The history of beer in Greensboro is being documented online thanks to a new project by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) University Libraries.
“Greensboro is our backyard, and our community,” said Richard Cox, who works on the project through the University Libraries. “We’re really looking at this as a local community project. It’s very much about locally-owned businesses, local history, and how all of that ties together and affects local culture.”
The project, called Well Crafted NC, was started in August 2017. It stemmed from an exhibit known as Hop Into History that the University Archives presented monthly at Gibb’s Hundred Brewing Co. Both Hop Into History and Well Crafted NC were created by Erin Lawrimore, a UNCG University Archivist, who asked David Gwynn and Cox to get involved with Well Crafted NC.
“We applied for and were fortunate enough to receive the University Libraries’ Innovation and Enrichment grant, which is funding this pilot phase of the project documenting the five downtown breweries,” said Cox. “We’re already investigating sustainability options to keep the project funded and growing into the future.”
Cox serves as the contact for the five breweries, setting up meetings and interviews. He has also built the project’s website and worked on its graphic design and social media, as well as helping planned events and marketing.
“I was pretty heavily involved in creating our historical timeline on the web site,” said Cox. “It’s an attempt at a concise history of North Carolina brewing, with a focus on Greensboro, from 1774 to the present. Piecing that together was a real engaging challenge.”
On top of a historical timeline that spans from the historic saloons of the 1890s and 1900s to the breweries of modern day downtown Greensboro, the project also includes oral histories, digitized materials, timelines and maps. Today’s craft breweries that are participating include Gibb’s Hundred Brewing Co., Natty Greene’s Brewing Co., Preyer Brewing Co., Little Brother Brewing and Joymongers Brewing Co.
“I really enjoy the oral history interviews and hearing the brewers and owners talk about their business and trade,” said Cox. “You start finding common threads among most interviewees. Their answers to question about what makes their industry unique are always good and usually involve how more than any other industry, competitors end up helping one another and cooperating…there’s a real sense of community that I find to be unique to craft breweries and different brewers seem to have different answers as to why.”
Although most of the project does lean on documentation, Cox says that, to him, some of the most interesting parts of the project are still largely undocumented.
“For example, we discovered what we believe to be Greensboro’s first bar that catered to LGBTQ+ clientele.” said Cox, referencing General Greene Grill from 1959. “But other than a single quote from a police officer that verified that, we don’t really have anything about the history of the business, or even a photo.”
Since the announcement of the project at the end of January, Well Crafted NC has been well received by both the University and the Greensboro community. The project has been supported by the NC Craft Brewers Guild, and the team behind it has already been invited to speak at four conferences and presentations between now and April.
“We’re capturing an important cultural moment as it happens in the Greensboro community. Some studies show that craft breweries are one of the first signs of neighborhood revitalization, and people look to their local brewery as a community gathering place,” said Cox. “I would wager that breweries are now playing a much larger role as a community hub than anyone, including the brewery owners, anticipated. They’ve become entwined in and in some ways integral to their communities.”
Well Crafted NC will be holding a launch event in collaboration with the NC Craft Brewers Guild on April 14, 2018 from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. The event will be at Little Brother Brewing, which is at 348 S Elm St, Greensboro. It is open to the public, free of charge and will highlight an exhibit of historical beer and brewing related items in Greensboro. Attendants will have a chance to speak with the project coordinators and to win prizes such as pint glasses while supplies last. Little Brother will also have a unique beer brewed for the event that will be available that day to help support the project.