Nothing compliments a hot summer day like a cold crisp beer. In North Carolina, you are never far from a local beer brewery that pours ice-cold lager, ale, porter or stout. With more than 50 brewers, the Tarheel State boasts more brewpubs and breweries than any other Southern state. Even better, North Carolina breweries have made a name for themselves elsewhere as they regularly win awards at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup. And the popularity of Fayetteville’s two brewpubs, Huske Hardware House Restaurant and Brewery and The Mash House Brewery, proves that our local brews are worth, um, hopping for.
Located on Hay Street in Downtown Fayetteville, The Huske Hardware House Restaurant and Brewery is known for being an historic downtown icon. Though the restaurant and brewery has been open for sixteen years, the 109-year-old building has an even richer history and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1903, Benjamin R. Huske built and used the original building as an all-inclusive department and hardware store. More than twenty five years after Huske Hardware House, the store, closed in 1970, Dr. William Baggett renovated the east side of the building to create a restaurant and brewery. In 2008, Josh and Tonia Collins became the new and current owners of The Huske Hardware House Restaurant and Brewery.
Huske offers customers a variety of hand crafted traditional ales and lagers. They carry seven year round house brews and alternate at least one additional brew seasonally. The year round brews vary from stouts to blonde ales. The Level-Headed German Blonde, named after owner Tonia Collins, is a customer favorite. This medium bodied brew with a light cereal sweetness, crisp hop, and dry refreshing finish keeps customers coming back for more. The Beached Blonde is a favorite for customers looking for a lighter beer that maintains its robust flavor. Customers can enjoy all hand crafted beers by the pint or sample all six in a beer flight and Huske also sells beers by the keg and in half-gallon growlers for customers to take home.
During summer months local brew masters tend to brew more golden and light beers as they are the more popular brews of the season. The favorite brew at Huske Hardware this summer is their award-winning Watermelon Wheat beer, which placed first for fruit beer the Hickory Hops Beer Festival in Hickory, North Carolina this year. The natural sweetness of North Carolina-grown watermelon gives the brew a full fruity flavor that will leave any beer drinker fully quenched and wanting more.
The keys to success of any brewery are the hands of the brew master. Since its re-opening in 2008, Huske has had two brew masters. In 2010, Huske welcomed Mark Fesche as its new brew master.
Fesche began his brewing career as a keg scrubber in 1992 with the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. Over time, Fesche learned to do every job at the brewery, including brewing. In 1997, he attended The Siebel Institute of Technology and received a Brewmaster’s Diploma in Fermentation Science and Brewing Technology. Upon graduating brewing school, Fesche was the lead brewer for three breweries and brought a great deal of knowledge and experience to Huske.
Owner Josh Collins said he did not take the task of hiring a brew master lightly.
“I had three requirements,” Collins said. “They had to brew a great beer, be able to talk about their beer, and compete with guest beers.”
Although Huske Hardware brews solely in Fayetteville, their brand is becoming more well-known throughout North Carolina. Harris Wholesale, one of North Carolina’s oldest and largest beer distributors, took notice of Huske when they saw the popularity of Huske’s beers in Fayetteville.
“They wanted to take a look at what we had and decided to carry our beers,” said Collins.
Through the hard work and dedication of their brew master, the brewery partnered with Harris to distribute Huske’s microbrews throughout the region. Today, beer festivals across North Carolina recognize Huske beer and Huske fans can now find their favorite brews sold in more than thirty locations across the state. Fesche continues to travel to beer festivals and visit other bars to sample beers and establish partnerships to increase distribution of the Huske brand.
The Mash House Brewery and Chophouse is another popular brewpub in Fayetteville. Located on Sycamore Dairy Road, The Mash House belongs to the Rocky Top Hospitality chain of restaurants in North Carolina.
The Mash House produces around 1400 barrels of hand crafted beer per year by utilizing the traditional methods of Old World brewers. The Mash House Brewery prides itself on producing beers with only malted barley, hops, yeast, pure water and no preservatives.
In January, The Mash House welcomed Reuben Stocks as the new brew master. Stocks, originally from Clayton, North Carolina, developed his own home brewing system that combines his passion for the brewing process with his electrical and mechanical training and expertise. Over the years, Stocks refined his system to create a home brewing kit that is currently sold on the retail market. Stocks’s expertise as a brew master is an invaluable asset as he continues to refine The Mash House brewing process.
In their on-site microbrewery, Stocks begins the brewing process in the large grain silo that sits in front of the restaurant. He adds water to convert the grain into a “mash” and then allows it to ferment and age in the custom-designed brewhouse. With this process, The Mash House Brewery assures their customers they will receive the freshest beer possible.
The Mash House offers a variety of great brews during the summer months. Two favorites are Blueberry Blonde, a premium light lager infused with blueberry and Hefeweizen Ale, which Stocks brews with peach extract.
The Mash House Brewery carries six year round signature brews on their menu, one brew alternates weekly and they offer at least one seasonal brew throughout the year. At the Seventh Annual Hickory Hops Beer Festival in Hickory, North Carolina, The Mash House Brewery received seven Carolina Championships of Beer Awards.
The Carolinas Championship of Beer consists of a panel of brewers and experienced judges who analyze 150 beers that represent over eighty unique styles. The Mash House received gold awards for the Jack’d up Stout and Kristalweizen brews, silver awards for the Irish Red and “M”perial Stout brews, and bronze awards for the Nut Brown, Trippel and Schwarzbier brews.
Since joining The Mash House, Stocks added a Belgian style white beer to the menu. The Belgian-inspired brew is a light unfiltered wheat beer that gets its flavor from orange peels and cracked coriander. Stocks has ideas for future beers, as well.
“I have plans for a Kristalweizen in the summer as well as a Dunkel Weizen in the early fall,” he said.
Customers have seven ways they can order the brews: by the pint, by the half yard (25 ounces), by the pitcher (64 ounces), by the hopper (116 ounces), by the Mini Mash (any four beers on tap), by the Mondo Mash (4 ounce glasses of each of the nine drafts), or by the growler (to go).
Some brew masters predict that in the next few years, the beers brewed in North Carolina will define national beer styles. Huske Hardware House and The Mash House may be among those defining beers. For now, they serve the Fayetteville community well in quenching our summer-scorched thirst.