Behind Bars: Eddy Johnson

Behind Bars: Eddy Johnson

If you’ve been to Flytrap in the last five years you’ve definitely had the pleasure of meeting Eddy; he celebrated his fifth anniversary shortly after the brewery did! And if you haven’t stopped by, you definitely should–both for the delicious Belgian-inspired brews, and the ultra-friendly bartenders.

Check out what Eddy has to say about being behind the stick.

Ale Trail (AT): What’s your favorite thing about bartending?

Eddy Johnson (EJ): My favorite thing about bartending, specifically at Flytrap, is being able to bring people together. We have a wide range of folks who come in and to be the bridge that brings them together over a pint is truly something I enjoy.

AT: Do you have any advice for current or future craft beer bartenders?

EJ: 1. Be knowledgeable of your brewery’s/bar’s beer and of other beers so you can recommend similar beer.

2. Keep the air conditioner on high, you never want them to see you sweat.

3. Always have a good dad joke in your back pocket. If they roll thier eyes you nailed it.

4. Most importantly, have fun. Create an environment where they want to stay and come back.

AT: If you were a beer, which one would you be?

EJ: I’m not sure I would want to be a beer, then I won’t be able to drink one. If I have to pick, something dry and with a bite.

Port City Laughter & Libations

Port City Laughter & Libations

While the Port City is becoming more and more well known for its breweries, did you know that its comedy scene is just as dynamic!? And since beer and laughter go hand-in-hand (or pint-in-hand), naturally the two have married up in Wilmington.

If you subscribe to our email newsletter, then you’re already aware of the opportunities to go check out comedy at Wilmington Breweries. And if you don’t subscribe you should, and take a peek at the Wilmington brewery and bottle shop comedy round up we made for you.

Bombers Beverage Company
108 Grace Street, Wilmington, NC 28401

Every Friday Bombers hosts an open mic at 9p so that local comedians can flex their funnies and customers can get their giggle on. It’s called Bombs Away! and hosted by The Regretful Villains. If you stop by Bombers between 6 and 8p on Fridays, you can get in on the weekly wine tasting to further lubricate your laughs.

Waterline Brewing Company
721 Surry Street, Wilmington, NC 28401

You can join the folks at the Brewery Under the Bridge one Wednesday a month for Gruff Goat Comedy. It’s a free show featuring three comedians under the bridge (no trolls, please). Customers can sip a delicious, local brew, enjoy a food truck, and laugh the night away. It’s a great mid-week pick-me-up.

Check 6 Brewery
5130 Southport-Supply Road, Southport, NC 28461

The North American Comedy Brewery Tour regularly stops at Check 6 Brewery in Southport and you should, too. There’s a $20 entry fee (so make sure to pick up tickets before, in case it sells out), but the laughter to follow is priceless.

Port City Brew Bus

Comedy not enough to entice you? What if we add wheels? Jump on the Port City Brew Bus with three local comedians and cruise to Wilmington Breweries where you can sip local suds. The comedians will do their best to lift your spirits (and if they don’t do it, the Wilmington beer sure will). You can expect some fun & games on the bus and then quick 10-15 minute sets once you land at the breweries.

Skytown Beer Company
4712 New Centre Drive, Wilmington, NC 28405]

Slack’s Stand Up show will be returning to Skytown Beer Company on Saturday, July 13th at 8pm. The last one was standing room early, so make sure to get there early. Skytown’s beer is the real star of the show, but their food is also not to be missed. Never had deep fried gravy balls? Well you’re not getting any younger, so now’s the time.

Meet the Brewers : Christopher McGarvey

Meet the Brewers : Christopher McGarvey

Meet the Brewers is an ongoing series to highlight the individuals who make the beer at our Wilmington breweries. Check back every week to see the latest interview. All photographs provided by Brian Lantz Photography.  Check out his instagram at  @brianlantzphotography

Christopher McGarvey is the Brewmaster at Front Street Brewery whose journey with beer started homebrewing soda in college and has led him Front Street Brewery Brewmaster.

Where are you from?

East Peoria, IL

 What first got you into brewing?

