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New image brewing for city's historic warehouse district

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A server at Pitt Street Brewing Co. prepares a beer flight during their grand opening on Sept. 23, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Monday, September 25, 2017

On first glance, the Pitt Brewing Company at 630 S. Pitt St. in Greenville looks like it has been there a hundred years, but that is just because its new owners have preserved the solid brick building, formerly the Coca-Cola Bottling building, near the corner of Dickinson Avenue in the historic warehouse district.

The brewery opened Aug. 25, but threw its official celebration Saturday. General Manager Briana Long said she and the owners are happy with the location in the district, which sits between the center city downtown area and west Greenville.

“The building, last owned by Greco Restaurant Supply, became available a couple years ago and now we’re here to be a part of the community and serve great beer,” Long said.

The 18-member investor group is led by Lenny Jordan, who also owns a brewery in Franklin in western North Carolina; Mike McCarty, Taft Development Group vice president; and Michael Glenn, whose family owns and renovated the Jefferson Blount Harvey Building on Evans Street and several others in the downtown and warehouse districts.

Nate McLaughlin, 31, head brewer at the Pitt Street Brewing Company, honed his skill in California, where craft brewing has been thriving for decades. He currently serves up seven beer types, brewed in vats that line up next to the bar and stretch back deep into the building. Although he brews varying styles to suit customers’ tastes, his signature brew is Ruinenlust IPA (Indian pale ale), popular because of its 6.8 alcohol volume and “hoppy” flavor. Most craft beers are rated for preference by aficionados by their ABV (alcohol by volume) and IBU (international bitterness scale) measures. Beer’s bitterness is based primarily on the acidity of its hops, a key ingredient.

“Back in the late 1970s, American craft brewers like Sierra Nevada in California took that recipe and turned it up a notch,” McLaughlin said. “Indian pale ale now is a go-to beer for many drinkers. They determine what craft brewers do and we tailor our beers to their tastes.” 

McLaughlin considers Greenville beer fans “a young crowd,” but not because of their age.

“They’re relatively young in experience with craft beers,” he said. “The craze is really just hitting the east coast. In Greenville, I see a city on the verge of a craft beer explosion. I also see a diverse population of artists, medical students and young professionals. I can see the potential here and I want to be part of it.”

McLaughlin said the Dickinson district is ripe for building a perfect combination of breweries, restaurants, art and entertainment houses and small retail businesses. He is pushing for a strong collaborative effort and meets frequently with his crafting counterparts, including Grayson Williams, 27, owner and head brewer of Trollingwood Taproom and Brewery, which opened two years ago at 707 Dickinson Ave. and is situated within sight of the Pitt Street Brewing Company.

Williams said he loves having a neighbor who shares his passion for craft brewing.

“It’s just been us, a restaurant and Bowling’s art studio down the street, which drew us to the area,” he said. “Once the district adds more attractions, people can brewery-hop, which is great for us. Nate and I already collaborated on a brew and hope to do more in the future. I know this is going to be a great area, for sure.”

McLaughlin’s plan is to keep good beer flowing, have good events and musicians and promote the arts, including Bowling’s iron menagerie outside his door. 

“His art is fantastic and a great representation of the district and what we want to build here,” McLaughlin said.

Patrons at Saturday’s grand opening were excited to see another craft brewery in the district and already are thinking ahead for more of the kind of growth that McLaughlin and Williams described.

Megan Perry, an anthropology professor at East Carolina University, said she likes the district’s redevelopment model, although she has concerns about the potential for the gentrification of west Greenville.

“In one sense, development can instill pride of place into the area, but there have to be things here that benefit that community,” Perry said. “Half of this town is African-American, and most of what you see here is geared for people who are not. That should change.” 

“Establishing more adult attractions in this district would be great,” said Mary Clay, a health care professional who has lived in Greenville since 1984. “Art like Bowling’s sculptures should be showcased and will draw a lot of people. The supermarket just down Dickinson helped relieve a food desert, and it would be great to also see something like a fresh produce market here.”

Samantha Neal, 40, and her husband Keith, 44, described themselves as brewery connoisseurs. She enjoyed a cider beer and Keith took to the Ruinenlust.

“I like this IPA brew; very smooth with nice flavor and medium weight, and very hoppy” Keith Neal said. “I came back for more.”

“I like this friendly atmosphere and all this open space, up front and in back,” Samantha Neal said. “It reminds me of Asheville now. It’s not about competition, but pleasing all the people who love breweries.”

McLaughlin said he wants craft beer to be friendly and he want to work together with other brewers.

“Sure, we are competing for customers, but in the end, if we all make better beer, we all do better, and Greenville does better as a city,” he said. “I don’t want my brewery to make the best beer; I want Greenville to make the best beer.”

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.

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