Photo by Jeremy M. Lange
Clouds Brewing—soon pouring beer of its own
Clouds are growing on the Triangle horizon, but expect downpours of new beer, not rain and snow. That's because I'm talking about Clouds Brewing, the Raleigh restaurant
on the corner of Jones and West. Clouds is awaiting a few signatures on permits so that it can finally begin brewing its own beer, which you can at last expect on St. Patrick's Day.
When Clouds first opened a little more than a year ago, the plan was for the brewing component of the restaurant to catch up shortly thereafter. Navigating the maze of government paperwork proved more time-consuming than expected.
“There are so many brewers in the area, and we talked to tons of them. We thought we knew what we were getting into, but there are just so many loopholes. And everything is hinged on something else, and it felt like we ran into a roadblock on each one,” says Adam Hoffman, the general manager for the restaurant side of Clouds. “But it's done, and we can't wait.”
When Clouds first opened, probably 80 percent of customers would ask if Clouds had its own beer available, estimates Ryan Madey, an assistant manager. Now it's down to maybe a half dozen people a day.
Having survived the regulatory rigmarole, Clouds is now readying the equipment—from Charlotte-based Deutsche, provider for many local brewers—at its brewing location on Front Street in North Raleigh. Chief Beer Officer John Oldendorf is busily prepping three batches and three fermenters, readying for the official go-ahead. Hoffman says they expect to debut with a lager that blends German and American styles, a dry Irish stout that's sort of a Guiness-style beer (in honor of St. Patrick's) and either a pale ale or an IPA. The IPA may win because, according to Hoffman, one of the most frequent questions they get is, “What are you going to have that's hoppy?”
Hoffman says they would love for the lager to become one of their year-round signature beers. It's designed to be “easy drinking, sessionable, in the 4.5–4.8 percent ABV range, something you can have a few of while watching the game with your buddies,” Hoffman says.
The goal is to offer Clouds beer on four or so of the restaurant's 30 taps. There are an additional 10 taps on Clouds' popular serve-yourself beer wall
. You won't likely find one of Clouds' main beers on it, but you can expect one of the wall taps to be devoted to one-offs and experimental batches made on a smaller one-barrel “pilot system.” Early plans for the smaller system include trying a Hefeweizen and probably a saison. Additionally, the pilot system may be used to let Clouds staff, with guidance from Oldendorf, create their own brews.
Hoffman says they plan to start off doing 15-barrel batches, but they have the capacity to double that quickly as demand takes off. Under the starting configuration, Clouds could produce 1,000 barrels a year, but the space could be reconfigured to allow for production of 10,000 barrels, he says.
While the initial focus is on getting Clouds beer into the restaurant, Hoffman says they will also gradually expand into having Clouds available on draft at other locations. Look for it to pop up at various places starting sometime in April.
One location that will be a sure bet for finding Clouds' brews is the new Durham spot scheduled to open in June in Brightleaf Square
. This second Clouds will be larger than the one in Raleigh, with a bigger kitchen space and a roomier private dining area. The increased kitchen size means Clouds can venture into catering and also have a more robust take-out business.
Just as the Raleigh site maintains exposed concrete walls and many other original parts of the building, the goal for the Durham room is to maintain native design elements.
"The entirety of our space is lined in 18-inch thick brick walls, because they didn't have sprinkler systems back then,” Hoffman says. “We'll keep those as exposed as possible, like we did the concrete here. And there are just massive wooden pillars that we don't want to mess with either. We've yet to figure out all the things we're going to do in Durham, but we're looking at ideas to make the interior look like it belongs there. We're excited."
That excitement is obvious as Hoffman and Madey discuss the future—Clouds' own beer, a new location, catering.
“We want to be around as long as possible,” Hoffman says.