CLAYTON — Beer connoisseurs, downtown enthusiasts and even people from outside town looking for a weekend day-trip can soon put a new brewery on their list of places worth visiting.
Husband-and-wife owners Paul and Lynn Auclair say the Deep River Brewing Company will be open within the next 30 days.
Residents have awaited the opening of the brewery for months, since the Auclairs originally scheduled to open in November. Construction delays set back that date. The brewery, which is located at 700 West Main St. received its ABC permit last week, making it official: It’s the first legal brewery in Johnston County. And that’s the motto of a T-shirt the brewery will be selling, said Lynn Auclair.
“We want to have three or four types of beer before we invite anybody,” said Paul Auclair. The exact opening date has not been announced yet, but now that the brewery has its license, and it has also passed inspections, it is nearly ready for its debut. The couple said they plan to start brewing this week so there will be enough beer, and enough types of beer ready for a grand opening.
The Auclairs have taken time to think about what will make this brewery stand-out, and how it can represent Johnston County.
Freshly chopped wood that was repurposed from an old tobacco barn lines the bar wall of the tap-room from the floor to the ceiling.
“A family in Archer Lodge donated it to us,” said Lynn Auclair. “We had to go tear down the barn ourselves.”
The Johnston County signature is not only in the physical fixtures. There are also unique ingredients in the beer flavors that rely on produce from locals.
“We will be getting blueberries, honey, white sweet potatoes, and watermelon from local farmers,” said Auclair. There are six beer flavors that will rotate on tap. Two of the beers will be year-round, and there are four seasonal beers. The summertime beer is called Double Don Golden Lager. It is made with watermelon from Johnston County, and won first place in the 2011 Piedmont Brewer’s Cup for Fruit Beer. The winter time beer, JoCo White Winter, relies on the white sweet potatoes and toasted marshmallows, as well as spices for its signature flavor.
The year-round brews include the Twisted River Wit, a belgian witbier, with hints of citrus, and the Riverbank Rye-It, an amber pale ale with subtle hints of rye. Some of the beers are aged in old Jack Daniels whiskey barrels.
Each of the beers has a name that hints at its home in Johnston County. The other two seasonals include the 4042 Stout, and the Backcountry Black IPA.
The couple envisions the brewery helping put Clayton on the map.
“This could be a really big tourist attraction for Clayton,” said Auclair. “Look at what Aviator did for Fuquay-Varina. We’re envisioning that same thing here.”
Opened in 2009, Aviator Brewery helped make the Varina side of Fuquay-Varina more of a social hub by bringing new people into town. After a successful start, the owner of the brewery, Mark Doble, expanded the operation in 2011 to open a barbecue restaurant attached to the taphouse downtown. The brewery, itself, is now separate and is located in a larger facility outside of downtown.
Clayton’s Downtown Development Director Bruce Naegelen said he is confident that the brewery will help downtown Clayton thrive.
“Even though it’s not right in the commercial district, like the Aviator Brewery, it’ll bring new people in the area,” said Naegelen. He said the Downtown Development Association will help promote events at the brewery.
Stimulating the economy
The Auclairs said they travel across the state for brewery tours and beer tastings and know that beer connoisseurs are always looking for a new place to go, no matter the drive. The brewery will have free tours on Saturdays lasting about 15 minutes each. The plan is to partner with local restaurants on tour days to offer a food and drink deal, said Auclair. Flipside Restaurant has already agreed to be a part of it and the couple is looking for more restaurants who want to collaborate.
“It’s teaming up with local businesses and helping each other out. We see a big benefit to stimulate the local economy,” said Auclair. “When people come from out of town, or even from outside of downtown to visit the brewery, it is likely they’ll stop and get food downtown and buy from the local businesses.”
The brewers did their first taste-testing in December 2011. They have since sold their beer at the summer concert series. In the future, they plan to sell the beer at local restaurants, and eventually expand the brewery to also maintain a bottling line. With 16,000 square feet of space inside the brewery, there’s plenty of room to grow.