Selling beer must run in Michael Brawley’s genes.
His father opened Mike’s Discount Beverage in 1974, in the same building off Park Road where Brawley’s Beverage has called home since 2003.
When a measure known as Pop The Cap increased North Carolina’s beer alcohol limit in 2005, Brawley’s began shifting their focus toward craft beer and they haven’t looked back. A smaller, carefully curated wine section does still thrive.
A facelift project completed in 2014 helped the building echo its 1948 roots as a Crown service station, and brought with it a 20-line tap system.
Rows of bottles gave way to a relaxed taproom-esque vibe.
I caught up with Brawley to talk shop; he’s in the middle of a project that will expand draft selections from 20 to 24.
So what do you try to keep on shelves here?
We used to try to stock everything, but that’s no longer possible in a building of reasonable size. Now we just stock what’s current, what moves, and what’s really easy to keep really fresh.
We’re a little bit of an IPA-heavy store, but we’ve definitely also gained quite a bit of a sour focus in the past few years as the customer demands have changed.
You’ve been in business since 2003–how do you see your brand?
If there’s one constant here, it’s that we’ve just always slowly evolved. We started out fifty-fifty between wine and beer, if not slightly heavier on wine. The only time we’ve had a radical departure was when we put in the taproom in 2014.
What advice do you have for first-time visitors?
Just come in. You’ll know in the first five minutes if this is your kind of place. But do not hesitate to ask questions. Walk right up to the person behind the bar and say, how does this work, or what would you recommend?
There are no dumb questions. People come in and say, “I don’t know anything about beer,” and I say, “I don’t know anything about bread, but I eat it every day.” Don’t be shy.
How would you describe your clientele? Who comes to Brawley’s?
Most of our customers now are not hard-core beer geeks. We still have a lot of them, but the vast majority of people here are people that just want a really good beer selection and a good place to hang out.
We definitely pull a little different crowd with the fact that we almost never have a TV on. The music is curated by whoever’s bartending, so that can affect the music selection.
What won’t you find here?
We sell beers made by people in breweries, not by multinational corporations in factories.
If you see it advertised on TV, we’re not going to have it.
We won’t sell anything by (macrobrewers) AB InBev or MillerCoors. We sell actual-craft, not faux-craft.
So, what do craft beer industry folks say about Brawley’s?
Common sentiments include Brawley’s approachability, consistently good taste, and status as the “original bottle shop.”
As one put it, “I love Brawley’s because he was ahead of the game in the craft scene in Charlotte. He is a passionate sincere guy who just loves beer. Has a great shop that makes you feel at home. You can tell within 5 seconds if someone is true beer person or is in the game because they think they can get rich or it makes them feel important, I never get that feeling from Mike he is just a good dude.”