The co-founder of Charlotte, North Carolina’s Wooden Robot Brewery died in a fall at the South End location on February 20th.
Earlier today, Charlotte, North Carolina’s Wooden Robot Brewery announced that both taprooms would be temporarily closed due to unforeseen circumstances. Later it was announced that co-founder Dan Wade died in a fall at the brewery’s South End location.
According to various news sources, the fall was reported between 2-3:30 pm EST.
Brewery co-founder Josh Patton issued a statement via Instagram:
It is with an extremely sad and heavy heart that we share this news. Due to an accident that occurred today, we lost one of our founders, co-owners, and friend, Dan.
We ask that you respect the privacy of his loved ones in this incredibly difficult time. We are all still in shock and need time to process everything, but we will do our best to keep everyone in the loop for when we open up our taprooms again.
Your thoughts and prayers for Dan’s family, his wife, and his son are much appreciated at this time.
The South End location opened in June 2015. The NoDa location opened in 2019.
Ed Note: We at Beer Street Journal send our deepest condolences to both Dan’s family and the brewery family. We are thinking about you at this dark time.
Wild Heaven Punched Up Fruited Sour with Raspberry, Guava, Passion Fruit, and Pineapple debuts Friday, February 7th.
This latest Punched Up was slated for late fall of 2023, but apparently life got a bit in way of its release. nevertheless, this tart fruit blast drops Friday.
Wild Heaven Punched Up joined the brewery’s lineup as a spring seasonal nearly a year ago, featuring peach, orange and mango. For the colder winter temps and shorter days, the brewery went with a more tropical fruit theme – namely raspberry, guava, passionfruit and pineapple.
12-ounce cans of Punched Up, along with its draft counterpart arrive at both brewery locations on Friday, January 7th. Perfect for drinking while you procrastinate taking down the Christmas decorations.
Ecliptic Brewing in Portland, Oregon has announced the brewery has been sold.
Ecliptic Brewing announced this week that the brewery has officially been sold, per the brewery’s owner and brewmaster John Harris.
In an Instagram announcement, the Harris stated the last two years of brewery operations have been challenging – citing the pandemic, rising cost of goods, and overall economic climate. “It has gotten to the point where we are no longer able to continue operations, and the company has been sold,” the statement reads.
“A Bigger Entity.”
Harris mentioned in the statement that the sale will allow the brewery to pay back debts with a “bigger entity” – which has now been disclosed as Great Frontier Holdings that includes Ninkasi Brewing and Wings & Arrow Beer Company.
The restaurant will be open through Saturday, November 18th.
The Ecliptic Brewing beers and production will presumably continue on through Great Frontier Holdings channels.
Ecliptic Brewing opened their “Mothership” restaurant and brewery in October of 2013. In November 2021, Ecliptic took over Base Camp Brewing’s space in southeast Portland- renaming the location “The Moon Room.”
Quietly, Fennville, Michigan’s Virtue Cider has returned back into the hands of the founder Greg Hall.
Virtue Cider is no longer part of Anheuser-Busch. This deal took place back in August, around the same time Anheuser Busch was selling off eight brands to Tilray, and has been flying almost completely under the radar until a mention of the sale surfaced this week in Crain’s Grand Rapids Business.
After reaching out to Virtue Cider, a spokesperson with the A-B Craft Division confirms that Greg Hall reaquired the cidery back in August. Per the email:
Today we announced an agreement to purchase Virtue Cider from our partners at Anheuser-Busch. It’s been a great five years with Anheuser-Busch, and I want to thank my colleagues and fellow craft brewery founders for believing in Virtue Cider and helping us create some of the best cider in the world.
Moving forward, we’ll continue to focus on what we’ve always done: making world-class ciders that are fit for the table, being great stewards of the environment, and helping more people discover Fennville and all that Southwest Michigan has to offer.
Greg Hall, Founder, Virtue Cider
In 2015 it was reported that Virtue Cider had fallen behind financially. Ultimately Hall decided to sell off the controlling stake in Virtue to Anheuser Busch. In 2017, A-B bought the remaining stake in September 2017.