My college roommate and I decided we wanted to try making our own ginger beer soda because we were adventurous cooks.  We bottled it in re-used IBC root beer bottles with corks, which proceeded to fire off spontaneously in the night with a loud bang as the bottles carbonated.  I drank one of the open bottles I found the next day and got food poisoning for three days.  So I guess that complete failure incited my stubborn perfectionist spirit, and I set out determined to get it right, but with beer, where no pathogenic microbes can live.

How long have you been brewing?

I started homebrewing in 2005 and quickly devoured every book on the subject.  I used to sneak onto the Northern Brewer discussion forum during a summer internship in the engineering department at Nelson Sprinkler Company for hours at a time, and a lot of my early ideas came from exchanges there.  I became an assistant brewer at FSB in 2011, and brewmaster in summer 2016.

What was the first beer you made?

The first recipe I concocted myself was a clone recipe of Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout.  The first beer I made as a professional brewer was Tomb Rocker, my special honey and heather Scotch ale that I’ve brewed every year since 2007 for Easter in the Orthodox Church.

 What is your favorite beer to make?

I consider Tomb Rocker to be my magnum opus.  There is no other beer like it in the world.  If I were a monk, this would by my Trappist ale.  It drinks almost more like a fine port than a beer, with layers and layers of complexity and a grapey, vinous tang, plus the cool, slightly minty flavor of Scottish heather flowers.  It has won over a lot of people who thought that they would never like a beer at all, and they try it and find that they love it.  And now that we are brewing it at Front Street Brewery every spring, we have my priest and my choir come in and sing and pray, and

we bless the beer with holy water for the joyful time of the church year.  All that said, it’s a real pain to make, a really long, tedious brew day.  So probably my favorite to actually brew is our English bitter, which smells wonderful in the mash.

 What made you want to start brewing on a larger scale?

Not to sound too cheesy, but something like divine providence.  I had no plans or ambitions to be a professional brewer, but when I graduated from seminary in 2010, my classmate Fr Peter Robichau convinced me to move here and be choir director for St. Basil Orthodox Church.  I went to Front Street Brewery because I like good beer and it was the only show in town, and I ended up becoming friends, then roommates with the brewmaster, Kevin Kozak.  I needed a job really bad and he got me one working at the host stand, where I was almost a decade older than everyone else.  Eventually, I won the FSB homebrew competition and became the natural replacement as Kevin’s assistant brewer when the former one moved out to Hollywood.  So I’m an accidental pro brewer, and I consider myself very blessed and very lucky to be able to do it for a living.

Is there anything you do differently in your brewing process that other places do not do?

Well, I’m pretty sure we’re the only brewery in town using holy water.  Besides that, I hope people will recognize the finesse and nuance that we’re crafting into every pint we produce.  It takes incredible patience and persistence to fine-tune the beers the way we have.  We do an in-depth sensory analysis of every single batch of beer we brew, as well as blind tastings of our beers against the best examples in the style.  And we tweak our recipe a little each time until we get it perfect.  We’re about a year and a half into a revision of all our recipes, and many of them are on the 14th or 15th version.  It’s really starting to pay off.  But we won’t be done until they’re our perfect favorites in a blind tasting, and when that happens, we’ll do a big public reveal of Front Street Brewery 2.0!

What is one thing you want your consumer to take away after trying your beer?

A growler.  Haha.  Our philosophy here is completely dedicated to harmony, balance, and drinkability, whether that’s in a pilsner, an IPA, or a crazy experimental beer.  If we’re doing our job right, you’re going to find yourself with an empty glass before you know it, and you’re going to want another.  To me the sign of a truly great beer isn’t how much it bowls you over on the first sip, but how surprised you are to find yourself at the bottom of the glass.  Where did it go?  I need more.  That’s a great beer.

Drink Beer Like A Vegan

Drink Beer Like A Vegan

We were fortunate enough to have Kendall Rogers from UNCW’s Professional Writing Program intern with us this last semester.   She wrote the Meet the Brewers series, worked on social media projects,did some blog posts, and found a lot of local beer she liked.  This is her last blog post. Thanks Kendall! Good luck as you move forward in your career. 

