Wilmington Bottleshop series – Fermental

This will be an ongoing series on local bottleshops.  Our aim is to see what makes them different and the  history  and backgrounds of the owners and managers. This series will be in collaboration with the Port City Brew Bus.

Fermental Beer and Wine

7250 Market St.

(910) 821-0362

www.fermental.net

 

In March 2013 when Fermental Beer and Wine opened its doors—the doors to a funky little 1940s bungalow, that is—in Ogden, some may have mused that owner Steve Gibbs was taking a risk. After all, Ogden is surely outside the downtown hub of the Central Business District, and his neighbors the barber and locksmith don’t exactly make for good bar hopping. But the bottle shop was swiftly embraced by the growing population in north Wilmington—and then some.
The space inside is quaint. A small bar with three draft options, a cooler with singles, and around the corner a living room with the coziest couch—literally, folks sink the second they sit down. Meander through the other rooms, still laid out like the home it once was, and peruse the to-go offerings. From six packs to bombers to stacks of wine, Fermental has a taste to cover all palates. Outdoors, guests can gather at a picnic table under a canopy of café string lights and stars.

fermental“As one of north Wilmington’s first alternatives to the local bars and restaurants, Fermental continues to grow and cultivate itself to its surroundings,” Gibbs, who spent 15 years in the industry—from retail to wholesaler to supplier—before opening his shop, explains. “As a resident of the Ogden area myself, it seemed like a likely spot to offer unique beer and wine to the community, and I feel a lot of other businesses have joined us along the way. A lot of folks aren’t interested in the downtown scene and some don’t even like crossing Gordon Road after 5 p.m. And if you’re driving, it’s better to stay close to home. Not only do we offer some of the best pricing and selection of beer/wine in town, Fermental is a place to bring your family, your friends or meet new friends. Fermental is family. Many parents bring their children along with them, as well as pets and picnics and out of town guests. We are casual and comfortable and offer a space to relax, congregate, and/or celebrate. Fermental is a fun, quirky, casual space that invites people from all age groups and backgrounds into a general revelry of good beer, fine wine and culture.”

Gibbs shares that the goal for growth at Fermental is to move at a slow and steady pace. “Outside, we started with three picnic tables, a few outside lights, and no stage. What was once barely walked-upon green grass, has now turned into a beer garden of straw and mulch along with various games, seating options, flowers, hop bines and more. Plans to continually grow and improve this area are always in progress. Sometimes people give us things—other times we build, find, or purchase.” Gibbs beckons folks to stay tuned for tether ball and additional landscaping this winter.

Indoors, the aesthetic remains warm, inviting, and comfortable. “My wife, Kristen, picked out all the colors inside, which was sort of a red-wine-meets-barley-and-hops Interior 007theme that transitioned into an earthy, comforting vibe. Focusing on the original wooden floors, we went with several wooden structures inside for display and seating, utilizing old wine crates for shelving and thrift store/Craigslist-ing most of the rest. All of our coolers are secondhand and were quite a feat to get inside the building. Overall, a plan really wasn’t made for design, we just painted and put things where they seemed to fit; and remarkably, it all came together. We are drinkers, not designers, but I guess we have an eye for composition. As a whole, Fermental keeps changing, growing, adapting, building, and pushing along. Honestly, we have outgrown the space but have no plans to move away from our little corner in Ogden.”

Fittingly, the Gibbs recently welcomed  a daughter with his wife Kristen, born October 8, 2015. “As we continue to grow, so has my personal family, which can add a new perspective on things,” Gibbs quips. “But for now, we’re planning on staying where we are and continuing with our current state of affairs, perhaps in larger formats. Look for occasional bigger bands playing in 201; additional taps are currently in planning at what will become a newly designed main bar; possibly a more regular outdoor bar in the beer garden next season; additional off-site events; and we’re still crunching in as much beer as we can into our limited interior, but there seems to always be more room. More food truck rotations, more events, more people, and more amusing attributes to keep Fermental fun.”

