Last Friday, April 10th we held our first virtual happy hour, focusing on how COVID-19 has changed our daily lives at the brewery. Moderated by Lindsay Sprick, Her Hopness at NoDa Brewing, we had a group of about twenty in the Zoom room, and we are looking forward to hosting the next virtual happy hour this coming Friday the 17th with a few tweaks! We’ll be extending the session time—questions really started rolling in near the end (once the beer got flowing!), and we had a few folks who missed out that really wanted to wave and say hello.

We absolutely loved seeing your faces, seeing what you were drinking, and answering your questions! We were even lucky enough to see Woody from 106.5’s The Woody and Wilcox Show in a bunny suit, being yelled at by his chickens!

Here is a recap of what we talked about in the virtual happy hour, and an expansion of some of the questions, as we ended up not having enough time to answer them all:

Q: How have you changed your sanitation protocols or added any additional steps to ensure additional cleanliness?

A: We have implemented additional sanitation protocols including distribution to each employee of their own PPE gear including masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. All employees have their temperature taken on arrival to work to ensure no one is running a fever or contagious. All employees are required to report immediately to their supervisor if they are not feeling well. All sick employees are required to stay home, and we have also taken additional steps to ensure the safety of employees with compromised immune systems. Luckily, we’ve always been very clean at NoDa Brewing, requiring all production employees to wear hair nets, beard nets, safety glasses, and gloves. The office upstairs at the brewery has taken additional measures as well. All employees are required to stay 6ft away from each other, wash his or her hands constantly, and employees are not allowed to congregate in any break rooms or shared spaces. No one is allowed in our building that is not an employee, and we are even restricting where our employees walk in the building (for instance, no production employees roaming in the taproom and vise versa).

Q: How have these extraordinary events affected employees? Have you had to furlough employees?

A: Unfortunately, we have had to furlough some of our taproom staff during the pandemic, but we have the full intention to hire them all back once our taprooms are allowed to open again. We are a family at NoDa Brewing and it has been very difficult for us all, but we are so good at having each other’s backs and cheering each other up. We send positive messages over our Teams channels constantly, and make sure we are giving each other words of support and really checking in on everyone’s individual needs. We are donating to industry groups individually and as a company to do everything we can for our peers and our neighbors. We’ve been really getting to know each other more, too, seeing more pictures of pets at home, and sharing music with each other. We’ve even created a Spotify playlist of our music we’ve shared with each other so we can share it with you all!

Q: Could you walk through how your creative process pivoted during the pandemic?

A: When the pandemic “hit,” we already knew we would have to take the majority of our products to the packaged Ready-To-Drink format, or in our case, the 16oz can. We have very quickly pivoted and fast tracked the design, creation, printing, and execution of multiple brands into the can format. We’ve already had three can releases: one new beer, Hop So-Low IPA, one year-round option, Layover Lager Light American Lager, and one seasonal option, 1775 Pale Ale. We have more coming and we are tooling these beers towards more common (friendlier) styles like pilsners, ambers, etc. We are also releasing a new beer next week (now available) in celebration of the healthcare workers in the front lines called Zuper Heroes, a Czech Pilsner made with Zuper Saaz hops, and we are donating a portion of the proceeds to CMC’s charity 22 and You. The program is directing the monies raised to the NC Healthcare Foundation and the South Carolina Hospital Association Foundation.

We want to make sure everyone is happy with the beer options they can take home, so we have also started asking customers what they want to see, and that is absolutely driving what we make next. Ramble on Red, for instance, is going to be canned thanks to a positive poll result in our Insiders page. We are listening to what you all want, and we really want to thank you all for your support!

As well, we are pivoting on the social media and content side. We are planning more blogs, more ways to engage with you all (like the Spotify playlist), we started these virtual happy hours every Friday at 3pm, and we have more fun things coming including cooking videos, polls, pictures, and more. We’re keeping ourselves busy coming up with things to keep you all entertained!

