Durham brewer opens up shop at Rocky Mount Mills


Bull Durham Beer Company head brewer Ben Hostetter pours a Bull Durham Light Ale from a fermentation vessel Thursday at the Rocky Mount Mills brewery incubator.


By Corey Davis

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The first craft brewery in a minor league baseball stadium saw a need to expand operations.

When beer production at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park at the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham couldn’t keep up with demand, Bull Durham Beer Co., which was established in 2015, decided to increase operations by going into the Rocky Mount Mills Brewery Incubator, where tenants are based in a refurbished 6,000-square-foot shipping warehouse on the nearly 200-year-old campus.

Sebastain Wolfrum, executive brewmaster at the Rocky Mount Mills and Bull Durham Beer Co., said the brewery produced 356 barrels of beer inside the Durham Bull Stadium last year but there was no room there to expand. The incubator offered a space for extra production to allow Bull Durham Co. to continue to sell beer in Durham but also make it available locally.

Bull Durham Beer Co. has had a presence at the Rocky Mount Mills by operating as a vendor at the Mills different major events throughout the year.

“At our production here in Rocky Mount, we’re really doing beer that will go out to bars and restaurants,” Wolfrum said. “In the spring, we plan to be on tap at the two restaurants here on the Mills campus. “We also have the canning line here in Rocky Mount that we will be using as well, which is a big part of us doing this. This year, we’re going to be going into places like Harris Teeter, Food Lion and really have a can package production here.”

In addition to its location at the Durham Bulls Stadium, the Bull Durham Beer Co. also has a taproom on Blackwell Street in Durham. Bull Durham Beer Co.’s success in the incubator could be the start of a trend for other similar craft breweries to follow.

“Most of the beer made here is going into distribution, so part of what we see the incubator working for other people is if they have a taproom somewhere or restaurant and they want an extra production place without having to set up a whole new facility, then they can come here and brew another 1,000 or 1,500 barrels potentially,” Wolfrum said. “They would then have access to the canning line that is another big draw and a second footprint like we have here in Rocky Mount.”

To help expand the footprint of the local craft brew scene, Wolfrum said, Bull Durham Beer Co. plans to have on tap in the near future at its taproom a rotation of Rocky Mount Mills craft brews from Koi Pond Brewing Co., Tarboro Brewing Co. West and Hopfly Brewing Co. available for their customers.

“We want to have these folks get some exposure and also make a connection,” Wolfrum said. “There is a half a million people a year going to the (Durham Bulls) games, and a lot of people come into the taproom because it’s nearby. There is a lot of movement, but it’s a little different here, so having these beers available here will help, especially for those that like to come visit breweries on the weekend. Once the word gets out, coming here to the Rocky Mount Mills is a great location being off (U.S.) 64 and (Interstate) 95. We want this to be a place where people will pull over, get some lunch, stay over and see what the Mills and the city is all about.”

Currently, rennovations on the 150-acre redeveloped Rocky Mount Mills are 40 percent complete, with offices and lofts still being built. The project will have 300,000 square feet of offices and another 49 loft aparatments renting from $950 to $2,200 a month. Wolfrum said the first round of apartments are scheduled to be completed this year.