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Interview with a brewer: Triangle Brewing in Durham, NC

Up next in our Interview with a Brewer series: Rick from Triangle Brewing in Durham, NC. Rick and Andy are working to bring more good beer to the South. A little bit about them from their website:

We are a locally owned craft brewery situated in downtown Durham, North Carolina. Triangle Brewing Company is dedicated to producing well balanced, full-flavored, yet highly drinkable Belgian and American style ales.

Triangle beers are made with the finest hops and barley malt. Flavors harmonize, not fight for individual attention. Triangle beers are not pasteurized nor do we add preservatives (except for a healthy addition of hops). Seeing beer as equal to, if not superior to, wine, Triangle beers are designed to complement food. Because of this effort, soon one will be able to walk into any fine restaurant and pub in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill region and be pretty sure of finding a Triangle beer available.

If you haven’t caught up on our entire brewer series, I encourage you to dig through the archives. You can also find links to their respective webpages on our sidebar under “Brewer Friends.” We’ve found these interviews very enlightening. And with that, I give you Rick at Triangle Brewing:

1) What were the steps that led you up to build a brewery?

There were several steps involved over several years. I began as a homebrewer before graduating from the American Brewer’s Guild. Then I went on to become an apprentice brewer at Flying Fish Brewi g in NJ. Our initial model never included a pub nor were we interested in having a pub. Our goal was to open a brewery, rather than a restaurant with a brewery. Prior to all of this Andy and I attended the Craft Brewer’s Conference and began crunching numbers on our business plan.

2) Why North Carolina?

We had decided on the South East, with NC being our primary location due to the under represenation of breweries in the area. While in our initial phases, NC was making steady progress with the Pop the Cap movement. This movement changed NC’s laws from 6%abv beers to a cap of 15%abv. Without this change I cannot say for sure that we would have opened in NC. If we did our beer lineup would be completely different.

3) What is your favorite thing about what you do?

My favorite thing is; even on a bad day, I made beer! How bad can that be.

4) Did you every consider contract brewing? If so, why did you ultimately decide to build your own brewery?

We only briefly considered contract brewing. We are not opposed to it, but for us it went against everything that craft brewing meant to us. There have been some great breweries that started off with contract brewing. There is still a slim possibility that we may consider it for bottling. However, that is very different in our minds than starting a company off as a contracted beer. When push comes to shove, breweries have to do what is best for them.

5) What marketing tactic has been the most beneficial to you? If “word-of-mouth,” what’s the SECOND most beneficial?

Word of mouth is always a huge and humbling benefit. In today’s world, our blog has been one of the biggest benefits for us. It’s free, we have total control over it and have begun to notice more breweries in our area establishing a similar contact with customers. It has really given us a chance to get personal with our customers and they have responded positively. We get lots of wonderful feedback about our blog.

6) How did you get into brewing Belgian beers? When brewing commercially, how is the process different when brewing a Belgian as opposed to a traditional American ale?

It wasn’t our goal to become a Belgian brewery. It happened because we looked at our current NC beer market and noticed that everyone brews a Pale and IPA et. al. We felt that we needed something different to help us distinguish ourselves. We chose our Belgian Golden Ale as our first release at 8%abv. This was a little risky, but we knew we had a very good product. We also considered what the majority of NC people drank and knew that this beer didn’t look that different from the mass produced beers that they drank. Andy and I firmly believe that initial appearance of a beer is one of the strongest factors to consider. People will make up their mind to try your product or not based on how it looks. Difference in flavor has actually been a significantly easier mountain to overcome.

7) If you built another brewery, what is the one thing that you would do differently this time around?

I’m really not sure. It would be a dream to be able to afford new equipment, but if we were going back in time that still wouldn’t be the best way to spend our money.

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