In the meantime, Fermental carries on with free weekly wine and beer tastings every Friday evening, and occasionally wine and brewery reps are on-hand to offer detailed education and giveaways. Every Friday and Saturday Fermental hosts live music in the beer garden, “alongside a rotating cast of local food trucks,” Gibbs shares. Monthly events run the gamut, from cheese pairings to book clubs, art shows to rehearsal dinners. “With the introduction of Wilmington Beer Week in October, we have an exhausting library of things to do and things to drink,” Gibbs notes. “It’s all for the love of beer, wine and community.”
2 Anniversary 016“Our largest annual event is Arts & Drafts: a celebration of art, music and of course, beer,” Gibbs begins of his yearly September soiree. “We collect, harbor, order, and beg for some of the best, rarest, oddest, and most celebrated beers from all over; tapping them in an all-day extravaganza of beer accompanied by an afternoon into the evening of live music from multiple musicians. The day begins with a beer garden full of local artists, sculptors, and craft makers spread through every free inch of space in our backyard, selling and showcasing their talents in an endless array of media. Throw in a few food trucks alongside some of the area’s best artisans and you’ve got one hell of an adventure. This may possibly be moved off-site in the future to accommodate a larger group of artists and the crowd, but for now we’re still squeezing in just over 20 creative folks in a welcoming variety of artistic genres.”

So, what beverage does Gibbs enjoy most of all? “Over the past few years this has become a difficult question to answer,” he starts. “There are so many beers available, and there are new releases every day. I love wine too, but my background in wine has driven me to beer. Ask most wine sales reps and they’ll share a similar story: After tasting and selling wine all day, nothing beats a cold beer. But if you include that ubiquitous desert island aspect, it would have to be: a super fresh American IPA. Green, juicy, chewy hops that coat your teeth and gums, cloyingly begging for another sip of that super-ripe goodness. Preferably local, but any brewery that can push it to market with the oily, dank, hop residue still intact is fine with me. A few examples include: Stone Enjoy By, NoDa Hop Drop N Roll, Victory Dirt Wolf, Knee Deep Hoptologist, and Wicked Weed Freak of Nature.”

As for new beers available in our market, Gibbs remains a fan and consumer of Wicked Weed and Knee Deep Brewing. Yet it’s a Midwestern brewery that is making its mark on his tongue as of late. “I am continually amazed by the beers coming from Prairie Artisan Ales out of Tulsa, Oklahoma,” he reveals. “The sours these folks are releasing are by far some of the best I’ve ever poured into my mouth. Their recent series of dry-hopped golden sours are a deliciously funk-driven, tropical mess of flavor and aroma that dances across the palate, inviting another sip, another bottle, another pint. Not to mention their Prairie Bomb!, another classic from Oklahoma, is a big, sturdy, imperial stout aged on espresso beans, chocolate, vanilla, and chile peppers. A top-rated beer across the board, this bottle of blackness is perfect for the upcoming colder months. As Prairie grows, I would expect to see more greatness and deliciousness arriving from these folks in the coming year. We currently have multiple shelves of their products, just ask!”

Wilmington Bottleshop series – Bomber’s Bev Co

This will be an ongoing series on local bottleshops.  Our aim is to see what makes them different and the  history  and backgrounds of the owners and managers. This series will be in collaboration with the Port City Brew Bus.

At 108 Grace Street, tucked beneath the Wilmington Hammerheads soccer headquarters, is a beer lover’s refuge. Turned from an empty office space to a bottle shop with a rustic, welcoming appeal in just over two months, Bombers Beverage Company is now a go-to for craft-loving connoisseurs and brew novices alike.

Opened in October 2014, the store is named for the 22-ounce vessels in which many breweries purvey limited releases.3 Bridge Owners and childhood friends Zach Boylston, Caleb Churchwell and Jacob Wright are closing in on their first successful year. “We opened Bombers Beverage Company because we have a strong passion for craft beer and we wanted to share it with Wilmington,” Wright, a former lawyer with a knowledge of craft beer, tells. “We loved the growing beer scene and saw an opportunity to service an under-serviced market downtown.”

Boylston, a graduate of UNCW’s film department, produced two documentaries about the local brewing industry, while Churchwell has managed craft beer bars and worked for renowned breweries like Boulevard Brewing Company. Churchwell and Wright relocated from Raleigh, NC, at the beginning of August 2014, and the trio began renovating the space which would become their shared business venture.

“Combined we have over 20 years of industry experience,” Churchwell explains. “We genuinely love craft beer and proudly call ourselves beer nerds. There is nothing that we enjoy more than being able to share our passion with our customers. Everyone is welcome at Bombers, from the first time craft drinker to the Untappd Master.”

