Natty Greene’s beers are a favorite among our customers. The brewery that makes them is less than an hour away, in the city named after Natty Greene: Greensboro.
Nathanael Greene is an often-overlooked hero of the American Revolution. His military career began with the lowest rank possible, and he worked his way up to be a Major General depended upon by George Washington. His most famous escapade was actually a retreat: the “race to the Dan” during which his men escaped across a swollen river, leaving no boats for the British. Then followed the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, a battle that Greene lost but that changed the course of the war and led to the Patriots’ victory. Chris Lester and Kayne Fisher, founders of Natty Greene’s Brewery, chose the name to pay tribute to their region and to the hero Greene.
As underclassmen at UNC-Greensboro, Chris and Kayne drank America’s new craft beers and dreamed of owning their own brewery. In 1996, they bought a restuarant in Greensboro and turned it into a pub that served craft beers, which at the time came from far-off states like Colorado and Oregon and were not readily available in North Carolina. In the years that followed, they opened two more successful restaurants. Finally, in 2004, they acted on their dream of making their own craft beers. They opened Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing Company in a renovated 1895 building in a historic area of downtown Greensboro. The pub was a hit with its quality beers in a variety of styles and good, affordable food not typically found in bars.
Soon Natty Greene’s beers were distributed locally, prompting the owners to expand to keep up with demand. Since 2006, they have brewed and bottled beer in a facility in Greenesboro. They expanded the facility to a capacity of 20,000 barrels in 2010 (1 barrel = 31 gallons). They also brew smaller batches at their pubs in Greensboro and Raleigh.
On the day we visited the Greensboro brewery, the Director of Brewing Operations, Sebastian Nesson Wolfrum, showed us around. Sebastian made beer in Germany before getting married and transplanting to Greensboro. He led us through the beer-making process: malted grain is milled, soaked, heated, and drained; the resulting liquid is boiled with hops to add bitterness, then cooled; yeast is added to start the fermentation reactions, which produce alcohol, carbon dioxide, and beer. Sebastian and the other brewers monitor the tanks, calculating alcohol content and planning recipes for new batches. There’s plenty of math invovled, in addition to biology and chemistry. (For a really nice overview of beer-making, with diagrams, visit here.)
Natty Greene’s filters their beer on its way to the bottling line, an impressive machine that curves around the end of the warehouse. Stacks of empty kegs and pallets of grain tower over us as we make our way out. Sebastian shows us the cavernous cooler, filled with kegs and cases of ready-to-ship beer. All this beer, he tells us, will be gone in a week and replaced with a new batch. The brewery is almost at capacity, producing 18,000 barrels a year. We’re glad, because Natty Greene’s beers are one of our top-sellers.
Visit Natty Greene’s Brewery online at www.nattygreenes.com. Watch a video of our visit below.