Englishman Stuart Arnold lives 3,800 miles from where he grew up, and missed the ales of his homeland so intensely that he had to start his own brewery.
We sit down in cozy leather chairs with a flight of beers at Fortnight Brewing Company in Cary. I have many questions, starting with the pub's blonde ale, the closest the brewery has to yellow, fizzy, industrial beer. Although Arnold refrains from calling it a "gateway" beer, he does refer to it as "the beer to introduce people to craft." I confess that my gateway to craft came through imports like English bitters and ESB, precisely the beer Fortnight specializes in brewing.
Growing up in Maltby, South Yorkshire, England, Arnold watched his father make wine from blackberries he foraged. Like his dad, Arnold began making beer from kits, eventually becoming a home brewer.
He joined the Air Force hoping to travel the world. "I only traveled to Belgium and Germany. But I got to taste great beer"—such as Chimay, a beer made by Trappist monks. There are very few beers he hasn't tried. "OK, maybe there are some," he says, smiling. "But the list wouldn't be too long."
After the Air Force, Arnold landed an IT job. He spent a lot of time in the Southeast, so much of it in RTP that he figured, "I might as well just live here." Soon he realized the only things he missed from home were English-style beers. Fortnight was born.
Just under two years old, the brewery self-distributes its beers, and recently entered the Greensboro and Charlotte markets. Canned beer has been key to the brewery's success, more so than growlers. "I think it allows you to make a bigger splash in retail," he says. "Plus there are the portability/accessibility aspects to it"—people who want to take beer where places bottles can't go, such as beaches and pools.
Arnold's priority is serving cask-conditioned beer. Served unfiltered and unpasteurized from a cask engine, it is generally warmer and has little to none of the carbonation of kegged beer, which has been pasteurized and pressurized with carbon dioxide. With four cask engines at Fortnight, he believes they serve the largest range of cask ales in North Carolina.
He envisions Fortnight not just as a pub but a meeting place, like the pubs of his youth. That's why dart leagues, running clubs, trivia night and food trucks dot the brewery's events calendar: The English experience is about chatting with your mates over a couple of pints. It almost feels like home.
This article appeared in print with the headline "England, meet Cary"