Raleigh, N.C. — When Brice’s Brewing opened to the public in January, owners Kris and Dana Bengston did not expect the crowd that was waiting for them. Before even opening the doors, all 62 of the venue's parking spots were filled.
“From day one we knew we had something going on here, and it’s been steady ever since,” said Kris Brice Bengston.
Located off Garner Station Blvd., the Brice’s Brewing storefront isn’t as visible as some of the other breweries in the Triangle, but the Bengstons haven’t had any trouble recruiting fans. Local living communities promoted the brewery through the Nextdoor app for months before it opened.
“I feel like we’re a speakeasy,” he said. “If you’re in the know, it’s the cool place to go.”
Weekly events including a run club and live music make Brice’s the perfect local hang for nearby residents, but, for Bengston, it’s not enough to say the place is cool. He wants to hear that the beer is the reason people keep coming back.
When Out and About visited the brewery, all but two of the Belgians on tap were his original home brew recipes. Like many brewers, he learned using a box kit but quickly grew bored and started making his own recipes. The Farmor Russian Imperial Stout, #7 on the tap list, is the first recipe he ever created (adjusted a few times since, of course.)
If you’re an IPA lover, you might enjoy the City Hands Belgian Session IPA. With hints of grapefruit, pineapple and lime, it tastes like a Belgian twist on Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin. It’s been described as “insanely drinkable” with an ABV under 4 percent.
Also on the menu is the Troublesome Blackberry Jam Fruited Stout, named for its difficult brew day. The Troublesome was originally intended to be the Imperial Stout but whole leaf hops clogged the system. Instead of tossing the batch, Bengston deseeded 16 pounds of blackberries and threw them in to offset the bitterness. The result is a complex stout that offers a rich dark chocolate flavor.
Bengston is humble and admits that “happy accidents” like the Troublesome have made him better. This attitude undoubtedly stems from his day job as a high school English teacher. His wife, Dana, is also in public education as a middle school band director.
“In the teaching world, there’s something called professional development...it’s constant education to make yourself better at your job, and I believe that in the beer industry too," he said.
Brice’s Brewing bartenders will be required to take a course that teaches them about beer styles and will, at some point, have to brew one of their own. Bengston wants to make sure their knowledge extends beyond how it tastes so they can fully appreciate the process, which he explains is “a mixture of art and science.”
Still, he says, the greatest accomplishment thus far is teaching Michelob Ultra drinkers to appreciate the sweet and subtle honey lavender saison.
It all comes back to education because for the Bengstons, that’s what it’s all about.