Fast forward to 2023, AB InBev has lost billions over the summer after a failed marketing campaign, and as mentioned earlier, sold off numerous brands including Shock Top, in their portfolio off to cannabis company, Tilray.
The deal is still pending approval through the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. The financials of the deal and closing date were not disclosed.
Beer Street Journal visited Virtue Cider earlier this summer. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but quite peaceful (and delicious).
Atlanta-based Pontoon Brewing will close both their locations on October 28th.
As is pretty standard these days, Pontoon Brewing took to Instagram to announce the brewery will close their doors after their last scheduled event on October 28th. In the post, Pontoon blames a lack of payments from their main distributing partner for the brewery’s demise, stopping short of naming which distributor that has not paid the brewery.
With the current state of the economy, it’s been a bumpier ride than anticipated, but we continued to grow strike up new partnerships, grow our team, and shine bright! That said, due to one of our main distribution partners not paying us for our product, we are faced with a dire situation and are forced to temporarily close our doors while we find a new partner or buyer for the business.
Pontoon Brewing via Instagram
An email shared anonymously this week from an employee at Pontoon to unknown recipients, was much more direct, stating “Pontoon Brewing closing its doors.”
Pontoon Brewing opened it’s doors in Sandy Springs, Georgia in January of 2018, and opening a 2nd location dubbed “The Lodge” in nearby Tucker, Georgia in September 2022.
Messages to Pontoon Brewing were not immediately returned.
Below, Beer Street Journal images of Pontoon Brewing’s ribbon cutting ceremony from January 2018.
Greenville, South Carolina’s Birds Fly South has announced they will close on October 10th, 2023.
Shawn and Lindsay Johnson started Birds Fly South Ale Project 7 years ago in the Hampton Station area of Greenville, South Carolina. The couple met and married while Shawn was in the Coast Guard in Clearwater, Florida. Shortly after getting married, the opportunity came for the Johnsons to move to either Hawaii or Alaska and they chose Alaska. As you can imagine, the weather in America’s 49th state isn’t as conducive to outdoor activities as Florida, so they took up brewing beer. Indoors.
A few years later, the family transferred back to Florida, and that’s where Shawn & Lindsay’s brewing career really took off. From the first time Beer Street Journal met Shawn, he always spoke so highly of his brewing mentor, Bob Sylvester, founder of St. Somewhere Brewing in Tampa, Florida.
Before Greenville, there was a stop in Washington D.C., putting in time assisting in the opening of Fair Winds Brewing Company, then getting transferred to South Carolina.
Last night, Shawn and Lindsay announced on Instagram the brewery would close after their final jazz event on October 10th.
We wish that this was a fairy tale ending, but recognize all good things must come to an end. Timing is everything, and we embarked on an expansion to increase our taproom sales that have taken a hit over the last year. We don’t regret that decision, only the way we went about it.
The silver lining is that we are able to step away from the stress of running a business to have more time to focus on our family. This is our opportunity to embark on a new adventure and enjoy a new pace of life.
Birds Fly South via Instagram
On a personal note, Shawn and Lindsay, as well as the entire brewery crew and fans they call “The Flock” are some of the kindest, outgoing, family-focused breweries I’ve ever been to. Their wild ale Skin & Bone is still one of the best of its kind In the southeast. It’s heartbreaking to hear this brewery won’t be there on the next trip to Greenville.
Below are some pics from Beer Street Journal’s first visit to Birds Fly South, featuring Shawn, Lindsay, and family back in August of 2016.
New Realm’s distilling arm ramped up big this summer, launching spirits in both on and off-premise retail.
So let’s get real about New Realm Savannah. The location brought New Realm Vodka and a line of RTDs into the world that to this day are still doing quite well. And yet, despite high hopes for the city covered in Spanish moss, there were a plethora of factors that constantly worked against it. New Realm had to take an “L” on Savannah but the spirits program wasn’t done.
