Over a Pint: Neuse River Brewing Company
Ryan and Jennifer Kolarov are doing it right when it comes to their brewery, Neuse River Brewing Company. It was around 2012-13 when the two were living in California that the thought of opening a brewery was the next step in their life plans. The Kolarov’s knew it would be too expensive to start a full-time business in California. Ryan grew up in North Carolina and still has family living here, so the two thought it would be great to head back to the state Ryan was born and raised.
The brewery has been operational for about 4 years now, and in that time have produced some local favorites such as Caleb’s High Noon (IPA), Streamside Mango (sour), Bobbi Brune (brown ale) and the Neusiok Imperial Saison. The brewery even teamed up with local rapper Petey Pablo to can what is known as Petey’s Pale Ale.
The two are currently in the process of converting a small portion of their taproom into a European-style bistro with a touch of local flair. We caught up with Ryan and Jennifer on a Monday afternoon to discuss a little history on the brewery and a quick discussion on that crazy beer that’s sweeping the beer world off its feet – the hazy IPA!
TAT: The two of you basically moved from California to Raleigh and started up a brewery. Did you know the beer scene here in the Triangle, or know anyone that was able to tell you about it before coming here?
NRBC: We didn’t have anyone to talk to until we moved here. We did a lot of research – demographics from post grad programs and all the people moving here. There weren’t that many breweries, which wasn’t really that long ago – I think just 4 years ago. There was only around 100 in the state back then. There was a scene here, but not like it is now. Places like Raleigh Brewing, Big Boss, Trophy and Gizmo were around.
TAT: Neuse River has a nice assortment of beer on draft at the brewery, but how would you best describe what you really focus on?
NRBC: We focus on Belgium beers because that’s what we enjoy drinking. But we also do other things like sours and IPAs.
TAT: When you started out you had a lot of saisons on tap.
NRBC: You know, there was a lot of saisons, but I don’t know how that wound up happening. I don’t want to say it was a fluke, but just kind of happened with all these saisons. At one point we had like 5 of them on draft. But that’s not really our focus – Belgium is our focus.
TAT: You have made Belgium beers in the past such as Three Feathers, Riviére and Affluent Tripel. Is that the style beer that you started drinking when you were younger?
NRBC: Yeah. It’s mainly what we like drinking. I kind of went backwards with beer, because I was drinking shitty beer, and then I moved to St. Thomas when I was pretty young and worked at a nice restaurant and started enjoying wine. Jen grew up in wine country, so she educated me a lot, so when we moved to northern California, I was in heaven because we were in Sonoma and working in wineries. I was home brewing back then because I enjoyed beer.
TAT: You were the head brewer when Neuse River opened here in Raleigh, but eventually you brought in Nathan Gasol who used to brew with Haw River Brewing Company. He’s now retired and off fishing, but what are some things you learned from his experience?
NRBC: He got me more comfortable with funky yeast strains and with fruit. I never really did a lot with fruit beers. I never did a fruited sour, so that was a couple fun things he brought here.
TAT: I think you told me before that he wasn’t into the whole “hazy” IPA scene, so Neuse River never made one while he was still working with you guys.
NRBC: Yeah. He was more an old-school brewer. He was like, ‘No, this is how an IPA should be.’
TAT: So, you are back at the helm?
NRBC: Yeah. And I have an assistant that’s fantastic. When it comes to cleaning cycles, he can do it. I couldn’t keep up with emails to save my life. Now I can do that. I’m even more comfortable now than I was back then.
TAT: And now you guys have brewed your first “hazy” IPA, Saturday Morning. I say “hazy” IPA, but a lot use the term New England IPA, NEIPA, milkshake IPA or even just an Orange Julius. How would you describe the difference, if any?
NRBC: Adam (Eckhart) at Crank Arm made a good point. He said, ‘New England IPAs are made in New England.’ But there are milkshake IPAs that are super lactose heavy. You have hazy IPAs and juicy IPAs, a lot of those sort of come together for me.
TAT: And then you have ones like the Brut IPA that never really picked up steam. People are doing them, but it just seems it can’t gain the traction.
NRBC: I follow a lot of breweries on Instagram, and yeah, I haven’t seen a lot going on with Brut. I know Vicious Fishes did one locally. That’s honestly the only one I can think of. I love the idea of merging the two worlds.
TAT: Do you feel the market will ever get oversaturated with the NEIPA/hazy IPAs?
NRBC: There are definitely a lot of people making them, and some of them taste the same, but I don’t think they’re going to go anywhere. I think the normal IPA will start to fall back. When people know they can have all this fruit flavor and not all that bitterness in an IPA – it works!