Q: Why are some of the new cans we are seeing labeled over old brands? For instance, Hop So-Low IPA on old Gordgeous cans?

A: Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures! Most of the time it takes months to receive printed cans from the producers, and you have to purchase tens of thousands at a time, making storage another issue. Blank cans have been in short supply for some time as well, and this pandemic has not made that process much smoother. That said, we luckily keep back stock of all cans we receive (even the ones where the ink colors may not have been printed correctly) just in case we can’t ever get any cans. And here we are now, pulling out extra Gordgeous cans we had saved for next year, and putting new beer in them and labeling over the top. Not only is this ensuring that you all get great, fresh, local beer to drink, but it also helps the environment by reducing our waste.

Q: What’s your favorite beer?

A: (Lindsay Sprick) My favorite NoDa beer is True Grit Southeastern IPA. It’s one of our newer releases that comes out every year in the Spring, and I absolutely love it! It was one of our first reactions to the Northeastern IPA style, or what we know today as the Hazy or Juicy IPA. When we were originally taught to brew, we were told NO haziness in our beer except for wheat beers. Clarity in beer was prized, and in many styles still is. We centrifuge our beers at NoDa, essentially using a giant salad spinner to sling out spent hop matter, yeast, etc., to ensure our beer is tasting the absolute best it possibly can taste. This allows our beer to be crisper, more quaffable, and to ensure flavor is on point. We wanted to make a hazy IPA, but we didn’t want it to be 7% ABV, and we didn’t want it to be as bitter as the original Northeastern IPAs were. So, we thought about it and decided to use ingredient that spoke to us as Southerners, and we landed on corn grits. This lightened up the malt bill in the beer, made it lower in alcohol content (5.5%), more sessionable, and the corn helped to create a crisp finish, added a little haziness, and imparted a lighter color to the beer. We ended up with this crazy, over 8# of hops per barrel, yellow-in-color juicy IPA with a light cloudiness/haze to the beer, that is extremely drinkable and an instant IPA lover’s favorite. And because we completely made this style up, we decided to call it a Southeastern IPA. It’s an anticipated release for many of our fans, myself included!

Q: Events, how are you working with moving them? Private and in-house Public events.

A: Anything that we have been doing normally, like our Run Club, our Hop Yoga, our trivia nights, our You Drink We Donate nights, they are all still happening, but in different ways. Run Club has been all over social media, promoting socially distanced runs or common running routes, and engaging digitally in every way possible with our runners. Hop Yoga has taken on the mantle of our You Drink We Donate nights by doing a donation based live yoga on their Instagram (@noda_hop_yoga) every Sunday at 11am in honor of the charity that we had originally planned on doing our YDWD night with. Trivia is launching online soon as well, and we’ve even had some of our employees who were booked to play in the taproom play via Facebook live.

As far as outside events, private events, and bigger events we’ve had planned, we have had to cancel, move, or postpone events TBD. Multiple beer weeks have been postponed, throwing a lot of things into flux. This has been a really weird experience for all of us and we are trying to be as patient as possible in figuring out what next steps are.

Q: What’s your favorite brewer other than NoDa?

A: (Lindsay Sprick) I personally have a little love affair with Maine Brewing Company. Lunch is one of my favorite IPAs in general. I really like how simple and clean their labeling is, and their beer is always on point. I haven’t had a bad beer from them.

Q: Any chance of making a carrot beer?

A: There’s no reason we couldn’t! Theoretically, it is a tuber, has high sugar content, and would lend well to brewing. Perhaps in the Fall when people are eating more hearty food and craving squash? It could be interesting!

Q: What are the chances of a Double IPA?  Or a hazy and juicy?

A: Chances are pretty darn good! We actually had a Double Hazy IPA lined up as a NoDable release for late April that Chad, our head brewer and co-owner, was very excited about. I wouldn’t be too surprised if we make one soon, and again: tell us what you want! We love knowing what kind of styles you want to see next and this often helps us decide what to brew next. Until the next one, we do still have some Hop Cakes Double IPA remaining in our #NoDaBrewThru so drink that up before we make the next!

