It seems like every week there’s a new brewery popping up in Raleigh. Of course, nobody is complaining. The economic impact of the beer industry across North Carolina is undeniable. In 2014, it brought nearly $8 billion into the states economy, while creating over 26k jobs and over $213 million in state and local taxes (National Beer Wholesalers Association). One of the most recent and exciting breweries to call Raleigh home, is Neuse River Brewing Company (NRBC). Owners, Ryan Kolarov and David Powell, both NC natives, moved back to Raleigh in 2012 from Northern California to be a part of the movement. We sat down with David and Ryan for our latest installment of Raleigh Hustles Hard, to learn more about how they went from home brewers with a dream to a couple of Raleigh’s coolest new small business owners.
David and Ryan have been home brewing for as long as they can remember. David’s passion began while living in Brooklyn, NY, working in the film industry. At the time, Ryan was brewing his own beer at home, over 1,600 miles away in St. Thomas. As fate would have it, life brought them unknowingly, six miles from each other in Northern California. By complete chance, they reconnected in 2009 and almost immediately starting brewing. “We both had such unique styles that complimented each other”, said Ryan. In early 2010, they began brewing in Ryan’s garage. Ryan was working in the brewery and winery industry at the time, so they were blessed with a lot of resources and great ingredients to pull from. “We just started experimenting and playing around with non-traditional ideas, and it turned out well”, said David. They were focused from the beginning. “From the moment we started brewing together, everything we created was working towards the dream of opening our brewery.”
David and Ryan made the move back to Raleigh in 2012. With two growing families and Raleigh’s growing market, they saw a great opportunity in coming back home. “We grew up here. Raleigh is home for us. We have an awesome beer, food, and art culture that’s been emerging for the last ten years. It’s created a great atmosphere for this market.” Once back, they hit the ground the running. David began working at World Of Beer, getting a crash course in cost analysis and purchasing, as well as gaining invaluable insight into the current market value and consumer habits. “It really helped us understand the kind of beer and even particular flavors that the client was after.” While David was learning at World of Beer, Ryan began market research, scouting locations, and building the business plan for the brewery. Even with the years of experimenting and planning, opening NRBC did not come without huge risk. Both Ryan and David, along with their families, made significant sacrifices, even at a point moving back in with their parents and cashing out retirement accounts to purchase the necessary equipment. But with a lot of hustle, some help, and a bit of luck, Ryan and David broke ground at 518 Pershing Road, the eventual home of Neuse River Brewing Co., on July 1st, 2014.
We were lucky enough to see this piece of property transform from a relic of a building into one of the coolest brewery / taprooms in Raleigh. It was truly a family effort. Ryan's wife Jennifer, who is also NRBC's Director of Sales & Marketing, was instrumental in the overall design of the taproom. David, Ryan, and his stepfather, Bob, built literally everything from the 30-foot concrete slab bar, to the 15+ picnic style and high top tables around the room. The real centerpiece is the industrial size fan that looks like it belongs in an airplane hanger. Even in the middle of the summer with no air conditioning, it’s still the coolest spot in town. The taproom shares an indoor and outdoor area separated by two large garage doors. On most days, you can find one of the Triangle’s many amazing food trucks, parked outside. NRBC is kid-friendly, and even has a kiddy table with toys and books.
Neuse River Brewing Co. officially opened on July 31st, 2015. Right now, they offer three beers on tap; a 9% Neusiok Imperial Saison, a 7.8% Caleb’s High Noon Imperial IPA, and a 10.5% Affluent Tripel. “The Neusiok had a running start as soon as it was sampled. Everyone wanted it. So for the open, we focused on adding some other beers to give people something they weren’t expecting”, said David. The high gravity beers on tap are delicious. “Sometimes a high gravity beer is really nice because you can take your time with it and really enjoy the beer, your friends, and your surroundings.” However, don’t expect only high gravity beer at NRBC. “Soon, we’ll be a little more well balanced than how we came out of the gate. We wanted to come out with a bang, but you can expect many more exceptional beers at the 4.5 to 5% level.” With 10 open taps, and seven new beers on deck, expect that sooner than later. “We’re really excited about our next release, the Riverkeeper’s Wit”, said David. This special 4.8% Belgian style wheat beer will be a cornerstone of NRBC and go far beyond the stomachs of those who drink it. For every beer sold, 5% of the revenue will be donated to the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation, which restores and preserves the Neuse River basin through education, advocacy, and enforcement. “We grew up stomping and playing on the Neuse River. It’s been a huge part of both of our lives. Because of that, it’s really important for us to give back.” Ryan and David’s hope is that eventually, others carrying the beer will contribute to the conservation by matching or adding to the donations.
Ryan and David believe their focus on authenticity will help distinguish them from the rest. In addition to a strict yeast management program, which they said was the real worker bee in all their beers, Ryan stressed the importance of the water profile being unique for each beer they make. “Our goal is to mimic the origin of where these beers really come from. We take a lot of pride in that. For example, when we make a Saison, we work hard to make sure our water profile is the same as Wallonia, Belgium. Water chemistry changes the whole flavor profile of the beer.” Ryan and David have put the entirety of themselves into NRBC and it shows. “There’s a lot of pride that goes into your work. When you’re a small business owner, every inch of what you accomplished has a meaning within your life. Every time I see a piece of wood that I cut, I remember that day, and what we were working towards.” Very soon, you’ll start seeing a lot more of these guys around town. “We’re about 60 days away from distribution. We want to make sure that we don’t run out of beer for our customers! Look out for NRBC on tap at World of Beer and Bottle Revolution (Lake Boone Trail location) in the coming months. In 2016, NRBC will begin bottling and distributing to local bottle shops and bars. “We’re excited for the future, and look forward to creating something that people really enjoy.”
Ryan’s favorite Beer: Consecration – Russian River Brewing Company
David’s favorite Beer: Avec Les Bons Voeux - Brasserie Dupont sprl
Learn more about NRBC, and some of Ryan and David’s favorite small businesses in the area below:
Thanks for stopping by the porch,
Porch Fly Clothing