The long-awaited day came this spring when Oconee Brewing Co. opened its doors to more than 2,000 of its closest friends. After years of planning and intense renovation, the 100-year-old former textile warehouse turned bottling plant, located next to the old train depot in downtown Greensboro, came alive again.
Oconee Brewing Company’s new home was originally built in 1917 as part of the nearby Mary-Leila Cotton Mill. It was used at different times over the decades to store and process cotton for the mill. For a time in the 1930s, the Greensboro Electric Bottling Works bottled Chero-Cola there. Now, it is bottling something different. Here, we take a look inside the region’s newest craft beer destination.
The tasting room provides a comfortable space to sample OBC’s permanent lineup of an IPA, Kolsch, and Habanero Pale Ale, along with rotating seasonal brews. The reclaimed wood with metal fixtures and stools lining the concrete bar balance the industrial space, building on the character of the historic structure. The tasting room will be open from 4-8 p.m., Thursday and Friday, and from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday. The cost to take a tour, which includes a souvenir pint glass and 36 ounces of tastings, is $15.
Ah, the brew house; where the magic happens. Brewmaster Taylor Lamm will spend most of his time here, overseeing the process that involves four fermenter tanks (where the beer will spend the majority of its time), a carbonating tank, and boil kettle (used when adding hops). Kegging has already begun and OBC plans to put its cask industries canning line to use this summer for retail production with a distribution area including metro Atlanta. Plus, with the recent passage of state Senate Bill 85, breweries will now be able to sell directly to customers.
Separating the tasting room from the event space is an original metal fire door used to prevent a possible fire from spreading throughout the building when it was used to store and process cotton for the Mary-Leila Cotton Mill nearly 100 years ago. A weight hangs from a rope on the side of the door. In the event of a fire, the rope would burn through, releasing the weight and allowing the heavy metal door to slide down the slanted frame and quickly seal off the remainder of the building.
More than 2,000 people gathered on May 6 to celebrate Oconee Brewing Company’s grand opening event. The afternoon featured live music on the patio by Pullin’ Strings, food trucks set up in the parking lot with CK’s SmokeHouse and Copperwood Pizza, and, of course, refreshing brews by OBC.
In April, OBC held its official ribbon cutting ceremony. With scissors in hand, Taylor Lamm, co-owner and brewmaster, was joined by father-and-son developer team, John and Nathan McGarity, Greensboro Mayor Glenn Wright, and other city and county officials alongside members of the Piedmont Construction team out of Macon.
The 5,000-square-foot event space is anchored by a massive glass curtain wall and framed by warm lighting cascading from the 15-foot circular chandelier in the center of the vaulted roof. Before construction began, the original roof collapsed, rotted by decades of neglect. The new roof and wall of glass, in essence, maintains the openness created by the collapse. The exposed brick walls have stood firm over the years and have added rustic appeal to the reclaimed room, alongside the wooden beams and industrial fixtures. The space will play host to special events, live concerts, and will be available to rent for special occasions.
The latest addition to the open-air patio are two large boiler doors recovered from the adjacent Mary-Leila Cotton Mill that are estimated to be around 120 years old. When John and Nathan McGarity first bought the property containing the mill, train depot, and warehouse that is now the brewery, the buildings were filled with discarded machinery, tools, and materials – including the large weaving machine currently awaiting its purpose, stored behind the patio. They’ve incorporated as much of these materials as possible into the restored spaces of the brewery in an attempt to capture and preserve the important history of the area.