Q: When will the Roaring Riot Rye be back?

A: Roaring Riot Rye Pale Ale will return July 27th with football season (hopefully!). We make this beer from late July to February and then from March to early July we run Par 4 Session IPA. Par 4 is ready now, come and get some!

Q: What is the most under-appreciated commercial beer in your opinion?

A: (Lindsay Sprick) That’s an interesting one! I have to take a sip of beer to answer that. I think Miller High Life is the most under-appreciated domestic. I like it, haha!

Q: Has the pandemic affected the ability to get brewing ingredients?

A: Matt, our production manager, has had to bulk order some specialty ingredients to ensure that we’d have them in case of a hiccup in the supply chain. Todd Ford, co-owner of NoDa Brewing, chimed in to explain that our water, grain, utilities, and hops have not had any supply issues. The only thing we are concerned about is the production, current supply, and incoming supply of CO2. Ethanol production has decreased and much of the CO2 the CO2 industry procures is coming from that production after it has been refined and filtered. Our vendor has told us that the CO2 we are using is not affected by that decreased production, as our vendor’s CO2 does not come from that ethanol production, so we have some comfort there for now. Last, but certainly not least, can and crowler availability has always been tight, but now that everyone has to package to get their beers out, it has made supply even that much tighter.

Q: What are your plans in Aug. for the RNC? How do you predict volume?

A: (Lindsay Sprick) I don’t know if we are really going to be able to predict the volume until we know more of what our daily lives will look like then. If we are back in full swing, I would say we’ll still see reduced volumes compared to other large-scale events or conferences of the past. If we are not, we can definitely expect reduced volumes. This isn’t just because of actual physical bodies drinking, but also places to drink at. Will we still have the same amount of restaurants around for people to drink in? Will they be able to drink in them? I read recently that Mayor Vi Lyles is thinking of taking some of the city’s hospitality revenue and pumping it into local restaurants instead of into the stadium for the new MLS team. It’s going to be interesting seeing what happens next in Charlotte.

Q: Anyone else been experimenting with new recipes utilizing beer as an ingredient?

A: We had a few folks chime in in the chat after this, including one NoDa fan who smokes his meats with beer! Beer makes an excellent cooking ingredient. It’s great for baking, in marinades, in smoking, braising, and more. We will be launching a new series of cooking videos to show you all how to use our beer in baking and cooking very soon!

Q: What are chances of different food trucks per day?

A: We had been expanding our food truck options RIGHT before this started, bringing in additional options other than the Tin Kitchen on Wednesdays, and we are hearing your feedback in wanting choices! Right now we are currently not keeping a food truck on site to ensure we do not have anything outside of our personal control right now, but when we reopen we’ll see what’s next!

Q: Do you have any other new white ales coming up?

A: Our next White Ale, or in our case, witbier, drops in May with NoDajito Witbier with Lime and Mint! Get ready!

Q: Can NoDa PLEASE open a taproom near Ballantyne?  There’s a great old Dean & Deluca space at Stonecrest!

A: Sounds great, and expensive! Maybe we can get Woody and Wilcox to come and visit us down there! Ballantyne is a great beer area! Who knows what the future will bring… maybe even a NoDa sand bar on the lake!

Q: How many sours do you make? What is coming up in the sour world?

A: We make a slew of different sour ales. Most are available at our OG location when taprooms are open, but right now every sour option we have is available for purchase in the Brew Thru, currently nine options! We are also working on some variations of Boba Brett with fruit coming soon! We’re thinking raspberry Boba Brett and we are open to other fruit suggestions!

We were so lucky to have fans in the group drinking not only our beers, but some that they made themselves! Thank you to all who participated, and we look forward to “seeing” you all again soon! Cheers!