PINEVILLE – Michael Smoak has been making craft beer with the help of industrial chillers as a hobby for many years, and two years ago, the Waxhaw resident won the Cheers Charlotte Radio Homebrew competition.
One of the judges for that event was Andrew Viapiano.
Viapiano, who has experience with several Charlotte area breweries, and Smoak quickly became friends and started discussing opening their own brewery. Smoak then brought his childhood friend, Shannon Wallace, into the discussions since Wallace has experience in the hospitality industry.
The end result will be Pineville’s first brewery when Middle James Brewing opens sometime in February. The partners are in the middle of renovating a 10,000-square-foot building in the Golf Village Building at 400 N. Polk St., which is just south of I-485. The taproom encompasses 5,200 square feet.
The brewery is a 15-barrel brewhouse. It will make a variety of beers, including IPAs, pale ales, pilsners, Kolsch and stouts. There are also plans to brew sours in the future. Viapiano said he hopes to start brewing beer in the coming weeks.
Viapiano started home brewing beer right after he reached the legal age to drink. He then attended a brewers’ program at the American Brewers Guild in Vermont, where he received professional training. He moved to Charlotte for an internship at Triple C Brewing and decided to make the area his home.
“We are not going to shy away from brewing anything, and we are going to try and keep eight to 12 different beers on at all time,” Viapiano said. “There will also be beers that change with the seasons.”
The new family-friendly brewery also features a covered deck that overlooks the Golf Village driving range and a second-floor room that can accommodate private parties.
“That’s quite a view,” Smoak said of the covered deck.
When Smoak approached Pineville about opening Middle James, he learned that the town didn’t have a zoning classification that allowed the micro-brewery. But that changed quickly.
“The town has been very receptive and they are all about it,” Smoak said. “They approved it really quickly.”
Smoak said the brewery will have 15 televisions and they will be open seven days a week.
“We are going to be heavy on sports,” Smoak said. “We want a place where a person can go and watch a game, football, soccer, basketball and drink good beer. If you want to watch an obscure English League game, there are not many good places where you can get good beer, have sports and get good food. We will be a little different from some of the other breweries in that aspect.”
Wallace will run the kitchen and he has hired Perry Saito to be the executive chef. Saito has been a mainstay in the Myrtle Beach restaurant scene for many years.
“We have a phenomenal chef coming in,” Wallace said. “I was just in Myrtle Beach this past weekend and people were saying, ‘I hear we are going to lose Perry.’ Perry has made quite a name for himself down on the coastline. Perry is going to think outside the box and be creative about the menu. We are going to do some special things to pair the food to the beers. Perry takes pride in his craft.”
Wallace said the menu will offer up more than typical pub grub.
“We are calling the menu upscale bar food,” Wallace said. “One thing that we are going to push is our corned beef sandwich. It is going to have a nice twist to it.”