Finding vegan food in a city that is known for its seafood can be tough sometimes. There have been many times where my meals out have consisted of a sad side salad and french fries. When I find out that there is a place with vegan options and good beer I am the first in line to go. (Most beer is vegan. Occasionally beer will have lactose or honey in it so if you are unsure just ask. ) Fortunately veganism is becoming more and more widespread and with it comes delicious vegan food.

Personally, I am vegan because of the animals and the environmental impact of factory farming. I obviously care about my health as well but there is a misconception that all vegan food is healthy. This is a straight up lie. This week I went to three different breweries and tried out some of the vegan options on the menu. I tried to stay away from classic vegan fare like salad but one time I couldn’t help myself. Sorry to be a stereotype.

Waterman’s Brewing Company

The first place I went to was Waterman’s Brewing Company. I quickly ordered the Winterberry Wit. It’s a Belgian Wit with

Winterberry Wit

mandarin orange peels, orange zest, coriander, ginger, pink telicherry peppercorns, green telicherry peppercorns, cranberry, & boysenberry. I have never been to Waterman’s before but this beer made me want to come back every week. It had a great depth to its flavor while also still being light and refreshing. I had two.

My friend and I split the hummus which is homemade and comes with toasted pita points. We each had our pita fully coated in hummus so every bite was tasty. There was chili oil brushed on the pita and occasionally I would get a bit of spice which was very nice.

For my entree I got the Harvest Mixed Green Salad. It comes with beets, green onion, quinoa and blue cheese. I just asked for mine with no cheese and a side of tahini dressing. The beets were definitely my favorite part of the salad and the main reason I ordered the dish. They were tender and delicious. The tahini dressing tasted more like a sweet sesame dressing which the server warned me of before I ordered it. Overall the meal was good and I was the perfect amount of full afterwards.

Bill’s Front Porch Pub & Brewery

A few days later I went to Bill’s Front Porch. After much deliberation, I ordered a half-pint of the Citra Pale Ale. It is a hop-foward pale ale with notes of passionfruit and gooseberry. Hop-foward is definitely an accurate statement but it definitely had a fruity aftertaste. Personally, I was a bit bitter for my taste but I felt like I was discovering something new about it with every sip.

I decided not to get an appetizer because I didn’t feel like chips and salsa but my friend got that for her meal and said they were pretty darn close to K-38 greatness, which in my book is a 12/10.

I ordered the Pub Pesto Burger as my entree. It comes with your choice of grilled chicken, tofu or portobello, house pecan pesto, artichoke, yellow onion, roasted red peppers, spinach, tomato and smoked provolone on a ciabatta roll. I got mine with tofu and asked for no cheese and replaced the pesto with balsamic vinegar. The flavor was amazing! The tofu was perfectly seasoned and the veggies on top gave the sandwich a lovely depth of flavor. The artichokes were my favorite part of the sandwich because of their mild flavor and delicate texture. The sandwich came with seasoned steak fries which were delicious and crunchy. All in all a satisfying meal though I do wish the tofu was pressed longer to give it less of a soft texture.

Pub Pesto Burger

Citra Pale Ale

Bill’s Chips & Salsa

Wrightsville Beach Brewery

Last stop was Wrightsville Beach Brewery. I had heard rumors of there being an Impossible burger on their new menu and I wanted to check it out. The Impossible burger is a plant-based burger that imitates a cow-based hamburger. It apparently smells, sizzles, and even bleeds like a cow-based burger. According to their website, the Impossible Burger uses 95% less land, 74% less water, and creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions. Needless to say I was pretty excited to try it but also apprehensive. I am not the biggest fan of plant-based meat alternatives but I had to try, for science.

I took my friend out to dinner who has never been to a brewery before and also was not entirely sure he liked beer. Since he was not sure which beers he would like, he decided to get a flight.

Shandy Warhol

I got the Shandy Warhol; a light, summery drink that tasted like lemons.

For an appetizer we split the tempura cauliflower. Usually tempura has egg in the batter but WBB’s does not! We chose the sweet chili sauce since the buffalo sauce has butter in it. It was great! The texture of the cauliflower was perfect and the batter was not too heavy.

