Eric Reece. along with Aubrey Davis and Tina Mackinzie, opened Outer Banks Brewing Station in 2001 with a goal to provide quality beer and food in a comfortable, community-driven setting. Their shared goal to give back to the environment in the process resulted in the installation of a wind turbine that powers the brewpub and earned them the title of first wind powered brewery in the United States.
Co-owner Reece brought his experience brewing commercially to the operation. We wanted to learn a little more about him and he obliged.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m kind of the head janitor and responsible for the whole building. I brew together with brewmaster, David Virgil, so I’m technically a quasi-brewer. I brewed with our first brewmaster, Scott Meyer, back in California in the mid-1990s at Bison Brewing Company. I was his assistant brewer. When we came out here, the idea was that I was going to brew with him for a few years and then take over, but I got caught up in the front as the place became bigger and spread into music. It took me years to get back. I’ve always been working with the guys in some way or capacity, but the past five years I moved back into it. It’s a collaborative effort.
Scott Meyer brewed with us here for our first 12 or 13 years. Since then we’ve had Bart Kramlik and Dave Virgle. I brewed with Bart and Dave at the Weeping Radish in the late 1990s. Dave has been with us four years.
How does Outer Banks Brewing Station approach its beer program?
We used to be super experimental, but the tourist population aren’t super experimental so what we’ve done is we’ve narrowed it back to styles that people might not have particularly heard of but won’t be crazy to their palates.
On tap all the time we have our Olsch and our Lemongrass Wheat. We’ll have some kind of hoppy pale, whether it be an IPA or a hoppy pale ale. We have some kind of midrange, an amber or brown, and a dark, some kind of porter style. We try to keep those general categories and then fill it in with everything else.
I wanted to get together with people who really loved what they do and give them the freedom to allow them to do what they really want to do. It’s a collaborative effort. ... Our first sign out on the road we hand painted and it said, “Integrity is not a fad.”
What about being a brewpub rather than a brewery sets you apart?
Brewpubs weren’t made to be production breweries.
A brewpub’s obligation, in my eyes, is not to be the experimenter, it’s to move with the needle of the times. Whatever the local ingredients and their availability are, use those. When stuff comes up, use that. We’re at the bottom of the buying power scale. You sell most of your product onsite, so your profit margin is a bit bigger if you’re not losing it in the restaurant, so take that money and put it into the raw ingredients. Our silo outside is full of Weyermann Pilsner Malt; it’s an excellent top-quality malt out of Bamberg, Germany.
Does Outer Banks Brewing Station have any exciting projects in the works right now?
We just finished a pear hard seltzer using cider yeast. We made a peach muscadine (flavor) and it looks like a peach, it smells really good, and it has flavor! We’ll carbonate that and put it out and I think that’ll be really fun.
Dave’s got this little sour program that Scott originally started. We get barrels from Sanctuary Vineyards or Kill Devil Rum (Outer Banks Distilling) and we age the beers all for a year or more and then release them in little 5-gallon kegs and do 10-ounce pours. They’re all aged and have these complex flavors. That’s what’s interesting and fun, how to do those interesting things and how to do them here.
What do you think has given Outer Banks Brewing Station its staying power?
I credit it to being so diverse. People come here for totally different reasons. ... We’re a nightclub, we’re a family restaurant, we try to be environmentally proactive, we have a huge backyard — there’s a lot of stuff going on here.
Finally, the hardest question there is for a true beer lover: Do you have a favorite beer?
I love all alcohols and I say that because I am a 100% mood and weather drinker. I’m not constrained by admitting I love alcohol. I don’t drink a lot and I only pick the things I really enjoy. This is a long-winded way to say it’s got to match the mood and the weather. I drink wine and my liquor cabinet is full of esoteric stuff because I love creating that taste.
If it’s nice and cool, a Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout on certain nights and certain moods. If it’s hot out, a Hoegaarden, and if it’s really hot an Aventinus. The list is endless! Surf Wax IPA by Burial Beer — on a perfect day that is the ultimate beer. To quote somebody else: “The beer in front of me right now.”
Beer is the common man’s drink, and in these divisive times, what better way to start a conversation than beer?