Thinking about starting a brewery? Tips from two newbies

By Will Doran


It’s not by chance that so many of the up-and-coming breweries around the Triangle started with somebody brewing beer in a garage and deciding to take a stab at doing it professionally.

That may seem obvious. But what other professions have such a large base of people who start out doing it at home for free? Aspiring bankers don’t give loans to friends as practice.

It helps that homebrewing is a cheap hobby. It costs $100 to $200 to get all the equipment and ingredients you need to brew your first five-gallon batch, and a fraction of that for each subsequent batch you brew.

It’s a growing hobby, too. Atlantic Brew Supply in Raleigh recently gave away wort. The sugary liquid, a byproduct of grain, is a key ingredient. They had enough for about 100 people and ran out with plenty of homebrewers still in line.


And there are more and more showcases for homebrewers who love competition or want feedback before going pro. Opening a brewery isn’t cheap, but it’s at least cheaper than opening a golf course, winery or ski lodge, to name other hobbies people dream of doing professionally.

So for you dreamers out there, I talked to some people who are making names for themselves despite only recently transitioning from homebrewer to brewer.

Craft beer in North Carolina is competitive, with more than 170 breweries. If you’re going to join the fray, you need to know you’ll be good.

Take Southern Peak Brewery in Apex. It had only been open three months when it won two silver medals at the U.S. Open Beer Championship in July.

The only breweries that beat Southern Peak in the altbier and Baltic porter categories were longtime Portland, Ore., brewery Widmer Brothers Brewing and California phenom Ballast Point, which sold for $1 billion last year.

“I texted the other guys and was like, ‘Holy (smokes), what?’ ” Southern Peak co-owner Nathan Poissant said, of his reaction when he heard the results.

The brand-new brewery’s quality is less surprising when you learn Poissant has been homebrewing for more than a decade. But still. They brew their beer in small seven-barrel tanks, in a space tinier than the bar’s sitting area.

The fact that the small guys will always be able to compete with the biggest brewers is one of the coolest aspects of the beer business. Anyone can make a good beer.

That’s not to say that everyone makes a good beer, though. And there’s a reason, at least according to two newcomers.

“Brewing can be really scientific,” Poissant said. “People won’t just seek you out because you’re ‘craft’ anymore,” he added. “That doesn’t automatically mean you’re good. You have to prove quality and consistency.”

Whit Baker agrees. He’s a co-owner of Bond Brothers Beer Co. in Cary, which also opened this spring. Most beers, Baker said, “are 95 percent science, 5 percent art.”

Bond Brothers is another up-and-coming brewery that has been drawing big crowds despite having been open a few months.

Baker and the Bond twins were active in local homebrew circles long before their breweries opened. So it made sense that for months leading up to it, he and Jay and Jeremy Bond could be found at any event in Cary that would let them give out free beer to potential customers.

Baker is a former high school chemistry teacher who is about to start teaching brewing classes at Wake Technical Community College. He can talk your ear off about yeasts or phenols or bacteria, or more likely all of the above. “I like drinking beer, but I like brewing it more,” he said.

You have to really love brewing to open a brewery, though. Success means turning your attention to marketing, staffing, distribution and all manner of legal, logistical and bureaucratic hurdles.

Poissant said before Southern Peak opened, he spent 16 months dealing with everything but beer: “You’re thinking about permitting. You’re thinking about inspections. You’re thinking about electrical, plumbing, gas.”

And now, with those darn awards and the crowds, Southern Peak is short on supply and might soon have to cross one or two beers off the menu, at least for a few days. They weren’t expecting to be so busy so early.

Just one more problem, but at least its answer is brewing more beer.

Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran

Read more here:

Southern Peak Brewery Wins TWO Silver Medals at the 2016 U.S. Open Beer Championship!



"Oxford, OH (July 11, 2016) – Breweries from Maui to Munich sent in almost 5,000 beers representing over 90 different styles for the 2016 U.S. Open Beer Championship...

Judging in the U.S. Open Beer Championships is blind; the judges do not know what beers they are tasting. The final round of judging was held at the Quarter Barrel Brewery & Pub in Oxford, Ohio."

For more information please visit

We are thrilled to announce that our Midnight Conductor Baltic Porter and German Altbier are coming home with Silver Medals from the 2016 U.S. Open Beer Championship!  We are honored to have our name listed among the “giants” of craft beer and could not be more proud of our small team here at the brewery.  Congratulations to all the winners, especially to the other North Carolina breweries that are bringing home medals.  Cheers!


Join us for our GRAND OPENING!

Southern Peak Brewery's Grand Opening will be

Saturday, June 4th from 2PM - Close!

After 5 great weeks during our soft opening phase we are excited to announce our grand opening!

We'll have 8 beers plus our popular Kombucha on tap!

  • 1911 Black Lager                                           
  • Peak City Golden Lager
  • Puffing Devil IPA
  • Southern Charm Ale
  • Belgian Golden Strong
  • Belgian Dark Strong
  • German Altbier
  • Session IPA

Chirba Chirba and Big Mike's BBQ will also be there serving good eats!  Beer tickets will be sold at the door for $5ea.  Each ticket will get you a pint.  The first 50 in attendance will receive a Southern Peak pint glass!  We'll also do 5 separate raffles for a chance to win brewery growlers and other swag!

Help us celebrate this milestone, hope to see you there!

Our hop farm year 2

This growing season is the start of year #2 for the Southern Peak hop farm and our vines are off to a great start!  We learned so much after our first season and it’s exciting to see our efforts taking hold and paying off.  Our first growing season produced better than expected yields and we have high expectations for this years crop.  Our brewers are already working up recipes for this years harvest.  Great beer starts here!

Welcome to 2016!

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to 2016 - the year of Southern Peak Brewery!  Looking back on 2015, it was a year of challenges, roadblocks and over all cattywampus.  However, there were also many reasons to celebrate, keep us motivated and excited for things to come.  

The parking lot is paved and marked, the equipment is hooked up and ... believe it or not ... we are about to start brewing beer.  The bar concrete is set, being stained and finished next week.  With a little more design work the taproom will be ready for pouring beers!  

Keep checking in, we are getting ready to announce an opening date.