-pitt bull mix, alternates her time between belly rubs and sniffing around for treats.
The yeast left in the containers also can be reused. Bigger breweries make this a habit, Leonard said, since yeast does not come cheap. Depending on the type, Leonard said the home brewers can pay $4 to nearly $20 per packet of yeast used in a 50-bottle batch.
On a larger scale, that makes reusing yeast a fiscally sound decision, Leonard said, but yeast only can be reused for the same style of beer or darker.
Reducing waste and recycling when they can is something the group plans to carry over into Nauti Dog Brewing, to help maximize profits for the brewery and increase the amount contributed to animal advocacy groups, Chuck Smith said.
While perfecting their craft, members of the partnership have not stopped buying other beers to enjoy together.
“We call it research,” Chuck Smith said, laughing.
“Lots of research,” Janis Smith agreed.
Member of the group serve in roles that match their personalities, they said.
Stroud and Wheeler have the business sense, Chuck Smith said. Smith and Leonard are the creative pair, constantly coming up with “crazier and crazier ideas” for new beers.
And Janis Smith is the voice of reason.
“We need her,” Chuck Smith said, laughing. “She reins us in.”
A mutual love of spending time near the ocean and love for dogs helped inspire the name for the brewery — Nauti for “nautical” and Dog for their common love for their canine companions. Their logo features a dog and crossbones and hops on a black field, reminiscent of a pirate flag.
“Yeah, that wasn’t really an accident,” Chuck Smith said.
Moving from the carefree home brewing environment to a full-time business has been a dream for all five partners, they said, and they are determined to make it more than just a hobby.
“I think people have an impression of what home-brew is. So they may roll their eyes or whatever, but once they try it, they get it,” Chuck Smith said. “That look they get when they try one of our beers and love it, that’s why we want to do this.”
Contact Abbie Bennett at email@example.com or 252-329-9579.
Follow her on Twitter @AbbieRBennett.