By Jesse Wood
Dec. 22, 2014. After receiving a conditional use permit for a brewery in Banner Elk last week, Fatty Maddy Beer Company is ready to move its brewery operation next to NAPA Auto Parts at 2075 Tynecastle Highway and set up a tap room.
The day that Fatty Maddy Beer Company will open its doors in the coming weeks in Banner Elk is well anticipated by owners Justin Curtis and Drew Wallace, both alumni of Lees-McRae College. Curtis’ roots are based in homebrewing, while Wallace is a welder and fabricates the brewing equipment.
While Fatty Maddy was incorporated in 2011, the company didn’t jump out of the starting gate for a number of reasons. Curtis and Drew have essentially been working on a “shoe-string” budget, avoiding loans and taking to Kickstarter to help finance the operation. Eighty-two backers financed $10,041 in May 2013 in a successful crowd-sourcing campaign.
This summer, Curtis and Wallace were ready to open its “small-production, boutique brewery” in the Matney area. They had a place leased, equipment installed, federal permit from the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and everything ready to go – until the local fire inspector informed them that building’s previous use, which would have been in line with Curtis and Drew’s operation from a code standpoint, wasn’t allowed. Long story short, they abandoned the Matney building and found a place in Banner Elk.
Since the beginning, though, Curtis has been brewing some great beer in his basement, beer that has been showcased at High Country Beer Festival in Boone and Beech Mountain Resort’s Brews and Views Festival in previous years. Curtis said that participating in the festivals has been great for exposure and that a number of establishments are eager to serve up some Fatty Maddy.
“I am very excited about opening up soon. It’s been a long road and we are ready to get out of the beginning stages and move onto bigger and better things in the future,” Curtis said.
He estimated that the lease should be signed this week. To install and calibrate the equipment should take about three to four weeks. Throw in three to six weeks to brew and Fatty Maddy Beer Company should have beer from its new facility ready to serve on draft and distribute in keg form in two to three months.
Curtis said that his beers are “artisanal,” to use a buzzword that’s been floating around the craft-beer industry.
“Which means, really handcrafted, each batch [features] all the best ingredients,” Curtis said. “Smaller batches really allow us to make a better-quality product. A lot of brewers start out making a high-quality product, but once they start making 40 to 50 barrel batches, they save thousands of dollars taking the barley down a notch or the hops quality. We aren’t in that situation to make those decisions.”
Curtis said this approach and freshness are very noticeable when you taste the beer. Where possible, ingredients will be sourced as close to home. Some hops, he said, can be sourced in North Carolina. While noting that barley will still have to be sourced from the Midwest, Curtis said all of the products will be American grown.
Fatty Maddy, which is named after Curtis’ beloved cat that passed away about the same time that he received the federal permit from the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, has three flagship beers that will begin brewing immediately: Sacred Flame Ale, described a very hoppy pale ale; an Amber Ale; and a Chocolate Stout. The focus, Curtis said, hones in on all-American ales.
“We feel like the last 50 years, America has made a name for itself across the globe for American style beers, which started with Sierra Nevada … and now you can find them on tap all over the world. It’s kind of the style we are known for,” Curtis said.
Since Curtis and Wallace are alumni of Lees McRae, about 15 years removed from school, Curtis said that it intends to name a beer that ties into the college. Curtis said that both met their wives in the High Country. Both couples moved away, but eventually decided to move back to the area.
Fatty Maddy Beer Company also creates dog treats, which have been a hit in Banner Elk. This creation came about once Curtis realized that he could recycle, so to speak, used grain. The treats don’t contain any alcohol because they pull out the grain before fermentation begins. The grain is also pulled out before adding the hops.