I ordered the Impossible burger with a side of veggies. It comes with lettuce, tomato, onion and a chipotle ranch sauce.

Impossible Burger

I just asked for it without the ranch and got Sriracha ketchup instead. It has been over three years since I have had a hamburger but holy cow the Impossible burger is insane. It tasted like a well-done hamburger. It even had the burnt crumbly bits that I remember burgers having. My friend, who had gotten beef sliders, tried a bite of mine and was amazed at how similar they were. With the shandy and the burger together I felt like I was at a summer barbecue.

Being vegan in the South can be difficult but being a vegan in Wilmington is getting easier every day. We are so lucky to have such great options and restaurants that are willing to accommodate different lifestyles. Be sure to check out all the options Wilmington’s breweries have to offer.


Meet the Brewers : Kevin Zelnio

Meet the Brewers : Kevin Zelnio

Meet the Brewers is an ongoing series to highlight the individuals who make the beer at our Wilmington breweries. Check back every week to see the latest interview. All photographs provided by Brian Lantz Photography.  Check out his instagram at  @brianlantzphotography

Kevin Zelnio is the head brewer at Wrightsville Beach Brewery. Zelnio began brewing while living in Sweden and eventually brought his talents back to Wilmington, NC. Last week I asked him what his journey into brewing was like.

Where are you from?

 Born and raised where the Mississippi flows east to west in the Quad Cities, mostly on the Iowa side.

What first got you into brewing?

 A good friend of mine started to dabble in home brewing and I joined in a couple times. But I didn’t really get into it until I moved to Sweden several years ago and lived out in the woods. I was working from home as a science writer and consultant and had a bit of time on my hands. Beer is also pretty expensive there and controlled by a state-run alcohol monopoly, so the nearest place I could get a beer was a 45-minute drive away. It became more of a practical thing for me, as well as a creative outlet!

How long have you been brewing?

 This is my sixth year as a commercial brewer.

 What was the first beer you made?

 With my aforementioned buddy we did a green tea pale ale with tettnang and cascade hops and green tea we bought from a market in Japan while at a deep-sea biology conference (my former life was a marine biologist). The first all grain brew I did on my own was a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone.

What is your favorite beer to make?

 Stouts and porters. Nothing makes me happier than filling up the brewery with the smells of mashing in dark grains early in the morning!

 What made you want to start brewing on a larger scale?

 While in Sweden, I lived in a small village and our neighbors there enjoyed the free beer I was constantly giving to them. They encouraged me to start selling it. After raising the money, I  selected a location in an old prison that was turned into a hotel in the small Baltic town of Västervik. Bryggeri Fängelset (literally meaning “The Prison Brewery”) was a small 3 barrel capacity brewery that I solely ran with my wife and business partners for almost 3 years.

Having honed the creative skill set and brewing process, my wife and I decided we could have better opportunities back home in the US. After suffering the cold north for far longer than I needed to, I landed a great job as a production brewer at Jdub’s Brewery in Sarasota, Florida. There, I got comfortable with large tanks and big machinery and learned the skills and techniques for high volume production brewing that I currently use now as the Director of Brewing Operations at Wrightsville Beach Brewery. Brewing on a 20 barrel capacity gives me the leeway and creativity I crave in a career while working with an amazing, supportive team. There is truly nothing better than making a product that people really enjoy.

 Is there anything you do differently in your brewing process that other places do not do?

 Every brewery has their niches and strengths. I love having the freedom to experiment with ingredients, like fruits and herbs, in the brewing process and playing around with barrels. It starts from the water — where I build up each batch’s water mineral profile from the ground up— to the final product where we measure parameters, dial in carbonation and monitor the quality of the fermentation and packaging processes at every step.

What is one thing you want your consumer to take away from trying your beer?

 The most important thing to me is that I brew up a wide diversity of styles and offerings. I don’t expect everyone that walks in to love every single brew I make, but hopefully they find a few very enjoyable and want to come back to see what is new. I am proud of every beer we put out and we always strive for the best quality possible in our products. I think it shows and I hope our customers notice it too!