You probably don't know it yet, but you may just have a new favorite beer joint. At least that's the hope of brewmaster Michael Morris and his partners at Raleigh's newly opened Crank Arm Brewing.
If you're thinking that name sounds familiar, you've probably seen it on, or ridden in, a Crank Arm Rickshaw downtown. Morris and co-founders Adam Eckhardt and Dylan Selinger used the money made from that pedal-powered transportation company, along with more than $40,000 from a Kickstarter campaign, to create the new craft brewery.
"We're all about bikes and beer here," Morris said.
That philosophy is obvious throughout the décor in ways both small and large. The brewery's logo is shaped like a bike's gear wheel and is visible on glasses, brewing tanks and T-shirts. Even the small circular trays tasting flights are served on are similarly shaped.
Dominating the concrete block space's largest wall is an interactive piece by artist Nate Sheaffer comprising bike frames, gears and other parts. Turn cranks and tiny bicycles travel across the piece. Behind the bar hangs a curtain of bike chains that shimmer in the light. Next to the entrance hangs a large map of the Greenway trails on stretched canvas. (Morris said fun details are still being added to it.) Communal tables line one wall and small circular ones dot the floor. A garage door of clear panels can be raised to open the space onto the patio and deck. The result is a laid-back industrial look.
But, you ask, how's the beer? Well, they may need to raise that garage door often, because as word spreads they will likely need to accommodate some crowds. Morris says he has been in the business for about 15 years. Based on Crank Arm's first batch of brews being offered, he apparently picked up a thing or two along the way.
When the doors opened July 29, Crank Arm had five selections on its menu, which continues the bike theme: White Wall Wit, the E.at S.leep B.ike, the Unicycle, the Rickshaw Rye IPA and the Holy Molé Porter. Each is available in a $3.50 and a $5.50 size or you can get a tasting flight for $8. A single-hopped brew, the Unicycle is interesting. The current version being served is clean, crisp and light. It is well suited for a hot day's refreshment. Morris said he intends to change the hop from batch to batch. By sticking to a single hop, he said he can focus on its flavor without the clutter of additional spices and such.
The Rickshaw Rye is an IPA done right. How right? Three people came up to me unsolicited in the course of an hour to extol its virtues. It is extremely well balanced. The trademark bitterness of an IPA darts around the edges of your tongue instead of overpowering your palate the way more crudely crafted IPAs often do.
Like any good parent, Morris won't admit it in front of the others, but he did confess after a bit of cajoling that his baby is the Holy Molé Porter. As the name implies, it is inspired by the luxurious flavor of molé sauce (a favorite of his wife). He said he has spent a long time trying to hit the right combination and is excited about the result. When you taste the smooth chocolate flavor that comes with the first sip, followed quickly by habanero heat in the back of your mouth, the odds are good that you will be excited, too.
You won't find typical bar food at Crank Arm. That's because you won't find any food at all. They do one thing—serve beer—and they do it well. If you happen to show up not just thirsty but hungry, they are perfectly amenable to patrons ordering delivery from other restaurants to eat while there.
Speaking of delivery, some people eagerly hoped that Crank Arm would deliver. Morris said there has been some confusion about the matter. They do intend to deliver kegs to local bars that will carry Crank Arm, he said, and they even have a specially designed rickshaw for that purpose. He said they did consider delivering growlers, but that is on hold until they can determine if it is permissible. (By the way, Crank Arm's growlers are nicely designed. As one person looking at it said, "This would be cool even if it didn't have any beer in it.")
Don't wait for Crank Arm to come to you, though. If you do, you'll miss out.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Beer shifts to top gear."