Minding Your Business
House of Hops
By Tom Lawrence
Photography by Joe Reale
Forefather Ben Franklin knew well the qualities of beer. “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” he once said.
In addition to traditional bars and craft beer and bottle shops on most every corner in town, an intriguing bottle shop in a busy north Glenwood neighborhood seems to epitomize the term “public house”. Located in a rather nondescript building with confusing access to the parking lot, The House of Hops at 6909 Glenwood Avenue does have good signage. Once you find it and get inside, one feels right at home and the co-owner, a friendly guy who introduces himself as Keith Bowler, happily serves up your choice of bottled beer or any selection of 24 draft beers on rotating taps.
On New Year’s Day there were about twenty people at various tables, bar stools and couches enjoying the scene and watching football on the large flat panel television. Explaining the story of House of Hops, Bowler, a native of Rochester, New York, and his business partner, Raleigh native Gary Holt, had been looking for a place to open a growler shop. When they came across this space, which had been recently vacated by a small church congregation, they realized the space was enticing – too large for a growler shop but perfect for something more audacious – so they decided on a bottle shop and draft establishment.
Perhaps inspired by its former tenants, the partners decided on the name House of Hops when they opened two and a half years ago, offering a huge selection of bottled craft beers, growlers and constantly changing drafts. Bowler explains, “We thought people would just buy beer and leave, but they started hanging out.” Seating also had to increase as the business grew, Holt says. They started with just a table and a couch, and have added more seating from there.
Dogs are welcome
Much of their customer base lives in nearby townhomes and apartments, such as customer Eric Himel, who chimes in, “For people who work at home, it’s a great place to get away.”
Customer Liz Linak says the more than four hundred craft beers available is a plus for her.
“We come here for the selection of beers. We feel like we can get something different every time we come in, which is our favorite thing; an easy, close by place with a great atmosphere, to come and hang out and bring my dog, which is the best part – and he loves it here!” Leashed, friendly dogs are welcome inside the business and on the patio.
Other details set this business apart, including the small and friendly staff of eight which includes three Bowler family members. For customer Lesley Smith, the atmosphere and staff are the appeal. “Everyone talks to everyone else. It’s got a neighborhood vibe. People who live nearby come in and chat with each other.” Children are welcome, too. There are board games, ping-pong and corn hole available. Although food is not served, food trucks visit on a rotating basis most weekdays, and you can bring your own or order from nearby delivery services.
A House of Hops, Hope and a Prayer
Community members use House of Hops as a hub in a variety of ways. A group of runners gather here before heading off to the greenway, and until a few weeks ago, a Bible study group met there on Monday nights. Bowler, himself an ordained minister, is considering beginning a new study group. “My faith is really strong, my wife’s faith is really strong and we really looked at this as an opportunity to minister to other people. We get opportunities every day to talk to people about what’s going on in their lives and how we might be able to help them and things like that.”
Bowler continues with the theme, “We’ve had so many miraculous stories come through this place in the last couple of years. It’s been amazing.” Carrying his unorthodox lay ministry a bit further, Bowler says he’s married four couples that have visited the House of Hops and a prayer request box is mounted on the back wall.
The Future for House of Hops
Even with competition everywhere, Bowler and Holt say they are in negotiations for a second location in Raleigh. “It’s all about the customer,” Bowler explains. “We love that new people are coming in – it’s amazing how many new faces we see every single day. It’s a good testimony for our customers. We try to treat them well, making sure they get good beer, keeping them engaged and that’s how we’ve grown.”