This Brewery is Helping Revitalize its Town, One Beer at a Time

Over an hour from any big city, Shelby, North Carolina was once best known for its agriculture and bluegrass history. But these days, the town’s Historic Uptown district is booming, spurred largely by craft beer tourism. Unlike NC cities like Charlotte, Wilmington, and Asheville where breweries dot the streets, the scene in Shelby surrounds just one: Newgrass Brewing

Newgrass isn’t just the lone brewery in town — it’s the only one in the county. Known as “Cleveland County’s destination daycation,” the Newgrass team has operated out of a 100-year-old former department store on Lafayette Street since August 2015. After gathering a strong local following upfront, the brewers saw their fanbase all-out explode over the past two years. 

“It has been surprising. We had a successful first few years, but the way it’s grown has been amazing,” says Brad Burton, Director of Sales. According to him, Newgrass is doing “three to four times” the business they had before COVID hit, going from 70 percent locals on weekends to near 80 percent out-of-towners. 

The brewery’s growing prominence has also caught the attention of the beer app, Tavour. Now, craft aficionados around the country can get some of Newgrass’ coveted brews delivered straight to their doorsteps. 

These beers encompass a range of styles, from Lagers to IPAs and Stouts. But, the brewery’s Sour Ale game is what really draws the crowd. 

“People really come for the Sorbet Sours,” Burton notes, referring to a lineup of smooth, heavily fruited Berliner Weisse beers and Sour Ales. “People drive over from other towns to get these beers to-go.” 

The hype over these beers is poised to go even further, now that they’ve hit Tavour. Newgrass’s first beer on the platform was Space Trash, a Fruited Sour with an impressive ingredient list: blueberry, lactose, coconut cream, toasted marshmallow and vanilla, plus bourbon fired cinnamon sticks and graham crackers made in-house.

Though the Newgrass crew typically doesn’t send their beers to other states, when Tavour’s team came knocking for stashes, the decision was easy. 

“We already knew about Tavour by reputation, so we were really excited,” Burton says. “Tavour offers us a great option for reaching parts of the country we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”

While Newgrass’s creative beers have solidified it on the Carolina craft scene, its status as a destination brewery goes beyond just the suds. The taproom regularly hosts live music and boasts a farm-to-table kitchen. They’ve also done some interior remodeling over the past year, making it easier for patrons to watch the brewing process in action.

The brewery’s success has helped spur other businesses in Shelby. Several new bars and eateries have opened on and around Lafayette Street since its launch. In 2019, the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection, a project from the University of North Carolina, recognized Newgrass as a catalyst for Shelby’s revitalization. 

“The owners [Jordan Boinest, Lewis McCallister, David Dear, and Roger Holland] chose this area because they’re from here and wanted to give back to the community,” Burton says. “We work hard and work long hours. It’s great to see it paying off.”

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