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North Carolina Brewery

The Brewery Within the Brewery

1 year ago, by Sierra Nevada
Posted in North Carolina Brewery

""Visit our Facebook page to see all of our Mills River construction photos. 

As the Mills River brewery has come online, we’ve focused a lot on the main brewhouse—it’s the centerpiece of our brewery and the source of most of the delicious beer that we make. In the shadow of that incredible brewing system, however, we’re installing a second, smaller brewery that in some ways is the real star of the show.

In August the shiny copper brewhouse for our "pilot" system arrived in Mills River, and this week we’re installing the fermentation tanks that will make up the cellar of this small-scale, complete brewery.

Our pilot breweries are designed to do a number of things. We use them to perform R&D tests on new ingredients or techniques we’re thinking of transferring to the larger-scale brewery. The pilot acts as a production brewery for draught-only limited beers that are too small in scale to brew on the larger system. It is a proving ground for recipes that will eventually become new beers, and it allows our brewers to experiment and try new things on a scale that is much lower in both investment and infrastructure than the main brewhouse.


In Mills River, our pilot brewery is one-tenth the size of the main brewhouse—a 20-barrel system, meaning each batch of beer is 620 gallons, as opposed to 6,200 gallons on the large system—which means there is far more flexibility to experiment. Our cellars will include 14 closed fermentation tanks alongside four open fermentation vessels allowing for even more options.

Spending time in the pilot brewery is fascinating because it is literally the place where new beers are born. Whether a conceptual experiment testing a theory—like our Hop Torpedo which was tested and perfected on the small-scale system—or a place for our brewers to play and create fun beers just because they can, the pilot is where disparate pieces and ideas come together to form a new and exciting piece of drinkable art.

In Mills River, guests will be able to experience this sense of creation first hand because our newest pilot system will be at the center of our Taproom and Restaurant. Visitors and diners will literally walk in between the brewhouse and the cellar on the way into the restaurant and, chances are, the beers on tap that day were made mere feet from the bar—how’s that for local!

The pilot brewery in Mills River will create new beers that will fill the restaurant taps and be on a constant rotation. The smaller system will also provide some limited draught-only beers available throughout the region as well, and we’ll use it to create special beer for barrel-aging experiments which we’ll offer occasionally as special releases for visitors to the brewery.

Having a small-scale brewery within the brewery offers the freedom and the flexibility to brew whatever we can dare to dream up and we’re sure to create some tasty beers in the months and years to come.