The former Eureka Manufacturing Company Cotton Mill is close to beginning its metamorphosis from a deteriorating former cotton mill to Lincoln County’s first microbrewery. Soon, the sweet smell of hops and fermenting grain will loft through downtown Lincolnton.
Co-founders John Brinsfield and Fritz Steckler anticipate that construction should begin on the building next month with an anticipated soft opening the middle to end of December with a grand opening in March around Saint Patrick’s Day. Once construction begins, the roof will be replaced, period-specific windows and doors installed as well as a new elevator. The original elevator tower will become a spiral staircase which will be an atmospheric focal point to the brewery.
“We’re not quite sure what we’re going to do yet but we’re going to do something aesthetically pleasing that represents our brand and our name,” Brinsfield said. “There’ll be a 6,000 square foot venue space on the second floor which will include a catering kitchen, a bridal changing or preparation room and the ability to have entertainment including a second bar. The building will have a period-specific look with modern touches. In other words, we’re not going to use candles, we’ll use real light.”
This is the vision that Brinsfield and Steckler had when they first saw the building and they’ve pretty much stayed true to their plans for the brewery. The name of the brewery will be BrickTree Brewing Co. When they first looked at the cotton mill, an Empress tree, which is an invasive species, had grown into a portion of the building and was breaking it apart.
“The tree literally had bricks embedded in the trunk and that’s where the logo came from,” Brinsfield said. “There was also a neatly stacked pile of bricks under it. It hit us after the fact that BrickTree was the way to go.”
The tree has since been taken down but the plan is to re-use pieces of it to make tap handles.
“The design of the building is done and we’re now in the process of designing our brewhouse and production area so it’ll all work as it should,” Brinsfield said. “We’re working with Deutsche Beverage Technology in Charlotte to design this space. We put our down payment on our equipment two or three weeks ago.”
When they visit the building as it stands now, both men say that it’s hard to believe that it’s actually going to be done but they can definitely visualize it being done.
“I think we’ll both feel better when we can start to see equipment on the property,” Brinsfield said. “That will let us know that it’s become a lot more real and things are moving forward at the pace we would expect.”
Since the microbrewery was approved, Brinsfield and Steckler have been perfecting their craft and attending festivals, such as the Lincolnton Beer, Wine and Brew Fest, to get feedback on their brews. The plan is still to have six core beers and Brinsfield and Steckler have been having friends and family taste tests to nail down other types of offerings.
“We felt the Lincolnton festival was extremely successful,” Brinsfield said. “We saw a lot of excitement and support from the community. We had a few of our beers available that would represent what we would have on tap at some point through the year. We got a lot of great feedback and it’s always the best when it’s not friends and family because they’re always biased.”
Attendance at these festivals has helped to raise the confidence of both brewmasters and made them feel better about the future of the microbrewery. They now feel more of a sense of pride than fear as well as a lot of excitement.
“From the feedback, it seems that we’re going to crush it,” Steckler said.
The founders chose Lincolnton because other areas, such as Charlotte, have become quite saturated with breweries.
“There’s a variety of places to go but it’s almost a little too much,” Brinsfield said. “Fritz and I wanted to bring our craft to a place that just felt right to us. There’s a lot of history behind the building and we want to bring it back to life and provide an experience to the area. We want to brew Lincolnton’s beer.”