Brew Nerds brings coffee geek chic to Winston-Salem | Escapist Eats | Indy Week

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Brew Nerds brings coffee geek chic to Winston-Salem

Hey, genius, it's hot!


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Brain food: sugar and caffeine, or C12H22O11 and C8H10N4O2 - PHOTO BY VICTORIA BOULOUBASIS

Brew Nerds
1620 Fox Trot Court
(off Hanes Mall Boulevard)

It's the revenge of the nerds, Version 2.0. Armed with potent espresso concoctions and Swirlys and Wedgies, the Brew Nerds of Winston-Salem are after one thing—the omnipresent evil mermaid that has led coffee lovers astray.

Ask Brew Nerds Director of Operations BJ Frentzel who that mermaid is, and, peering innocently through his glasses, he'll tell you he's not quite sure what you're talking about. But according to a legend scribbled onto a Brew Nerds paper cup, "The ancients spoke of a day when a fellowship of highly intelligent strangers would journey to Earth to discover the magical coffee fields of middle Earth. Together they would harvest this crop and forever break the decades-old curse of the evil mermaid ... that magical coffee is in this cup."

We have now left the dark side, Luke.

A new addition to Winston-Salem's growing urban sprawl, Brew Nerds, off of Hanes Mall Boulevard, is "coffee for smart people," bringing new meaning to geek chic. The place looks almost futuristic, with wall-to-wall glass windows on each side and hip design elements combined with accents that only nerds could openly embrace:Spiderman comic books stacked next to oversized armchairs, a Ms. Pac-Man table and Frogger high scores scrawled each week onto milky-white glass dividing the patrons from the brew masters. Frentzel said the idea was to create a place that incorporated the style of Urban Outfitters, the Apple store and a high school lunchroom.

"Everyone has a little bit of nerd inside of them," he said. "This is a place where it's more celebrated."

Brew Nerds is the brainchild of DJ and Jennifer McKie from Chicago. They moved to Winston-Salem after DJ took a position at Krispy Kreme headquarters, selling his coffee roasting method to the doughnut conglomerate before deciding to escape the corporate world for a place more suitable for his coffee addiction. The first Brew Nerds location is off Interstate 40 at Exit 190—a short jaunt on a trip to the mountains or other points west of the Triangle. A second location also just opened on Fourth Street downtown.

The McKies, described by Frentzel as "creative gurus," owned a coffee company in Chicago, and since their move have created Focus Tank, a concept group with Brew Nerds and the adjacent Kernel Kustard as their first projects. Brew Nerds coffee is roasted on premises, and usually, customers can watch between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sundays and Wednesdays.

"DJ is a roast master. You can't get a cup of coffee that's fresher," said Frentzel. "[The coffee roasting] is a really cool visceral experience. We're hoping to expand it to let the show go on throughout the day."

"And our espresso is just beautiful."

Aside from traditional espresso and coffee drinks, measured in milliliters rather than ounces (reminiscent of high school chemistry labs), Brew Nerds also offers "ice-blended emulsions" called Swirlys and changes up the specials according to customer demand. One of this summer's most popular drinks has been the New York Times, a raspberry, chocolate and white mocha.

"You know," said Frentzel. "It's black and white and 'read' all over."

Satisfy a sweet tooth with a fresh-baked cookie or other "bits and bytes," like a Wedgie (aka "thermally enhanced yeast raised flour substance"), which is a large wedge of fresh Italian bread toasted and spread with your choice of toppings, including the ever popular Nutella.

At Brew Nerds, patrons can also participate in Wii tennis tournaments outside and swap comic books. And if the daily cup of java isn't enough to keep the nerds stimulated, they can check out master nerd Leonard's blog at, where they can learn valuable lessons:

"Another name for coffee is trimethylxanthine. If you don't believe us, go look it up in your dictionary, idiot."

For idiots and geniuses alike, Brew Nerds is open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.


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