Holly Springs, N.C. — Bombshell Beer Company has a combination that is hard to beat: Three business-minded "bombshells" with brewery knowledge and one head brewer with a decade of experience. We recently paid a visit to this Holly Springs brewery for a tour and tasting.
Two of the first things we noticed when walking into Bombshell, located off of Quantum Drive, were the hooks and outlets under the bar. Perfect for hanging a purse and charging your phone or laptop.
It is little things like this that help make Bombshell a relaxed place you'd like to sit and enjoy a beer.
We picked a perfect Friday afternoon for a tour from head brewer Stephen O'Neill. He had just gotten back from delivering supplies to their World Beer Fest table in downtown Raleigh.
"I was just dahntahn," he says slipping into Pittsburghese.
O'Neill has been brewing for more than a decade and comes to Bombshell from the award-winning Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh. He became part of the team when he met future Bombshell owner Michelle Miniutti when she was on a business trip in Pittsburgh. He started consulting for them as they developed the brand and became their head brewer.
Since coming to North Carolina, O'Neill said he has a lot of freedom developing Bombshell's beers. When we were there, he was serving up their flagship beers, which include the Polished Pilsner, Pickup Line Porter, the JEMS Jade Pale Ale and a special summer seasonal Lemongrass Pale Ale. (Read on to hear our thoughts on each.) He was also planning a vanilla bourbon porter.
We munched on some popcorn and soon got to know Ellen Joyner, one of the founding Bombshells. Joyner and Miniutti came up with the idea to start Bombshell several years ago after a standing golf date was rained out. They loved touring breweries and Joyner had been an avid homebrewer for years. These MBA graduates decided to forge ahead and create their own brewery. A few years later, Jackie Hudspeth joined the team.
With a growing contingent of female craft beer drinkers out there, Bombshell sought to fill the need by making beer that is approachable. The Pilsner definitely fits into that category. With a variety of brews in their arsenal, they have made it easy for people to expand their beer palates.
Since opening, Bombshell has been incredibly busy, Joyner said. She is even considering putting in a third set of taps to accommodate the traffic at the bar. They routinely have food trucks outside and serve popcorn for free inside. Live bands play each weekend.
Just in time for spring, Bombshell is finishing work on their outdoor patio, but in the meantime they can open the large door on the side of the taproom to let the breeze in.
With a few TVs, modern decor and a good-sized bar, Bombshell's taproom has a great feel.
And the beer?
Polished Pilsner: The traditional-style pilsner is very light and drinkable - this would be refreshing on a sweltering summer afternoon. This is a great beer too for people who like domestic beer or wine and want to try a craft beer.
Pickup Line Porter: A smooth and well-balanced brew without the overpowering taste or aroma of chocolate. It has a nice malty, toasted flavor without being bitter. We also got the chance to try this one mixed with the pilsner, which brings out the maltiness of the porter and the crispness of the pilsner. Try it out at the taproom!
Lemongrass Pale Ale: This is a summer seasonal at Bombshell, so get it before the season is up. This ale is a little bitter and hoppy but refreshing and fragrant at the same time. Brewer Stephen O'Neill hopes to revamp this beer next time around with even more lemongrass.The one we tasted had 20 pounds of lemongrass in it.
JEMS Jade Pale Ale: This ale is a specialty beer that reminded me of Foothills Brewing's Jade IPA. It's hoppy, though not nearly as hoppy as their IPA, and a little fruity. For me, smell was another factor in this beer, which has a floral aroma that enhanced the taste.
Hey! Honey! Hefeweizen!: This specialty brew is a German Pilsner featuring German Wheat malt. It has a crisp and champagne-like texture and is very smooth. There are tones of bubble gum, banana and clove from the yeast and a hint of citrus. Really light and enjoyable to drink.