For each of the owners, one of the best parts of the job is the opportunity to guide their customers to the perfect beverage for their palate. With a strong knowledge of the well over 500 products that have rotated through the Bombers inventory in the past year, the men are suited to prescribe the best beer or wine no matter their guests’ preferences. Likewise, in the shop’s first two months alone, over 85 different kegs rotated on the tasting room’s 12 taps. Shoppers can enjoy a beverage in the store while selecting their mixed six-pack to go, and assuredly something new will be on draft when they return again.

In fact, Bombers is the only bottle shop in town to own a Crowler machine. Designed by Oskar Blues Brewing Company, the apparatus seals 32-ounce cans of draft beer to go. “The Crowler machine has been a huge success,” Churchwell offers. “We have eliminated the need to remember to bring in your growler, and we also have addressed the issue of ease of transportation as well as glass at the beach, on the boat or the local pool. It’s incredibly convenient for customers and has a longer shelf life than typical growlers.”

In anticipation of Bombers’ upcoming first anniversary, we sat down with Churchwell to pick his brain about a year under the belt and what fans can look forward to in the future.

Wilmington Ale Trail (WAT): A year in, what is satisfying about owning your own business as opposed to your past career path? Likewise, how does it feel to have survived the first year?

Caleb Churchwell (CC): The satisfying part is that we make or break ourselves. All the decisions we make come from a collective. The business is a reflection of ourselves, and that we can get behind and pour everything into it. This is ours and we do with it how we see fit.
One year? Doesn’t seem real yet! Time has flown. When I truly think about it,
it feels great to survive one year. The ego in me expected it, but still feels nice to truly make it!bombers

WAT: What are some of the biggest lessons you learned about running a bottle shop (or general business in Wilmington) in the past year?

CC: Biggest lesson is Wilmington is a growing craft beer market. What might work in other parts of the state might not work here, and vice versa. Wilmington has a great craft beer community that is growing rapidly, and it is incredible to be a part of it. Not to mention, there are some great brewers in this town!

WAT: What were some of the best events you held last year?

CC: A few that stick out in my mind are the Ugly Sweater KISSmas, which was the release of our collaboration beer with Wilmington Brewing Company; our Stand Up for Pups event, where we held a local comedy show that supported the local animal shelter; and our first tap takeover to take over all 12 of our draft lines with Ballast Point Brewing. We had live music and food during the day, and it was one big party that everyone got to enjoy!

WAT: Speaking of collaboration beers, what brews has Bombers helped concoct locally? As one of the few bottle shops in Wilmington that does this, why do you engage in collaboration brews?

CC: We have done a few different collaborations with Wilmington Brewing Company. Our very first one was Love Gun Porter with vanilla bean and coffee. We did a second collaboration with them and Four Thirds Brewing Company called Kung Fu Kangaroo—it was an IPA using Australia and New Zealand hops. Our newest collaboration is with Front Street Brewing Company. We will be doing a bourbon-soaked, candied pecan ESB. The beer is named #pecanteven! This beer will be released sometime in October.

Collaborations are two parts: One, we get to pick the brains of great local craft brewers and impart a piece of ourselves into the beer. Two, we help ourselves and the craft brewery reach new clientele, helping out both businesses and further growing the local craft beer community!

WAT: Tell us about your partnership with Port City Brew Bus, our area’s only mobile brewery tour. How has this collaboration helped both businesses?

CC: Port City Brew Bus partners with us and several other breweries and bottles shops around the Wilmington area. We are their primary starting location. We start off their tour with a style tasting and history of beer to give their patrons a general understanding of beer and what they might see along their brew bus tour around Wilmington.
One of our main focuses at Bombers is education. This gave us an opportunity to get in front of many new customers as well as educate them on styles.  I think it has benefited both business by allowing us to get in front of new customers as well as provide value to the brew bus tour with a bit of education for the riders!alley

WAT: Describe the typical atmosphere of Bombers and your connection with your consumers.
CC: We have a very easy going, laid-back atmosphere. We like to focus on customer interactions to help educate and create relationships for lasting customer loyalty. Getting to know all of our customers is key for us.  We want them to not only come in for the great beer selection but also enjoy the time they are here!

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Bombers’ first anniversary party will be held on Saturday, October 10 from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Specialty kegs will be tapped including 2014 Founders Big Lushious Imperial Stout, 2014 Big Boss Night Knight BBA, Terrapin Cranberry Pumpkinfest, and Brandy Barrel Aged Oskar Blues G’Knight. Live music includes Tyler Davis from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Mike Blair and the Stonewalls from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Guests also will be able to enjoy food and prize giveaways. For further details, call (910) 833-5107 or visit www.bombersbevco.com.