The first North Carolina brewery I ever visited was Spring Garden Bar and Grill in Greensboro when I lived there at the end of the 20th century. They brewed their own beer and made OK food. It was a great place. Then the owners changed the name to its bestselling beer, Red Oak, and later closed the bar/restaurant and opened a huge brewery down I85 towards Burlington. They have concentrated on off-premise sales ever since.
Now, the owner is going to open a beer garden and beer hall. Great. I literally laughed at the small mention of the original restaurant in the article because I honestly never understood the decision to close it and focus solely on off-premise sales.
From the sounds of it, it seems they are going to build something similar to what OMB has in Charlotte and it will be a boon for that stretch of I85 that is not actually in any city.
It’s almost like they looked around at almost every other brewery in the state who sells a lot of beer (and makes more money) selling beer at their own taprooms. Red Oak makes a crap ton of money making and selling its beer to bars and restaurants around the state. They pump out more than 23000 barrels a year. Like many of the breweries its size, Red Oak makes a consistent middle of the road, easy to drink, entry point beer that gives the drinker the feeling of being part of the craft beer movement.
This is actually part of a trend in craft beer. Brewers and their investors have figured out the same thing Red Oak has, “own premise” sales give you a greater return than off-premise sales simply because there are so many breweries now, you are not guaranteed permanent taps in bars anymore.
Bryan Roth has a great article in Good Beer Hunting about this exact thing. As the number of breweries has increased the number of bars has decreased nationally. For bars to be successful in places with a deep craft beer culture they have to understand what they provide that is different from the brewery tap room experience. First, you have to have enough taps to provide a good sampling and cross section of craft beer. Second, you have to provide a non-corporate atmosphere that makes patrons feel like they are at home.
I think the best description a bar in a craft beer heavy area can hope for is neutral ground. Your goal should be to have all the best of the local beer on as much as possible while providing a good sampling of the best beers from around the country. I hope that is what we do at Craft, that is our goal at least.