Apex, N.C. — Two long-time friends who share a passion for craft beer have showcased their vision at the newest brewery in Apex: Southern Peak Brewery.
Co-owners Nathan Poissant and Ken Michalski, who have brewed beer together for the last 10 years, both shared the idea of bringing a neighborhood brewery to Apex.
“One of our biggest inspirations was to reintroduce the neighborhood brewery, something that years ago, at the end of the century, every little township or community had,” Michalski said. “That’s something we wanted to bring back; that’s our whole theme here.”
Poissant said the pair brainstormed ideas for their business that would be unique and different, yet familiar to the community.
“It was very much, ‘How do we offer something different besides just our beer,’” Poissant said. “Pre-prohibition, every small town, each small neighborhood had their own tavern, pub or brewery. That was something that we wanted to do and bring into Apex.”
The brewery is showcased in the front of Bradley Commons, part of the Villages of Apex, just walking distance from the homes and apartments within the development.
With garage-style doors that face Windy Road, passersby can peer inside at the rustic atmosphere of the taproom: hand-crafted wooden tables, a concrete slab-style bar and a chalkboard menu.
The co-owners said they originally looked for a space in downtown Apex, but zoning regulations nixed the idea.
“We were introduced to the owners who were building this spot, so once we drove through and saw the neighborhood – it was still being built at the time – we kind of looked at each other and knew that this is definitely what we want to try and establish; be close to neighbors, whether it’s the apartment complex or the actual villages here,” Poissant said. “We have the sidewalk from the neighborhood coming right up to the door. We knew this was exactly what we wanted.”
Michalski said the location lends itself to creating the vibe he longed for as part of the business plan.
“We wanted to be part of the neighborhood,” he said. "We wanted to not only open up the tap room, but we wanted to be neighbors as well and part of the community and meet people and build friendships along the way.”
Although Michalski and Poissant may still actively participate in the brewing process, the long-time friends recruited Matt Ehlers to be the business’s lead brewer.
Ehlers served for 11 years in the U.S. Army, reaching the rank of staff seargant, prior to pursuing a career in brewing. Ehlers said he was stationed in Anchorage, Alaska, for six years and then finished his service at Fort Bragg.
He was a home brewer for 14 years before getting his first brewery position at White Rabbit Brewing Company in Angier.
“It’s nice that we’re trying to be as local as possible,” Ehlers said. “I feel like a lot of production breweries don’t have a sense of community, so I think that’s one of the best things about working here. My neighbors are right across the street from me, and they’re here every day we’re open.”
The brewery and tap room have been operating under a “soft opening” since the end of April, with weekend hours only, but the brewery will hold its grand opening on June 4 from 2 to 11:55 p.m.
Southern Peak will feature four year-round beers as part of its Heritage Series – Peak City Golden Lager, Southern Charm Ale, Puffing Devil India Pale Ale and 1911 Black Lager – and a seasonal rotation called the Village Series. The brewery put their Belgian golden strong on tap as part of the Village Series since April.
In addition to beer, the brewery also offers kombucha on the menu, a drink made from fermented green and black tea, paired with local fruits and herbs.
“It’s definitely a different offering, but it also fits what we’re doing,” Poissant said. "It is a fermented tea, so we do get to use the same science that we use for brewing. It truly taps into the local market by using the local ingredients.”
Michalski’s said his wife introduced him and Poissant to the unique drink and also brews it
“It brings a different type of crowd out here, and it's great seeing different people,” he said. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised by it.”
As part of the brewery’s grand opening, three beers will be available in addition to the Heritage Series and its kombucha: a Belgian golden strong, a Belgian dark strong, a German altbier and a session IPA.
The brewery doesn’t have a kitchen, due to limited space, but Southern Peak does offer snacks for purchase, and food trucks will also be available in the parking lot for customers.
“We’ll try to get them [food trucks] in as much as possible, fill up the weekends definitely,” Michalski said. "[And] then throw in some Thursdays and weekdays as we can.”
The brewery will extend its taproom hours beyond Friday through Sunday in the near future in coordination with other events such as a run club or food trucks.
Poissant said a number of establishments have reached out about distribution, but he says the brewery is focused on the in-house demand for the time being.
“Up to this point it's been just trying to meet the demands of the taproom. We’re trying to scale our production for that first,” he said. “Let us get up to the grand opening and understand what the tap room is going to be, and then we’ll start distributing out, but I think immediately it will be hyperlocal to Apex and Cary.”
Michalski and Poissant said the brewery’s beer will be on offer at the Peak City Pig Fest in downtown Apex on June 17 and 18, and it will also be showcased at Beericana Craft Beer and Music Festival in Holly Springs in September.
“For the next six to eight months, I see us staying hyperlocal,” Poissant said. “So anything like that, whether it’s in Cary, Holly Springs or Apex, I think those will be the ones to focus on to start with to broaden our audience to what we have here.”