Over a Pint: Brice's Brewing Company
By Dathan Kazsuk
For us it all started back in 2015, while during a gloomy afternoon at the annual Brewgaloo festival in Raleigh, we met Kris and Dana Bengtson for the first time. Our friend ran up to us and told us about a new brewery pouring an awesome lavender saison beer, and best of all, it was free! Who’s going to turn down free beer? Not us. So we followed our friend to where Brice’s Brewing Company was pouring free samples that afternoon. And from that point, we’ve been hooked on the beer Kris has been crafting for years.
Triangle Around Town, along with our good friend and North Carolina beer connoisseur, Paul Prause (he’s been to over 200 North Carolina breweries), paid a visit one afternoon to Brice’s Brewing where we talked to Kris about his journey. Below are excerpts from our interview.
We ask this question a lot, and get pretty much the same response … but how did you get your start in the brewing world? I was home brewing on my porch back in 2014. I was brewing like 40 to 50 gallons a month, just to get our name out there. My wife (Dana) is still a middle school band director, and I’m now a former English teacher. I was tired of the political climate around teaching and I was looking for something more controlling.
You recently celebrated your 2-year anniversary at your brewery, but that location wasn’t your first choice, right? Correct. We looked for 2 to 3 years. First it was in Benson, then Smithfield and then downtown Garner. Dana then looked online and found this spot. We set up a meeting with the realtor at this spot and there was nothing here. It was just a concrete floor. But it had a big, beautiful glass roll-up door to allow light in all year round and that sold us immediately. Plus it had a blank space to work with so we can lay it out exactly how we wanted to – and we did!
Brice’s has limited distribution in the Triangle area and you are currently working on canning as well. We do distribute kegs to bottle shops in Wake and Johnston counties. Places like the Bearded Lady bottle shop, Bottle Rev Apex and Pelagic in Raleigh. We’re also in some upscale restaurants such as Ashley Christensen restaurants. They’ve had our honey lavender on for quite some time now. It’s perfect for their food profile.
And canning? We’re working on labels now. We’ll do mobile canning and hand bottling because we want to bottle condition our Belgiums. We got a mobile canning company out of Greensboro that also does the canning for Haw River. And there’s no minimum, so that’s good for us, because we’re a smaller brewery.
You say your small, but for being a small brewery and having 12 beers on tap on any given evening is quite impressive. That’s correct. The output is small, but the storage is large. We can produce two barrels at a time, but have 20 barrels of beer on that, and that’s pretty impressive for a 2-barrel system. We’re brewing on an average of three times a week. I think what’s more impressive is that we pretty much keep on 6 core beers, while we have made almost 50 different beer styles last year. And that’s pretty hard to do.
If you could go back in time to the beginning of Brice’s Brewing, is there anything you’d do differently? I wish I had a bigger chiller so we can temperature our beers better in the summer. And I wish I’d gone with a bigger hot liquid tank so we can store more water. I think we’ve done a lot of things right. I don’t have a lot of regrets.
Any advice you’ve give someone looking to get into the brewing business? Capital. Make sure you have a lot of capital. And make sure you’re not a teacher. I had a guy who had a son who wanted to start a brewery in New York. This guy had several businesses and lots of money. But he never brewed a day in his life. I told him ‘He better be passionate about it.’ And he didn’t like my answer. He wanted more insider scoop and stuff, but I said, ‘If you don’t enjoy this, this is going to be an awful job for you, because it’s a lot of cleaning. It’s a lot of minutiae. It’s a lot of details on stuff you think it wouldn’t have to be about.’
Brice’s Brewing Company is located at 1822 Garner Station Blvd. in Raleigh. The brewery’s hours of operation are 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday; 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday; 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturday; and 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Sunday.