New Realm Brewing appeared out of seemingly nowhere in 2018 with the largest opening brewing capacity in Georgia’s history (around 20,000 barrels). They blew through that capacity in just months, and not long after, the brewery found itself with a second location in Virginia Beach. After making such an aggressive mark on the beer world, naturally, the spirits world was next. That’s where Savannah, Georgia, came to be.
Back to Atlanta.
Inside New Realm’s Atlanta brewery was a small barrel room used mostly for barrel-aged beers. It morphed in a little event space for private parties or the occasional beer dinner. That’s where New Realm resurrected the spirits program, putting in a whole new distillery, after selling the Savannah still and buying a new hybrid still. Kevin Ford, Master Distiller, with a previous history at Buffalo Distillery heads up the program, and just like New Realm’s beer program, lightning is striking again.
Here in summer 2023, a craft distilling program that once seemed ancillary to New Realm’s vision is front and center. Anything subtle about New Realm Distilling can be considered a thing of the past, with Ford running the show. He’s a pretty humble and down to earth distiller who has basically cannonballed into the deep end of the booze pool in Atlanta and beyond.
“We really didn’t want to do this the way it’s been done before.”
If you want to source bourbon for your own program, most of it will come come from one of three different distilleries. To Ford, that would be basically checking boxes. “Same juice, different bottle. That didn’t sit well with me,” he says. So while New Realm’s 100% in-house bourbon ages, New Realm did something a little different – sourcing bourbon from small, younger Texas and Kentucky distillers and blending it at home. The result is a bourbon blend with hints of toasted walnut and brown sugar that hit the market initially in April 2022. New Realm’s 100% in-house bourbon is aging as you read this.
Vodka. Gin. Rum. Agave.
Vodka is fairly easy and quick to make, which is why almost every burgeoning spirits program starts with it. Incidentally, New Realm Vodka sells extremely well at the Atlanta location. Rum, Gin and Tequila are a little more complicated if you want to do it right. Craft beer brewing is a constant exploration, so why can’t distilling be as well?
The goal is to be a little different. That meant not buying liquid and relabeling it. “That’s back to checking boxes,” Ford says. Kevin started with a standout legacy Jamaican rum producer, then distilling Savannah-made molasses and blending.
Producing tequila proved to be more complicated however, since the spirit is protected. If you want to call it tequila, it has to be made in Jalisco, Mexico. In the U.S. it’s fairly common for a small distiller to buy bulk agave syrup and ferment it. “It’s just not good that way, so we pushed in a different direction,” Ford says. “We were going to do this the hard way by growing our own, but in the end we found a Mexican based producer that grows Blue Webber agave and roasts and extracts it for us,” he adds. New Realm distills it in Atlanta, creating a spirit as close to authentic tequila as possible.
Introducing the “Cask Series”
Spirits are a lot like beer. You need that limited release that piques interest. In this instance, it’s less of a customer hook and more of a playground for Ford that will constantly change. This newly minted series uses specially sourced barrels like Oloroso Sherry and Madeira to create uniquely finished bourbons.
Only half of the volume from these barrels has been bottled (in honor of the brewery’s 5th birthday). They have then been refilled with the flagship bourbon and racked away again for a while. This solera method guarantees this specialty series will constantly change.
Selling Faster Than We Can Sustain
“Vodka is our number one seller in Atlanta, and bourbon at Virginia Beach, and it’s all selling faster than we can currently sustain,” Ford says. It would seem after the last two years of drinking to survive, folks want to spend their money on good liquid. New Realm is distilling at both Atlanta and Virginia Beach but is currently on the hunt for a full-scale production facility in the southeast. “It’s crazy to work at a place where the sky’s the limit,” Ford adds. “New Realm is happier making things the hard way as long as it’s good.”
This summer might be the “summer of spirits” for New Realm, having now expanded their vodka and bourbon and other spirits offerings beyond the brewery/distillery walls. It was something the New Realm had always planned to do when the time was right.
Recently, we asked New Realm co-founder Carey Falcone about the spirits distribution expansion. “It all happened a little in reverse,” he says. The demand was there before we went big with it, where I thought we would launch and build demand.”
Time works in your favor sometimes. It certainly does for whiskey.