Growth a Good Problem for NoDa Brewing Company

NoDa Brewing Company

Chad Henderson is used to heavy lifting. The head brewer for NoDa Brewing Company lifts weights in his spare time, but recently those loads to lift have been new vessels to keep up with the growing demand for the Charlotte, North Carolina brewery’s suds.

The 615-barrel facility is to max capacity, yet all the beer that Henderson is making is already spoken for among his company’s 400 accounts in the Charlotte area. “It’s been pretty hectic, to say the least,” he said, “Along with brewing three to four times a day.”

The latest endeavor is a centrifuge, which Henderson hopes increases the baby beer going into each brite tank per batch, with more beer to go out the door into consumers’ hands.

NoDa Brewing Company

NoDa currently quad batches brews with a 15-barrel brewing system so it can move that wort into a 60-barrel fermenter. With hop-forward beers, such as its Hop, Drop ‘n Roll IPA, Henderson said what begins as a 60-barrel batch can wind up with about 47 barrels after losing wort to sludge and trub.

“Hopefully this will alleviate some of the volume issues each time we transfer which will help across the board,” he said. “People are just waiting for it, and if I can get more people happy, we’ll have less people pissed off,” he added with a laugh.

Although growing by leaps and bounds, Henderson would rather maintain quality over quantity. He said Mecklenburg County is NoDa’s priority along with surrounding areas near Charlotte, but visitors from cities all over the Carolinas stop in to grab what they can when it’s available.

“We are trying to keep our own backyard happy first,” he said. “It’s cool that it’s flying off the shelves here and business is picking up. That’s awesome.”

The 11,500-square-foot facility NoDa brews in also hosts its taproom — a separate building nearby houses its dry storage. Yet that isn’t enough with the addition every two to three months of more equipment to expand production.

“[Growth throughout the state] is there, but it’s not on that time pressure as it is in moving to a new facility is, because there is no point to grow if we cannot fully establish and maintain the current footprint,” Henderson said. “As long as the beer remains the same, or if the quality increases, and I think we can satisfy new accounts, then it can be as far as Japan.

“I don’t care as long as the quality is maintained and the accounts are happy with the service we can give them. The minute one of those factors are jeopardized then you have to go back to what you can maintain.”

Using two IPAs, a Pale Ale, a Red Ale and a Porter as its base beers, NoDa features eight seasonals along with experimental small batches (called NoDables) that come out weekly — and are extolled about on NoDa’s YouTube channel:

The videos are light and fun, and use the staff of 20 it has on hand to put a face to who makes and serves what consumers are quaffing. “We poke fun at ourselves,” Henderson said. “We do everything from me just popping out of somewhere to tell you about the beer to full-on Batman parody skits.

“It gives a personality to the beer. … It gives a back-story. If it has a story or some personality, it gives some meaning, a chance for a reference in your mind and not just some words on a chalkboard.”

One such NoDable success is Hopcakes. “I wanted to do an Imperial IPA that was super hoppy instead of using a traditional sugar addition like honey — I wanted to use a sugar that you would use in a barleywine or a stout or a strong ale, so I did maple syrup.”

He used only Maris Otter and Two-Row for the grain bill. “All the color and extra sweetness and attenuation came from the maple syrup we dumped into it. It also had like 11-hop additions,” he said. “And it was fantastic and everyone went crazy for it. So now it’s a specialty that we release once a year. That’s what the NoDable are released are for.”

Started in late October 2011, the brewery, located in the artistic district of Charlotte with North Davidson Street running at the spine of the area, NoDa uses the NoDable Series to draw in returning customers. They also know how to get more soles into the taproom with a weekly running series.

Started by a barback who was an avid runner, the NoDa running club now boasts hundreds of runners — from people out for a one-mile jog to avid marathoners taking in a five-mile stroll — all with the runners ending up back at the taproom after to enjoy a brew.

“We’ve had torrential thunderstorms, snowing and regardless, people still show up ready to run on Wednesdays,” Henderson said. “It’s cool because it stretched the notion that beer is more than a craft beverage. It ties in with local community activities. You can associate us with more than just drinking.”

If NoDa does move its brewing facility it hopes to keep the building its in. Henderson envisions the taproom as a more experimental facility for small batches where he can stretch his creativity and offer more NoDable beers.

He said he has worked on a beer with more backing bitterness.

“We saw one with Palisade that worked real well with bitterness on the back end because I did this and this different,” he said about a certain batch he has worked on. “We might change something up on the aroma additions or use a different malt in a beer that normally doesn’t go in.”

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