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Erik Lars Myers on the business of beer

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Many homebrewers think it's a good idea to open a brewery. But only a few of them are right.

Erik Lars Myers is one of them. The 38-year-old founder and CEO behind Mystery Brewing Company in Hillsborough initially wanted to be a beer writer. His homebrewing experiences led to his beer blog Top Fermented, which led to a book deal; North Carolina Craft Beer & Breweries was published in April 2012, just two months after he opened Mystery Brewing.

"I felt I had the ability to make a run at it," he said of the business.

He chose Hillsborough for its geography—including the town's proximity to two interstates, which is good for distribution—and culture. "I think it is a place that is seeing a lot of growth," Myers said "And I think it is a good place for the beer industry."

It's such a good place that Myers is expanding the brewery, and on the day we toured the brewery, an electrical crew was working. Around the corner, The Public House, which Myers opened a year ago, offers an array of draft-only beers such as Antonia's ESB, Mark Twang (a barrel-aged sour rye wit) and Wisping Rune (a Berliner Weisse with raspberries). After the expansion, Myers hopes to put more energy into the barrel-aged program. Mystery Brewing's bottled beer is available statewide through Mutual Distributing Company.

"The state of craft beer is great and growing and fantastic," said Myers, who is also president of the N.C. Brewers Guild. "The North Carolina scene went from pre-Pop the Cap, and being below average, to a very strong place for beer. There's lots of camaraderie. North Carolina is the strongest place to be right now in craft,"

The premise behind Mars' business model is that he has no flagship beer to carry the brewery throughout the year. What this means to the layperson is that all of Mystery Brewing's beers are seasonal.

"Our chocolate breakfast stout, Six Impossible Things, is our best-seller but we always have one that performs well in season," explained Myers as he poured a pint of Queen Anne's Revenge, a beer he classified as a Carolinian Dark Ale (akin to an English Black IPA).

When it comes to his palate, Myers likes beers that challenge him. "I like to drink things I know I am going to hate and then figure out why I don't like it," he said.

As the head of the state's brewers guild, Myers travels quite a bit.

"Have you ever taken a beer vacation?" I asked.

"Not on purpose," he replied. "But my vacations always turn into them."

This article appeared in print with the headline "Honing his craft"

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