March 17, 2005. The UNC Tar Heels were on their way to winning Roy Williams his first NCAA title. Some website called YouTube was a month old. And Twitter was still a year away from existence.
And down in Winston-Salem, NC, a little craft brewery threw open its doors to the public for the first time, on St. Patrick’s Day. Today, ten years later, it’s one of the largest and most decorated craft breweries in the southeast United States. We asked those that were there that day to look back and share some memories with us:
Jamie Bartholomaus, president and brewmaster
“I had already spent a lot of time in this building, I designed and built the brewery, so I was pretty calm for my part, I was just worried if anyone was gonna come in. The weather was terrible. But when we opened at 4pm there was a line down Poplar Street to get in. That line never went away the whole night. The kitchen got crushed. We ran out of everything. Back then our menu was more varied, we learned quickly to streamline that part of the business. We served about 1,700 pints of beer that day. I stayed until 3am – exhausted, but exhilarated.”
Sarah Bartholomaus, COO
I had to be there at 5:30am to meet the health inspector – thank goodness we passed! We could see the line forming as the afternoon went on – it was kinda the calm before the storm, knowing it was getting ready to hit. When we opened the doors it was all hands on deck – all the waitstaff, all the bartenders, everyone was overwhelmed, none of us had anticipated what the response was going to be to Winston-Salem finally having a brewpub. But you know what? Even though people were waiting outside in the cold, and waiting for drinks, and waiting for food, there was an incredible vibe throughout the place — almost like everyone was all caught up in this great big thing that was happening. I realized when I got home that night that I had been at the pub for almost 24 straight hours. But I was so excited I still couldn’t fall asleep right away.
Matt Masten, co-owner
We were all full of pent up energy – we’d been trying to open for several weeks but something always delayed us. We finally got everything set, health department signed off on us, and we opened. People kept lining up! At one point the fire marshall came by and said we technically didn’t have an occupancy permit — uh oh. Fortunately part of the opening day crowd included the mayor and several city council members, who convinced the fire department let us stay open — as long as we started doing a one-in-one out head count at the door. So there I was, no jacket, khakis, standing outside in the freezing cold as doorman for 4 1/2 hours. It was kinda chaotic – people everywhere, lots of great responses to the pub. After we closed we kinda had a big group exhale, we realized we had created a monster that no one expected. Oh by the way, we had about 300 credit card tabs had accidentally been closed out as cash by our new waitstaff — so we were fixing that little mistake ’til about at 4am. It was a zoo. But a fun zoo.
Diana Robson, waitress (now pub manager)
This place was a complete madhouse! We hadn’t planned on opening on St. Patrick’s Day, but all the delays gave us no choice. We had a huge staff on — 10 bartenders, 20 servers, all in 2-table sections. I remember serving a lot of shots. I also remember there was a whole lot of ‘swimming’ through people,they were elbow to elbow in the bar, just getting to kitchen was an adventure. We had 6 beers on draft – Pilot Mountain Pale Ale, Salem Gold, Total Eclipse Stout, German Alt, Kind IPA (now Hoppyum) and Rainbow Trout ESB. Three of those we don’t even make anymore — though Jamie needs to bring that Alt back, that beer was delicious.
Tim Harris, part-time brewer (now full time)
I was only working part-time when the pub opened, so I was there more as a customer. But it was an exciting time, because Winston-Salem needed a brewpub. It was incredibly crowded and packed; in fact it was hard to even get a beer. It was crazy – but that was a good sign. I was excited.