Since its inception in 2013, Burial Beer Co. has attracted a steady stream of beer tourists from Charlotte while also building relationships via collaborations with such Mecklenburg County producers as Resident Culture Brewing Co. and Divine Barrel Brewing. So, in 2018, when Burial announced plans to open its first non-Asheville location, The Exhibit, in Raleigh, the Queen City’s craft beverage community was less than pleased.
“It’s insane how many people [from Charlotte] were making the trip [to Asheville],” says Burial employee Matt Moore. “Charlotte has been begging for us to make the move down.”
Those requests were fulfilled June 11 when Burial’s House of Relics taproom and bottle shop opened in the Plaza Midwood part of the city. Moore, the taproom’s general manager, describes the area as “probably the most Asheville neighborhood in Charlotte” for its wide array of arts, music and food options.
With the expansion, Burial joins Catawba Brewing Co., Hi-Wire Brewing and Bhramari Brewing Co. in the ranks of Asheville beer businesses that have staked out locations in North Carolina’s largest city. Catawba became the trend’s pioneer in 2019, Hi-Wire had its grand opening July 15 and Bhramari will follow on Saturday, Aug. 13.
“We’re at that stage where we’ve been looking for other outlets for us to grow our business,” says Josh Dillard, executive chef and managing owner of Bhramari. “We actually were looking at places all the way across the state in Wilmington, too. But Charlotte kind of called to us a little louder. Plus, it’s closer.”
Dillard has also seen what he calls “weekend warriors” heading up U.S. 74 West to visit his brewery since its launch in 2015. By going to them, he sees an opportunity to expand the Bhramari brand while also forging lasting relationships with a city thirsty for more beer options.
Go east, young man
Both breweries’ expansions are in existing buildings. Burial is in the former home of the Boris & Natasha clothing boutique, which occupied the space for 22 years and now operates a mile and a half away.
“So, yeah, it wasn’t set up for a taproom at all,” Moore says with a smile.
The opposite proved true for Bhramari, which found a turnkey purchase and will be the third brewery at 1200 S. Graham St. in less than three years. Sunstead Brewing opened there in January 2020 before it merged and rebranded with local cafe and roastery Toucan Louie’s that May. Three months later, D9 Brewing Co. co-founder Aaron Burton purchased the company and relaunched it as Salty Parrot Brewing Co., but by the end of 2021, it had closed for unknown reasons.
Dillard notes that opening just before the COVID-19 pandemic and having to navigate the challenges of state-mandated indoor gathering restrictions — which proved difficult even for established breweries like Bhramari — likely played a major role in Salty Parrot shutting down. But with those pandemic-related rules now lifted, Bhramari aims to take advantage of a bustling area fortified by its proximity to the Carolina Panthers’ home field.
“We’re three blocks south of [Bank of America] Stadium, two blocks from Hop Fly [Brewing Co.], three blocks from Resident Culture,” says co-owner and head brewer Gary Sernack. “So, the location’s pretty good. There’s also residential high-rises popping up all around us.”
The two-story space has its brewery on the lower level and taproom on the street level with copious indoor and outdoor seating. To help reflect Charlotte’s distinct vibe, the ownership team is going with a black and gold aesthetic — one that also honors the neighborhood’s history.
“That was, at one point, a gold district. And there’s inactive gold mines right underneath it,” Sernack says. “So, we kind of lean into that a little bit.”
Burial likewise pays homage to its new home’s history in the downstairs part of the taproom with what Moore calls “a retro diner feel” in line with Boris & Natasha’s throwback style. But it’s the House of Relics’ rooftop bar that stands out to him as the property’s chief highlight.
“We’ve got almost a Miami Beach, tiki bar vibe upstairs,” he says. “You still get a little bit of the city skyline up there and some great sunsets.”
Fitting right in
To help facilitate the opening of its first expansion, Bhramari General Manager Kyle Berryann has relocated to Charlotte and will be running the new taproom. Elsewhere, former front-of-house manager Kim Hardy, who moved to Charlotte a few years ago, is being brought back on as events coordinator, and Jared Lewinski, former head brewer at Atlanta’s Pontoon Brewing Co., has been hired in that capacity for the Charlotte brewery. Under Lewinski’s watch, Bhramari also plans to expand its barrel-aging program in the new space.
“We’ll focus a lot more on our barrel-aged stout offerings, barrel-aged clean beers and other larger beers, so we’ll be able to have more regular rotation of those [in Charlotte and Asheville],” Sernack says. “We’re also going to be making unique stuff out there that’ll end up over here — not that we have any lack of unique offerings now.”
He adds that Bhramari will be bottling at the new location and will probably eventually add a canning line, but for now the bulk of packaging will continue to be conducted in Asheville. The space lacks a kitchen, so Dillard says the new location will start off simple and offer “lunch boxes” of charcuterie items. But a few phases in, they plan to add a food container on the property and ramp up options from there.
Though Burial is not brewing in Charlotte, Moore feels that the plentiful tap and packaged options that the city’s consumers crave sets the business up for instant success.
“It’s a very tightknit beer scene,” he says. “A lot of people instantly think ‘Asheville’ when they think of North Carolina beer, but Charlotte really has great offerings. There’s a lot of new breweries popping up and a lot moving here from either in state or out of state.”
Among those joining the Charlotte industry around the same time as Burial, Bhramari and Hi-Wire is Weathered Souls Brewing Co. The San Antonio-based enterprise started the Black is Beautiful movement to help bring awareness to equality issues and raise funds to support legal defenses and police reform. Together, these new additions seek to raise the city’s craft beverage profile while also providing more options to help society return to “normal.”
“The goal is to be able to provide the best Burial experience that we can, and we feel like that is best served at our taprooms so that we can treat people to a very intentional and curated experience while they’re hanging out and enjoying our beer,” says Chris McClure, director of brand and marketing.
“Especially with us coming out of COVID, I think that more and more consumers are looking for in-person experiences and a change from what they’ve been doing over the past two years — which, for many people, was sitting in their house or apartment with their significant other, drinking packaged beer.”