Best in Show
Trophy Brewing Co. Opens “Big Trophy” Brewery and Taproom on Southern Edge of Downtown Raleigh
By Karlie Justus Marlowe, Photography by Davies Photography
Nanobrewery no more: With the opening of Trophy Brewing Co.’s new production space and taproom on Maywood Avenue, the downtown Raleigh favorite now has its equivalent of the Stanley Cup.
Trophy Maywood – or “Big Trophy,” as it’s affectionately now known – opened at the close of 2015 in an 11,000-square-foot space near the State Farmers Market, on the heels of the resounding success of its original Morgan Street outpost. While the first location’s coziness lent a friendly Cheers-style buzz to its bar and pizzeria, co-owners David Meeker, Chris Powers and Woody Lockwood and head brewer Les Stewart quickly found themselves outgrowing the small space.
“Most breweries run out of space quickly, and our goal was not to run out of space again,” said Powers, standing in the shadows of six tall silver cylinders known as fermenters and dubbed with nicknames like C-3PO and R2D2. “At Little Trophy that happened in about a year, but here we have enough room so we’ll be able to expand a lot.”
That expansion includes sales and distribution, which will place fan-favorite beers like Trophy Wife, Double Death Spiral and Milky Way on tap at Triangle bars and restaurants. As of January, more than 20 Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill locations including buku, Bida Manda, Busy Bee, State of Beer, Stanbury and Centro host Trophy beer on draft.
“One thing that, for lack of a better word, frustrated us about the production out of Little Trophy was our inability to send beer out to our friends and other restaurants,” said Stewart, who plans to experiment with lagers and other long-fermentation activity in the new space. “Or for that matter, even keep all six taps flowing with Trophy beer at Little Trophy. What we have here is the capacity to increase output immediately about six- or seven-fold.”
As for bottle distribution in grocery stores and beer shops?
Lockwood smiles and motions over his shoulder to a now-empty corner of the Big Trophy brewery. “Imagine the canning line right over there.”
The 9,000-square-feet of open brewing area is visible from the Raleigh Architecture Company-designed taproom, which pours 12 taps and holds about 100 people between its indoor and outdoor seating areas. For now, food trucks line up outside, but a restaurant and beer garden are in the works for 2017 in the building next door.
Location played a big part in bring Trophy to Maywood Avenue, which lies between main downtown artery South Saunders Street and the State Farmers Market.
“We looked all over in North Raleigh and downtown, and then we looked on this side of town, which has a lot of excitement and action,” said Powers, pointing across the street to where a new housing development with 60 lots is slated for construction in the coming months. “We decided this was a neighborhood we wanted to be in.”
The residential vibe will echo Little Trophy’s popularity with run clubs, cyclists and apartment and condo-dwelling neighbors, and even pull in travelers from the Capital Area Greenway Trail System.
“There’s actually going to be an outlet for the greenway right here,” notes Powers, “so people on their way to the Farmers Market can hop off and have a beer, or grab one on their way back.”
Morgan Street loyalists can rest easy knowing the original location will continue to be a source of inspiration, experimentation and yummy pizza.
“Right now, we’re sharing beer back and forth,”said Stewart, “which allows us to take advantage of the really creative stuff that’s going to continue to come out of Little Trophy. At the same time we can now keep our more-known brands like Trophy Wife and Milky Way nice and consistent here in the cradle of control.”
Powers echoes those plans, noting that customers at both places act as a focus group of sorts.
“Little Trophy is our little workshop, so we come up with an idea for a beer, brew it on a scale that’s manageable and then talk about how we can scale it up and actually use it here. Things we’ve played around with in the last few years that we’ve really enjoyed have made it to the full-time level for production at Big Trophy.”
Part of that experimentation includes cross-craft collaborations with Slingshot Coffee Company, Mackey’s Ferry Peanuts and North Carolina breweries Big Boss, Mother Earth and Unknown Brewing. In a crowded local beer space, Powers believes those connections are one of the important things that have helped propel Trophy into the bigger space it’s in today.
“We see them as collaborators more so than competition. Most people in craft beer are pretty open; they realize the better the beer coming out of North Carolina, the better it is for everybody. People come to our state and expect good beer, and we try to be a part of that scene.”