On the 1st of March we trekked north from Charlotte to downtown Winston-Salem where we were able to visit the original location of Foothills Brewing, their West 4th Street brewpub . The brewery was founded by two couples, the Bartholomaus’ and Masten’s, who met in 2002 and had already purchased the building for the brewery by 2003. After tons of hard work on the business plan and support from a Winston-Salem rebuilding initiative, they celebrated their opening with a big party on St. Patrick ’s Day 2005. All four individuals play a vital role in the company’s success with the help of their ever growing team, currently at over 100 individuals. Jamie Barthomaus serves as President and Brewmaster, Sarah Bartholomaus operates as COO, Matt Masten is CFO, and Meredith Masten is the brewery’s Comptroller. As the Foothills’ popularity shot through the roof over the previous years, they maxed out space at the brewpub – we were told of the ‘joys’ of double brewing 7 days a week – and at the tail end of 2011 opened up a massive 48,000 sq. ft. production facility several miles away in Stratford Industrial Park. On this afternoon, Sarah agreed to meet with us at the pub to share her insight into all things exciting at Foothills Brewing.
When the brewery was opened in 2005, Jamie got straight to work making beer on the 15 bbl brewhouse and was able to produce around 800 bbl for their on-site brewpub. Fast forward past the company’s expansion in 2011 and this previous year saw a combined volume of nearly 30,000 bbl with the assistance of a handful of newly purchased 200 bbl fermenters. The brewhouse currently used at the production facility is a 50bbl three vessel, however, efficiency looks to be increased in the near future with the purchase of a fourth vessel whirlpool. Whereas the brewery had been self-distributing since the beginning, by NC law, the uptick in production volume over 25,000 bbl forced them to switch over to wholesale distribution in January of 2013. The distribution footprint is now NC, SC, and TN, with VA and Washington DC added most recently.
The current year-round line-up is solidified at six brews with a clear hop-forward focus. Each is available at the pub or on tap at selected drinking holes and bottles are offered of all but the NC landmark named, Pilot Mountain pale ale. Torch Pilsner features Saaz hops and is the lightest (in terms of SRM) with contrast provided by the English-style robust People’s Porter which can also be found at times in a bourbon barrel aged version. The remaining three are all IPA’s with varying characteristics. The flagship is the Simcoe inspired Hoppyum IPA which is not to be outdone by the brewery’s first high gravity offering in the 9.5% ABV Seeing Double IPA, clocking in at a ravenous 126 IBUs balanced with a strong malt backbone. The newest to achieve year round status, Jade IPA, settles between the previous two in both ABV and IBUs and makes delectable use of the citrusy Pacific Jade hop.
The brewery also provides a rotating line of seasonal beers, kicking things off with the Foothills Stout in Dec-Jan. The holiday of love can be enjoyed with an offering of Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout (also available bourbon barrel aged) in Feb. To get everyone through those hot summers, Foothills brews up their Gruffmeister Maibock Mar-Aug, ending production to make room for the Foothills Oktoberfest just in time for a beer drinker’s favorite German celebration. Hoppy Medium Imperial Brown ale wraps up the calendar year from Nov – Feb. Our visit also saw availability of the new Coffee Porter made with coffee beans roasted entirely by Sarah and Jamie (I definitely support a movement to get this beer onto the seasonal list). Something else that makes Foothills standout is their acquisition of some historical beer brands. In 2011, the company acquired the beer division of Mooresville’s Carolina Beer & Beverage, which began as a small microbrewery in 1997, and has been producing the company’s popular Carolina Blond & Carolina Strawberry brands as well as the Cottonwood line which includes the Endo IPA, Frostbite Black IPA, Low Down American Brown, and Pumpkin beers. As part of the purchase, Foothills also acquired much of the old brewery’s equipment to furnish their expansion. As if all of those beers weren’t enough to keep the brewing staff on their toes, they have utilized some of that extra space to start releasing an IPA of the month.
The production facility does not yet offer tours or tastings, however that is a work in progress. To enjoy the full Foothills experience you’ll want to pay a visit to the original downtown location and enjoy a meal with your hand crafted beverages. The brewpub features a full bar and an expansive seating area to enjoy their apps, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and signature entrees. They host Trivia every Tuesday and Thursday as well as live music every week with Bluegrass Wednesdays, Live local music Saturday, and Sunday Jazz. Also, special events and beer dinners can be experienced from time to time or, if you are more interested in a beer education, Sarah hosts Beer School the first Saturday of every month at 2pm but be sure to register ahead of time. The pub is open every day from 11am-2am so come in and join the fun. A special thank you to Sarah for scheduling with us to discuss the Foothills story as well as to Chase and Nicole for showing us a great time in downtown Winton-Salem.
Author: Brandon Wurtz