Homebrewing duo fills void in New Bern

1 of 4

Staff Writer

Sunday, October 21, 2018

When a homebrew supply store closed in the New Bern area, a couple of guys with full-time jobs who were part of a well-established homebrew club thought it was important to fill that void by providing a destination for locals to drink craft beer.

Tim Dryden and Bryan Conway opened Brutopia Beer Company in February 2016. Dryden, who spent 22 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, works full time on aircraft at the Fleet Readiness Center East at the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point.

Dryden’s business partner, Conway, has spent more than 20 years as a corrections officer for the state Department of Public Safety’s Carteret Correctional Center in Newport. Dryden started brewing beer in his home about five years ago and is an active member of the Alcohol Through Fermentation (ATF) Homebrew Club, which is where the men met. Conway, who is president of the ATF Homebrew Club, had been brewing his own beer for 15 years.

As avid homebrewers, Dryden and Conway said they saw a way of getting into the craft brewery industry after a local family-owned homebrew shop closed down, which opened the door for something else to come into the area.

“Once that local homebrew shop left because the family had to move to California, it left a hole in the area — so the only place to go really was online to purchase anything,” Dryden said. “There were no local stores where you could go in and get what you need, so opening a homebrew shop was kind of a dream and more or less our vision originally.”

However, Dryden and Conway found that having a homebrew shop wasn’t going to be sustainable after talking to people with experience in the craft brewery industry. Instead of just being a home brewery supply store, Brutopia opened as a bottle shop, taproom and homebrew supply store.

“There is money to be made in home brewery supply stores, but the turnover is pretty quick and it depends on how many people you have in your area,” Dryden said. “After doing the research and talking to people that run homebrew shops, we found that you’ve got to have some other sources of income or money to help support it. We determined the best thing for us to do was to put in a bottle shop in with the homebrew store, and that evolved into a taproom and bottle shop.”

An addition to the business, the owners started brewing their own beer in February. Popular beers at Brutopia include New England-style India Pale Ale and James City India Pale Ale. Brutopia also has 20 to 25 additional beers that are made on a rotating basis to avoid having one specific beer on tap. The changing menu allows customers to order something different.

Brutopia is in the process of expanding operations by putting in a much larger system that will allow it to start distributing kegs in restaurants and other places around the area, Dryden explained.

“We are all about bettering and building the community and not just making money,” Dryden said. “When it comes down to it, when I sell you a craft beer, I want you to understand, like wine, there is so much more you can do with beer than just making it yellow and foaming it. When you drink most domestic beers, they’re a little bland — and craft beer can be paired with so many things.

“Once you get them to try it and get them out of their comfort zone, you usually win them over.”

Brutopia is located at 1201 U.S. 70 in New Bern, 35 to 40 minutes away from the beach. But Dryden said their highest revenue season is in the winter rather than the summer.

“It has turned out to be completely opposite,” Dryden said. “It seemed odd, but that how it works. We’ve got a lot of communities around us and most of them are boat owners and they love to sit on the water and on the beach. We also catch them going to and from the beach. With the release of our beers this year, business has been great. We haven’t seen that downturn like we saw the last two years.”

Dryden said Brutopia has tried to embody an atmosphere similar to the popular TV show “Cheers” — knowing all their regular customers when they come into Brutopia.

When it opened two years ago, Brutopia was a challenge to get off the ground with both men having day jobs, and there were no employees hired for the first six months. But doing the leg work helped the owners become more in tune with the community.

“We used to see some of the businesses around town — you never knew who the owners were and you only talked to the bartenders,” Dryden said. “We made it pretty apparent up front that we were always going to be here in some form or fashion because we wanted the community to know there is someone here that has a vested interest in the business.”