location of Trophy Brewing Company
, Chris Powers and his business partners David Meeker and Woody Lockwood are already feeling restless.
Over the weekend, they announced that The Hive, upstairs from the group's Busy Bee Café in downtown Raleigh, would close
. (Contrary to a Triangle Business Journal flub,
Busy Bee itself isn't closing.) In its place will be Mash & Lauter, a beer-focused restaurant with a menu built around Belgian brews. Mash & Lauter diverges from Trophy and the crew's other beer business, State of Beer
, with this regional specialty. Powers estimates Mash & Lauter should open within the next 10 days or so, following some minor renovations and new furniture installations.
Taking a break from staff training for Mash & Lauter, he caught up with the INDY
to discuss the new niche arrival.
INDY: When did you make the decision to close The Hive?
We made the decision to transition to Mash & Lauter in late November. The more time you spend up there, you could see that The Hive was something we wanted to evolve from. Being up there on evenings and weekends are great. It’s fun, there’s DJs and dancing and stuff, but people thought of The Hive as just that. What we’re passionate about is craft beer. That’s the basis of all of our business, craft beer. We really wanted to hone in on the thing that makes us excited about what we’re doing, and that was Belgian beer.
What made you want to open up an establishment that would have a comparatively narrow focus?
There’s something different about beer culture in Belgium than there is in the United States. We’re going to treat beer with the respect that it deserves. We’re going to treat it like some of the experiences that you would get at a wine bar or a restaurant that focuses on wine. It’s a curated list of bottles that we have. We’ve worked with distributors to make sure they are available to us in the U.S. We’ve collected things over the years, vintage stuff that we can present, and we’re doing quite a bit of training with the staff so that they understand what makes these beers special, why they’re so great, what we have in here that could make somebody excited about beer.
What’s the menu going to look like?
The menu is a focus on local products that we can use to pair with these international beers. We’re working with Boulted bread
. We’re working with Yellow Dog
. We’re going to be getting a lot of stuff from Raleigh City Farm
. These dishes are going to be things that you can pair with the beer—local charcuterie, local cheeses, mussels. We’re going to evolve the burger that we serve downstairs, which is all North Carolina beef, to have a European flavor with farmer cheese, cornichons and a house-made beer mustard. We even offer a Belgian waffle for dessert.
What, for you, is so special about Belgian beers?
The history is really, really interesting and really, really important. There’s a big difference in the way that beers are brewed in Belgium and how they are in the United States. Belgian beers typically focus on the brewing process. In America, a lot of the focus of beer is extreme flavors—who can make the hoppiest beers, who can make the craziest flavored beer. In Belgium, people focus on tradition, consistency and integrating these house flavors, which really make these beers special. You can taste what the beer is, but also, where it was brewed.
Are you going to be brewing any of your own Belgian-style beers?
Yes, we are. Trophy is going to be producing a house beer for Mash & Lauter. We went to a bar in Belgium called De Garre, in Bruges
. You order this beer, and it’s, like, the only beer that they serve there, but it’s the beer that everybody goes for. That was our inspiration. We’re going to challenge the brewers over at little Trophy on Morgan to come up with a beer that we could serve all the time that goes well with food and is approachable to the middle clientele—the people who are into craft beer and have been into craft beer for a long time, and also people that are just getting into it.
You’ve got this spot to work on and the new Trophy, plus your other ventures. Why do you like to stay so busy?
We’re gluttons for punishment. Having multiple things happening at the same time keeps it interesting for us and also for our guests. We have a huge team of folks that make the execution of these things possible. We have a management team that helps execute the vision and the plans for these things. But continuing to do more and evolve and change is important. You can’t just open a place and expect it to live like that forever. You have to grow and change. Beer tastes in North Carolina have changed, and we’re trying to adapt to that.
Only a few weeks after opening the second, expanded