Front Street Brewery: Where it all began

FSB by joseph Freeman.jpg

By Trevor Normile

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Craft brewing continues to grow in the Cape Fear region, and Front Street Brewery is the genesis of that growth.

Started in 1995, Front Street Brewery was the seventh in the state. It began as a brewpub and has soldiered on for 21 years, serving folks in its streetside restaurant and bar. In 2005, it came to its current owner, Tom Harris.

Outside, patrons talk, eat and imbibe the custom beers from the bar, which holds 10 different brews on average. A full whiskey bar with more than 300 bottles offers the biggest selection, according to Front Street Brewery, in the entire state.

The historic brewery building was constructed in 1865 and has served many uses: haberdasheries, general stores, clothing retailers. It was a carpet store, a place to buy fine suits, pianos, radios, at different times. It's more than just a bar today; Front Street Brewery is a full restaurant that welcomes familiesl

"I think craft beer in Wilmington means a lot," said Ellie Craig of Front Street Brewery, who also serves on the board of directors for the Cape Fear Craft Beer Alliance. "They say the average American lives less than 10 miles away from a brewery. What it means economically, to us it's [important]."

Front Street Brewery led the charge for more than just industry. Breweries that have moved into Wilmington have also helped bolster tourism and participated in philanthropic work.

Of course, there's also the beer.

Front Street Brewerys menus are available online, and include treats like raspberry wheat, scottish ale, kolsch and their popular Port City IPA. Seasonal specials, including wine and bourbon barrel-aged beers, are available.

The brewery at 9 N. Front Street has become one of downtown WIlmington's iconic landmarks, an O.G. being joined by other energetic efforts as the industry grows.

"Not only do we have a lot of beer [in Wilmington], which is exciting, but we have a lot of good beer," Craig said.