WILMINGTON, NC – The craft beer industry is relatively new, but it’s taken North Carolina, and Wilmington in particular, by storm. The area has more than a dozen craft breweries, each putting a different spin on old-school beer.
The Wilmington Brewing Company was one of the first on the craft beer scene on the coast, and it’s become a local favorite. John and Michelle Savard opened the doors in 2014, never expecting it to grow to the size it is now. A 30-barrel drum sits where there was a 3-barrel one, and the brewing schedule has been expanded from just one day a week to five.
“They always play with the recipe,” said Michelle Savard. “How can we improve this? Is this malt better? Is this hop a better choice? Can we tweak it a bit more and make it the best?
Their creations can be found in 100 bottle shops and bars around Wilmington and even extend to the Raleigh area, but given the choice they would sell whatever they produce within the borders of the Cape Fear area.
“I like going to Raleigh, but deep down we want to stay as local as possible,” Savard said.
Her husband’s passion for creating the perfect brew was what kept the wheels turning eight years ago, and while success is now clear, the road hasn’t always been easy. Savard says it’s more than good beer on tap.
“He started brewing at home when we lived in Asheville and he really got into it,” Savard said. “We came back from Asheville in 11 and opened the home brew store in 12 and there was nothing like it here.”
A brewery has a distinct smell, but to her, it smells like home. She finds souvenirs in every corner of the brewery that capture the start of their journey. In this industry, the competition feels more like friends and their staff feels more like family.
“It’s strange because it’s a profitable business, but it’s so rich for the community,” Savard said.
The brewery makes the dream possible, but it’s at the taproom that it comes to life with the people who have supported it since day one.
“We can never believe it,” Savard said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, people are here and they like our beer!’ and I will be eternally grateful to you.
The craft beer recipe is constantly evolving, but the people behind it stay the same and the Savards believe the connection is what keeps customers coming back again and again.
“I want them to know how hard our team is working to get it in their hands,” Savard said. “It’s a lot of work, but we’re having a lot of fun and by the time it happens there’s a lot of love in there.”