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Fall debut brewing on Evans Street

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Donald Dunn and Benjamin Self of The Uptown Brewing Company pose in front of the site of their future business. (Joe Pellegrino/The Daily Reflector)

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Shannon Keith

Monday, August 22, 2016

Benjamin Self, brewmaster and co-owner of Uptown Brewing Co., is having a busy summer. 

When he isn’t renovating the 1930s Evans Street building to get ready for Greenville’s first full-production brewery, Self is brewing beer off site until the brewery’s equipment is shipped from overseas.

Self said he doesn’t have a lot of free time lately, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The worst day working for yourself is better than the best day working for someone else,” Self said. “It’s been a lot of work, but I’m doing something I love.”

Self said he got involved in the craft beer industry in 2008, not long after earning a chemical engineering degree from the University of Alabama.

“I worked as a research engineer for about a year before the recession hit and I lost my job,” Self said. “I started thinking about what I was passionate about ... brewing beer was the answer.”

Self said the timing ended up being perfect to make the transition into his new career.

“That’s about the time the craft beer scene really took off,” Self said. “It had been around for a while with bigger breweries, but 2008 was when craft beer became more localized. Even as the economy was dying, craft beer was something we could afford to give ourselves.”

During the next few years, Self learned the brewing business from friends in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala. He later worked as a quality control consultant for breweries up and down the East Coast before working at the Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery in Farmville.

After about 18 months with Duck-Rabbit, Self said he and his business partners — brothers Donald and Billy Dunn — started looking to open a brewery in downtown Greenville.

"The craft beer scene in Greenville is starting to take off, and we thought this was a perfect time," Self said. "We want this to be our legacy ... something that’s still here 30 years from now."

Co-owner Donald Dunn said he and his partners “couldn’t be happier” about the brewery’s location at 418 Evans St., a building that has stood vacant for 30 years.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better location,” Dunn said. “Especially with what is happening in Uptown Greenville. We are coming in at the right time and definitely the right place.”

More than $460,000 is being invested in the building on Evans Street. The brewery recently received a $60,000 Building Reuse Grant, which is intended for the renovation of vacant properties. Under the grant’s terms, Uptown Brewery Co. must commit to creating at least 12 full-time jobs during the next two years.

“The people in Greenville’s Office of Economic Development were great during the grant process,” Dunn said. “The city is really committed to seeing this area thrive. People are excited when they hear we are opening in the Uptown district ... it’s created a really positive buzz.” 

Meredith Hawke, event and planning director for Uptown Greenville, said businesses like the Uptown Brewing Co. are a good fit in areas undergoing redevelopment efforts.

“Restaurants and breweries attract people and attract other business because you say ‘I can walk to lunch from work,’” Hawke said. “It’s businesses like these that are kicking off a renaissance for the Uptown District.”

Self said the brewery, which is expected to open in the fall, will focus on delivering craft beer that “focuses on drinkability.”

“People that love beer but may be new to the craft beer scene, that’s who we’re brewing for,” Self said. 

Self said his approach to brewing reflects his love of craft beer and his background as a chemical engineer. He keeps his brewery as clean as any lab he worked at as a chemist.

“The first ingredient in beer is cleanliness,” Self said. “When we aren’t brewing beer, we’re cleaning ... not many people are as obsessive as I am about quality control.”

Self said the beer he brews reflects the people in eastern North Carolina. “I can’t afford to ignore the preferences of people in this region ... we want our beer to represent the diversity of where we are.”

Uptown Brewing will start out with four year-round beers that will be brewed on site: a pale ale; a wheat ale; a coffee stout beer; and an IPA or India pale ale, a hoppy beer style known for its strong and bitter taste.

“These will be our main beers that we will start with,” Self said. “We also will have two semi-seasonal beers. The cold seasonal beer will be a Belgian-style dubbel, and the warm seasonal will be a Mexican-style lager.

“We will be accommodating a lot of different tastes,” he said. “That’s the great thing about this business ... there’s a beer for everyone.”

 

Contact Shannon Keith at skeith@reflector.com and 329-9575

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