RALEIGH, NC, March 17, 2013 – North Carolina continues to turn heads in the beer world as brewery after brewery pops up, and cities like Raleigh, Durham and Asheville get known as beer brewing hot spots. However, other parts of the state are also earning their beer credits. To the southeast of Wake County (the seat of Raleigh) lies Johnston County, a region where wooden vestiges have not yet succumbed to the mass highways and concrete mastodon edifices of the northwest part of the state.
Almost bleeding into Wake is the quiet establishment of Clayton, home to 16,000 Carolinians. Only until recently, there were absolutely no breweries in Clayton, nor anywhere else in Johnston County.
This desolate status could have remained if Lynn and Paul Auclair weren’t encouraged by their friends and family to expand their home-brewing hobby outside of the home.
“Paul was brewing beer all of the time at home,” explains Lynn during our recent phone conversation. The Auclairs were happy enough to share their home product with those in their close Clayton circles, but they didn’t intend on taking it beyond that. It took a few rounds of tasting and a cascade of commenting from their friends to convince the couple they would do very well to start their own brewery.
“As more people said that to us, we thought that we could really make this happen,” says Auclair.
On April 6th this year, Deep River Brewing Company will have its grand opening in Clayton, all through the persistent efforts of both Lynn and Paul and their entrepreneurial dream. Deep River will become the first legal brewery in Johnston County, and the people of Clayton have voiced their strong support to see it all come to fruition.
And Auclair could not be more thankful for her town’s support. “They’ve been very helpful and supportive of getting us out here.”
Deep River is100% owned by Lynn and Paul and is operated in an old cotton spinning building that dates from 1902. They have taken the resources that Clayton has provided to turn that venue into a modern brew house that sticks to its wooden roots and serves to remind everyone about from where the beer comes. Other than the legal obligation to hire contractors to put the building up to code, Lynn Auclair says she and Paul have had a hand in everything to get Deep River into the shape it is in today.
To keep with the roots-driven, rustic image of Deep River, she explains that even the bar where the public will order and taste the beer is a product of the past. In the dawn of Deep River, the Auclairs acquired an old tobacco barn that was donated to them. While leaving the barn standing was a possibility, independent breweries like to improvise with what they have.
The barn that was used to dry tobacco will be used to serve Deep River patrons. And while you can’t exactly walk into the barn, you can lean on it while you nurse your half-imbibed pint. The bar is made of the barn wood, and the finished product is a marvel in itself. The Auclairs note that those who have already seen the bar find themselves in amazement of what the aged structure has become.
With a finish that could only be followed by a localized effort in beer brewing, and the Auclairs have made it a point to keep Deep River all about Johnston County.
“Our farmers are super excited to share with us,” explains Lynn. Deep River beers use ingredients grown and harvested right in the county. Their Joco White Winter seasonal ale is brewed with Johnston white sweet potatoes, while their Double Don Golden Lager depends on the growth of Johnston watermelons. It’s this strain of communal input that Lynn Auclair insists makes Deep River the brewery that it is.
She says that bottling or canning within six months is a plan, but their approach is one day at a time. The brewery is still in its dawn, and there seems to be some concern for what could happen, or what needs to happen, but the idea and creation stands on its own.
Talking to Lynn Auclair, I could tell that brewing and sharing was the primary goal, while fiscal gratification or market domination was a second thought. Competition among other local breweries can’t be overlooked, but it shouldn’t be the primary driver either.
“The cool thing about breweries is that it’s all friendly competition. We share ingredients. That’s what makes this industry so much different,” she says.
There’s no need to be made millionaires through a running a brewery. Respect, enjoyment and community come first. The minds of Deep River have certainly adopted this.
“What we want to do is work for ourselves. Want to have something to have pride in. It’s the general things that make you happy,” she adds.
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