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Brewery brings flavor, diversity to Mills' development

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Briana Brake reacts Saturday during the Rocky Mount Brewery Grand Opening at the Rocky Mount Mills.


Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

ROCKY MOUNT — A long of line of beer lovers waited in anticipation on sunny and cold Saturday as two trailblazers in the craft beer industry opened up their space at the Rocky Mount Mills.

Briana Brake, brewer and founder of Spaceway Brewery, and Celeste Beatty, brewer and founder of Harlem Brewing, celebrated their collaboration at the historic 150-acre mixed-use development with the grand opening of Rocky Mount Brewery.

A wave of people came out to the Tar River mills to buy a bottle, a six pack or taste test craft beer such as the Sugar Golden Ale or the Harlem Renaissance Wit. Visitors were a mixture of family and friends, locals and beer enthusiasts from the Triangle area and as far as Winston-Salem and Greensboro.

“It was an amazing day and both Briana and I really enjoyed seeing such a great mix of people come by,” Beatty said.

The launch of Rocky Mount Brewery now fills up each of the spaces at the Rocky Mount Mills’ Brewery Incubator, which includes Hopfly Brewing Co., Planetary Elixirs and BDD Brewing Co. Sebastian Wolfrum, executive brewmaster for the Rocky Mount Mills, was excited about the opening of Rocky Mount Brewery. 

Wolfrum met both Brake and Beatty at an event in Durham last year that got the ball rolling about them possibly coming to the Mills.

“For us an incubator, we’re always looking for interesting startups, and not for someone who just wants to open a brewery,” Wolfrum said. “We wanted somebody that has an interesting angle, that has a unique set of recipes or a fun story, because the biggest thing about craft beer isn’t just about the beer being good, but what is actually around the beer. It’s how it all connects and what makes people choose that beer over another.”

Brake and Beatty becoming operators and infusing a new flavor and spirit into North Carolina’s burgeoing craft beer industry also was of historic significance. According to the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild, the state boasts the largest number of craft breweries in the American South, with more than 260 breweries and brewpubs.

Rocky Mount Brewery represents one of two black-owned breweries in the state and is among fewer than 50 women and minority-owned breweries in the country. Kenyatta Hall and Jamie Good, who both came by the opening and are friends of Brake, said it’s refreshing to see black women in brewing and to see African-Americans on the ground level of what’s happening at the Mills.

“Craft beer has predominately been consumed by affluent white people,” Wolfrum said. “This is why particularly for me it’s exciting, because it brings in people of color that often don’t drink craft beer, because if you go to an event and you don’t see anyone that looks like you it’s really hard to feel like this is something for you. With them being here, it’s really going to change the look of the campus by bringing in African-Americans as a whole new set of craft beer drinkers, and that’s going to make it easier overall for having the whole town show up.”

Tarrick Pittman, owner of CoolGeeks Computer Repair and Installation Services in downtown Rocky Mount and president of the Downtown Community Association, agreed with Wolfrum’s opinion on the impact Rocky Mount Brewery could have in bringing more diversity to the Mills.

“This closes the gap, gives them a familar face and makes them feel even more comfortable coming out here like I always have felt about the Mills,” Pittman said. “The Mills is a good restoration project, which is good for the community, good for the economy and it gives our entrepreneurs an opportunity to display their talents and also hire people within the community. It’s important that they’re here.”

Beatty said Rocky Mount Brewery isn’t just about her and Brake owning or opening another brewery, but how much they can help other people.

“I met a young man from Rocky Mount that is looking for opportunities to be involved in the industry, and he is willing to volunteer and learned the craft,” she said. “We really want this to be a place where can create opportunities where we have people to come in and learn about craft brewery ... We’re making a special effort to reach out to the community, and not saying it hasn’t been done by other breweries. But I sense from the community, there hasn’t been as much. But I get a sense there is a greater interest in what is happening here and what is happening in craft beer.”