Over a Pint: Group of fun guys set to open new Raleigh brewery
By Dathan Kazsuk
What do you get when you mix together three friends from Duquesne University who want to leave the cold weather of Pittsburgh for something a little warmer and who love making beer? Who also have an appreciation for sour beers and the single-celled microorganisms fungi that goes along with beer making? You get one of the Triangle’s newest breweries coming to Raleigh – behold Funguys Brewing Company.
Nick Brango, Carly Pina and Nick Fiorenzano are set to test the waters here in Raleigh as they prepare for their grand opening on Saturday, April 14. The trio fell in love with the City of Oaks after a long search to find a place to settle down after deciding to leave Pittsburgh. “We wanted to go somewhere warmer, because I like wearing shorts and you can’t wear them all year long in Pittsburgh,” jokes Brango, who will assume the duties of head brewer for Funguys, and a student of the American Brewers Guild.
It was during a snowy day in Raleigh, that kept a lot of people off the streets, when we met up with this trio of fun guys at BottleMixx. “A little snow like this is nothing,” said Pina about the light dusting starting to line the parking lot outside. We decided to chat about their new undertaking and the tips new brewers can take away with trying to start up their own brewery in the future over a pint of beer. Below are excerpts from the interview.
First off, how did you come up with the name? It reminds me of that old joke, ‘Why did the mushroom get invited to all the parties? Because he was a fungi!’
Fiorenzano: I was just sitting there at work one day toying around with ideas in my head during a lunch break. This was when sour ales and wild beers were coming into our lives. I was being goofy, like fungus and bacteria which sours the beers, and also the three of us have fun together, so fungi. Not only does it have a connection with the beer, but with us. Without yeast, all you can make is some expensive water.
I know it is hard to open a new brewery serving up sours that you enjoy, so when you open to the public, what are some beers we can expect to taste?
Brango: We will have 9 taps and one will be a Randall. We will have a pale ale at around 5.5 percent. We’ll be doing a Saison. We will have a number of session beers. Then down the road our first major expansion will be to add a barrel room with climate control.
Once you bottle or can, you’ll run into having to get your beer labels licensed. I know that hasn’t happened yet, but what are some tips you can give to wouldbe brewers?
Brango: There are things you have to watch out for, but there are a few databases to look up names. We were going to name one of our beers Mountain Man after one of our friends who likes to go hiking and got us all into beer. But there was already another beer named The Mountain Man, so we renamed it Beard Scratcher.
Fiorenzano: Since we are not distributing out of the state, we would submit our labels to the North Carolina ABC commission. Places like Founders who distribute nationwide would have to send their labels through the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau).
Another issue new breweries can run across is raising money. Unless you are filthy rich, you’ll probably have to take out a loan or find an investor who believe in what you’re doing. How did this pan out for you?
Brango: We were coming out of college without a whole lot of savings, so we had to seek investors. And we got lucky because our families were willing to invest in us. They saw the passion in us, and the uptick that the industry is having right now. It’s also figuring out how much you need to raise. Figure out what you want to do. If you are doing barrel culture, you wouldn’t need all the stainless steel tanks. Just get pricing for whatever it is you think, and then double the initial cost. You always leave out things you need and find out about it later. Our initial cost did get doubled and our time got doubled.
You’re located on Paula Street in Raleigh near places such as Big Boss, Lynnwood Brewing Concern and Sub Noir. I always hear it’s pretty difficult to find a great location. How did you find this current spot?
Brango: There were a few places we looked at. Actually, Barrel Culture’s current location … we called a week after them, as well as 15 other breweries. This was in January 2017. The location we have now, our landlord said that 10 people called after us. Our biggest issue was being delayed. What we thought would take us 8 months, ended up being 13 months.
So you ran into some issues?
Brango: Basically. It was getting the permits. Originally we had the plans to put the initial taproom around the back, but were going to run into a number of issues from sprinklers, capacity, this, that and the other. And that would have cost way more than our budget. So we started on the brewery and added the taproom later, which just took longer to make. We were looking to be open in late October (2017), but it took us longer to find a contractor, that we didn’t even start until October. So we ended up paying rent for longer than we planned on, which can easily add up.
But all that is behind them now as they are set to have their grand opening on April 14, where they will be happy to serve up their beer, along with a collaboration with Collusion Tap Works out of York, Pennsylvania. Funguys will also have its first batch of cans available to purchase at a limited supply.