Hoots Roller Bar and Beer Company Could Be Best Thing in West End Since Sliced Bread

By Shane Martin
Winston-Salem’s downtown scene, though meager compared to larger cities, has transformed from a locale where people mostly come to work, to a food, beverage, retail and cultural destination in the Triad --- and it is still growing. The definition of downtown is no longer limited to 4th Street and Trade Street; the surrounding neighborhoods have new businesses emerging, giving life to previously undeveloped portions of the city.  In the West End, Hoots Roller Bar and Beer Company opened last October and has already become a hot spot for the bearded contingent and craft brew fanatics of the Camel City.
 “What is a roller bar and why is it such a hoot,” quipped one half-joking customer as he flattens a crumpled 10-dollar bill on the counter. 
“Ask him” said the dismissive bar attendant pointing to a man wearing a beanie at the end of the bar.  He introduces himself as Eric Swaim, part owner of Hoots; he explains there was a roller mill with big stone rollers that ground flour in the warehouse next to the bars location.  The Hoots family was one of the biggest suppliers of flour in the area from the early-20s to the mid-50s when sliced bread put them out of business.  Taking the namesake ‘Hoots,’ was homage to the family that ran the mill and was a connection to Winston-Salem’s history.
“They were a family with a few friends that started a company and produced something and did something with it.  Which is a lot like how we’d like to feel is what we’re doing,” said Swaim.  “Attaching ourselves to that name, to us was a really honorable thing to do and appropriate from a marketing standpoint --- it made sense.  They hand-built this warehouse and the mill; we hand-built our bar.”
Do It Yourself --- that seems to be the motto of the overall development West End Mill Works project.  Swaim and the other co-owners: Eric Weyer and Ralph Pritts, settled in the West End because downtown is becoming oversaturated and the outpost neighborhood offers more room to grow.  Other DIY businesses in the development include a Muay Thai studio, a yoga and massage studio, a fusion restaurant and the first distillery in Winston-Salem since Prohibition.   
Hoots plan to become a functioning micro-brewery within the year.  Their focus will be on pub and blue collar-leaning beers.  They will serve their brews in-house initially, but their 10-barrel system and 20-barrel ferment is for production.  Eventually, craft beer consumers will be able to go to a store in the Triad and pick up a six-pack of Hoots beer.    
It is immediately apparent that these righteous dudes --- Swaim, Weyer and Pritts --- do not intend for another run-of-the-mill brewery after reading their surrealistic mission statement on Hoots’ homepage:    
“Let it be known that the HOOTS BEER CO. is a mysterious brotherhood which concocts blue collar brews of unmatched character. Combining beer’s old world elements with fair dosages of dark secrets, imagination, and old fashioned rock and roll, H.B.C. are boundless in ambition and highly attuned to Winston-Salem’s industrious spirit and local community. The faceless and nameless conjurers of HOOTS are hellbent on fulfilling one age-old prophecy: You will enjoy the beer you were born to imbibe. --- The night is clear. Deep are the roots. The owl is near. The beer is Hoots,”
            The owners of Hoots are not cut-throat businessmen but rather describe themselves as “a bunch of dudes who used to play in bands.”  Their attitude and style is decidedly casual; Swaim is clean-shaven “because the old lady likes it that way,” Weyer is a soft-spoken, ginger-bearded man and Pritts, whose hair like Bob Dylan circa-1966 canopies over deeply-lined face.  They compare craft brewing to the independent music scene because of the sense of community. 
            “There’s a lot of comradery; everybody kind of helps each other out,” said Swaim.  “We spent a significant amount of time meeting with other breweries and gaining advice and counsel.”
With the help of other small brewers like Green Man Brewery and Wicked Weed Brewing of Asheville, and Foothills Brewery here in Winston-Salem, Hoots has been assembling their brewery instead of contracting out the labor because they want to familiarize themselves with the equipment.  This approach is more time consuming but they believe it is ultimately a more efficient approach for their brewery. 
In addition to building the bar and brewery themselves, the funding for Hoots has also been a homegrown endeavor.  The brewery was able to raise over $21,000 from local donors with the help of a kickstarter.com webpage created by Weyer. 
            “A lot of people who donated money live in the West End and live in Ardmore so we’re really stoked that Winston got behind us,” said Weyer.  “I think it was an awesome move, it made sense being like a neighborhood pub and just doing something new, developing this whole area because it’s been untouched for years.” 

1 comment:

debradile said...

Buy one forward, when you can.

You pay for a beer and the bar tender either picks someone totally random "who looks like they could use a free beer" or you surprise someone..., but the bar tender needs to keep the secret...just remember to leave a tip~