Business

Breweries may come and go, but the Triangle’s first one has lasted more than 20 years

Carolina Brewery is marking 22 years of making beer on Franklin Street with a renovated brewpub and an Aug. 10 relaunch party.
Carolina Brewery is marking 22 years of making beer on Franklin Street with a renovated brewpub and an Aug. 10 relaunch party. Courtesy of Carolina Brewery

The oldest brewery in the Triangle would like to reintroduce itself.

Carolina Brewery opened on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill in 1995, at a time when most beer wasn’t craft and certainly wasn’t local. In the beginning, cofounder Robert Poitras said he stocked foreign big-name beers among his own offerings with Newcastle Brown Ale and the like. Things have changed.

“When we first opened, there was a lot of beer education we had to do for the consumer,” Poitras said. “Consumers today are very sophisticated about beer and know exactly what they want in a brewery. It’s been neat to watch the transformation of consumer beer knowledge.”

Today, it would take months to sip a different beer a day within 30 miles of Franklin Street. With more and more breweries popping up in the area, Poitras said he wanted to give the Carolina Brewery a facelift to make a second impression on a more beer hungry world. Chapel Hill is also a different place, no longer the quaint downtown Poitras said it was when he was a student at UNC.

“It’s now contiguous with Carrboro, they’ve bridged the gap between the two towns,” Poirtras said. “People are more interested in living downtown, working downtown. It’s the right time to be a part of the resurgence of Chapel Hill.”

Poitras is opening up the brewpub’s dining room, adding new furniture and renovating the kitchen and bathrooms. He’s adding garage-style doors to the front that can slide up when the weather’s warm and sprucing up the patio. An upstairs balcony and a private events space will also be added.

Renovations will wrap up in time for an Aug. 10 relaunch party. When a brewery throws a house-warming party, the beer isn’t free, but it is $1 for pints of Carolina’s Franklin Street lager.

The brewpub will update its menu, doubling down on everything North Carolina, Poitras said, adding a North Carolina shrimp burger and featuring Southern standards like pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes and a burger sourced in and around Chapel Hill. It will debut July 31.

Carolina Brewery, which also has a location in Pittsboro, has survived two decades on Franklin Street as notable chains have come and gone, including Carolina Ale House in May and as of this week Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom. Poitras said Chapel Hill supports its own and hopes local beer-lovers will look at the brewery in a new light.

“We’re not the shiny new brewery, but we’re tried and true and have always produced high-quality beers,” Poitras said. “Now we’re leaping back to being super relevant. If we’ve lose some of our luster, the renovation will re-energize us and hopefully bring new people to us.”

Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson

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