Move over, PBR. Your reign as the unofficial official beer of Carrboro may just be over.
Since the 2005 passage of HB 392 (more popularly known as Pop the Cap), a law that increased the alcohol by volume on beer from 6% to 15%, North Carolina started to gain a reputation as the East Coast destination for craft beer lovers. According to the NC Brewer’s Guild, there are now over 60 breweries in the state, several of which are located in the Triangle area. However, until the opening of Steel String Brewery in May, Carrboro didn’t have a beer to call its own.
Seeing a hole in the market and placing their faith in Carrboro citizens’ commitment to supporting local businesses and products, Steel String co-owners Cody Maltais, Will Isley, Andrew Scharfenberg, and Eric Knight decided that it was time to take their home brewing operation to the next level, opening their taproom in the vacant space beside Glasshalfull on Greensboro Street. Every aspect of the brewery has been designed in a way that supports and embraces the surrounding community, from work of local artists that grace the walls (local artist Scott Nurkin’s Soviet-meets-WPA mural decorates the wall behind the bar, while the quilts made by Susan Kobesky that hang on the opposite wall are made from grain bags left from the brewing process and the discarded instrument strings of local musicians) to the 100% American-made Marks steel brewing system in the back. Forty percent of the grain used in their beers is from River Bend Malt House, whose grains are grown in Salisbury, NC and processed in Asheville, and while they utilize some Motueka hops from New Zealand to create interest in the flavor profile of their beers, they also use American-grown Cascade and Columbus hops.
Steel String’s desire to support the Carrboro community lead to the decision to make their flagship beer, Rubber Room, a session ale. Session beers, beers having no more than 5% ABV, have been popular in the UK for some time now, but they are only now beginning to come into style with American brewers. Session beers’ lower ABV essentially allows drinkers to continue drinking for a longer period of time without completely losing their faculties — it’s a beer to linger over with friends.
This is what Steel String’s founders have had in mind the whole time. The beer itself is light, yet complex and flavorful — a beer that is enjoyable to drink, but that doesn’t knock your taste buds out for the rest of the night, and the 4.7% ABV means that you can have a few with your friends and remember it the next day. It facilitates a community gathering together, but it doesn’t make itself the entire purpose of the gathering. To encourage that sense of community and to encourage drinkers to stay and hang out with their friends, the TV over the bar is mostly off, and the bar games available are long playing games like Settlers of Catan and Cards Against Humanity.
“Financial Czar” Cody Maltais says that the thing he is proudest of is the variety of people who have visits the pub in its first 60 days; they have seen business meetings, families, groups of friends, and even a baby shower since their opening. That sense of community is something Steel String wants to keep, and they intend to stay small. You can only purchase Steel String Brewery beers and growlers at their taproom at 106A South Greensboro St. in Carrboro, and they want to ensure that their customers have a pleasant experience and make the connection between the beer they are drinking and a sense of place.