Look inside: HopFly Brewing debuts in former Unknown space this weekend

Look inside: HopFly Brewing debuts in former Unknown space this weekend
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HopFly Brewing Co. will open its new production facility and taproom in South End on Friday, Feb. 25.

HopFly started off in what owner and founder Cameron Schulz describes as a “cozy little 750 square-foot space” in 2017. It eventually grew to about 8,000 square feet in their pilot brewhouse in Rocky Mount. Now, HopFly joins the ranks of the more than 30 craft breweries in Charlotte as it takes over the former Unknown Brewing spot on South Mint.

  • “Charlotte has the best beer scene in the state,” Schulz, a North Carolina native, tells Axios. “We want to compete and stand alongside the best.”

Why it matters: This isn’t just another brewery opening. It’s a small business success story that spans the state.

Context: HopFly got its start in the brewery incubator program at Rocky Mount Mills in eastern North Carolina.

  • The Rocky Mount Mills is the brainchild of Capitol Broadcasting Co., which is owned by the Goodmon family, which for generations has devoted its fortune to North Carolina’s future.
  • The Rocky Mount Mills project was an attempt to revitalize a struggling city by overhauling a 200-year-old mill. Axios’ Michael Graff toured the mill when it was under construction, and again a few weeks ago. He says it’s stunning and hums with young professionals. 

Between the lines: HopFly opened its taproom at the mill on, of all days, March 7, 2020. The world shut down the following week because of the pandemic. And still, it survived and thrived. And now it’s here.

The space: Unknown Brewing owner Brad Shell sold the brewery last summer, Axios’ Emma Way reported at the time. Since then, the 25,000 square-foot space has gone through extensive renovations.

  • “We ripped everything down to the studs and started from scratch,” Schulz tells Axios. 

If you knew the brewery when it was occupied by Unknown, you almost won’t recognize it. The main difference is there’s more open space and seating area in the taproom. 

  • Downstairs: The main room is a completely open space with tables and high tops, with the central feature being the bar on the back wall. “We increased square footage by almost two and a half times,” Schulz said. 
  • Upstairs: The space has a balcony with a view of Charlotte’s skyline and Bank of America stadium. Its indoor bar space offers the same 20 taps that the downstairs bar does.
  • The Biergarten: One of the major renovations was expanding and improving the outdoor patio space. It’ll have picnic tables, and it’ll look like a traditional German Biergarten.  The parking lot did downsize, but there are still 32 open parking lots.

The beers: Look no further than the name to find out what kind of beer you’ll get at HopFly. “Hops are our thing,” says Schulz. Their IPAs make up about 60% to 70% of production, their team also loves making lagers, but they serve a little bit of everything for everyone. 

  • HopFly is a “high release velocity brewery,” according to Schulz, meaning they release about three to four new beers a week.

For the non-beer drinkers: HopFly inherited Unknown’s distillery, so they’ll also craft high-end cocktails, which mirror the effort they put into their beers. That means no shots, or basic drinks.

  • “The same way you wouldn’t come here for a Bud Light, you wouldn’t come here for a vodka soda,” said Schulz.

Food: The brewery doesn’t have an in-house kitchen but it will have an in-house food truck— Katsu Kart.

  • They’re known for their traditional Japanese-style katsu sandwiches, and Schulz says they’ll be expanding the menu.
  • The food truck will be parked outside Thursday through Sunday.

Details: HopFly is located at 1327 South Mint St.

  • The brewery will be open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 4pm to 10pm, Fridays from 1pm through midnight, Saturdays from noon to midnight, and Sundays from noon until 7pm.

Take a look inside:

HopFly ground floor

HopFly seats between 250 to 300 people. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

HopFly upstairs

The bar upstairs will have the same 20 taps that the downstairs bar has. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

HopFly Biergarten

The German-style Biergarten will have picnic tables and hanging hops. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

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