A Chemist, an Accountant, and a Lawyer...
walk into a bar
When I visited the the city of arts and innovation—Winston-Salem, North Carolina—a few months ago, I had no idea that Wise Man Brewery would be waiting for me. I’m a big fan of craft beer so one night during my stay, a few friends and I went on bar crawl—no shame, y’all.
Wise Man, as its called locally, is in what used to be the old Angelo Brothers Wholesalers building in Winston-Salem. Angelo Brothers was best known for selling its confections, old stereos, radios, and of course, cigarettes. The building is within eyeshot of the old Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) building—an immediately recognizable tower on Winston-Salem’s skyline.
When Angelo Brothers Wholesalers closed in 2008 after 91 years in business, a commendable feat in and of itself, the building was ignored for almost a decade. During that time, Sam Victory began to take up brewing as a hobby, creating new beers in his kitchen. He eventually bought a homebrew kit and started experimenting. The only rules were “to have fun, make something tasty, and clean up afterwards.”
After buying additional equipment and entering a few competitions at the behest of his friends, Sam began to take the craft seriously. He approached his friends Jason Morehead, and accountant, and Mike Beverly, a corporate lawyer, and together they formed the brewery whose name comes from a quote that is widely attributed to Plato: “He was a wise man who invented beer.” But more importantly, the name serves the purpose of highlighting its founders’ intellect.
After concocting the idea of starting a brewery, they had to find a building. Winston-Salem called their names, as it was at the time becoming a hub of brewing. “It took us about three years to find the building once we decided to go into business together,” Sam says. “We saw enormous potential here, and the fact that the building is historic to the city made it even better.”
Dan Rossow, head of events and marketing for Wise Man, says the brewery has patrons who mention the wholesaler: “We have people coming into the brewery telling us stories about when they visited as children and about the candy their grandparents would buy them. It’s a nice touch for them to be able to come in and have a beer or two.”
Take a peek inside, and you’ll find a warm and inviting taproom with 16 different beers to choose from and a bar the length of the taproom—I suggest the Body Electric, a Double IPA. You can see where the beer is brewed through an artfully curated wall of old window panes. Giant, shining, stainless steel tuns line the brewhouse just beyond the bar. As a dog-friendly brewery, there may be a few four-legged patrons around as well.
Then there’s the aroma. The sweet, intoxicatingly malty smell infuses the area outside the brewery, an homage to the time when tobacco was Winston-Salem’s biggest export. Once inside, it intensifies and sears itself into memory.
Dan mentions that one of Wise Man’s goals is connecting people within the community, and that includes showcasing various artists from the city each month. Take a walk around downtown Winston-Salem and you’ll find that it’s packed with artists—there’s a mural around every corner. The front of the brewery is plastered with art from local artists, changing as new artists pick up their brushes and make their own marks.
Some of the best ideas happen randomly, either by happenstance or by mistake. Some of them come out of pure passion. Wise Man Brewing is taking Winston-Salem’s namesake seriously, combining innovation, art, and the curiosity for the next brew into a full-steam-ahead mission to create a space of enjoyment. It’s fitting for a brewery that is constantly experimenting and creating new flavors to exist in a city known for its innovation. Even more fitting are the three wise men at the helm.
Words by Isaac Ray Norris
Photos by Kyle Duncan