Tight Lines provides gathering place for all

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By Karen A. Mann

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

If it hadn’t been for a fateful offshore fishing trip, Russell Lewis’ downtown Morehead City brewery and restaurant might have been called Carteret Brewing.

Instead, the first mate on the boat uttered a phrase that fishermen use to wish each other good luck: Tight lines.

“It’s kind of like saying ‘break a leg’ in show business,” Lewis says. “When I hear him say that, I was just like, (snaps fingers) ‘That’s it!’”

Thus, Tight Lines was born.

At the time, he was still conceptualizing the business and hadn’t even purchased the Arendell Street location, which was long home to Rapscallions Restaurant.

The restaurant was developed while Lewis waited on the proper permits and construction of the brewing facility. Working with his grandfather, who is a general contractor, Lewis did a total remake of the restaurant’s dining room and upstairs area. The area that now houses the five-barrel brewing system had been a smoking area. A wide, comfortable bar faces a row of big-screen TVs, all showing various sports.

The goal, Lewis says, was to “create a space where people would come to eat, drink a few beers and definitely watch a game.”

“It’s ironic because I rarely do that.”

With the help of Seibel Institute-trained brewer Jeff Brungard, Tight Lines began brewing on May 1, 2017, and now has nine brews on tap. With each beer, the brewery tries to tell a story about the history and culture of the Crystal Coast area. A native of Beaufort, Lewis is a descendant of the original Ca’e Bankers who formed a now-abandoned whaling community on Shackleford Banks and looked to the sea for their livelihoods.

“This area is so rich in tradition and legacy,” he says. “We thought it would be a cool way to tell that story through the production of our beer.”

Tight Lines’ brews include Lookout Pale Ale, a honey citrus brew that’s dedicated to the keepers of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, who lived on the island with their families and made sure the light never went out. There’s also the Big Rock Double IPA, dedicated to an offshore site known for attracting big game fish and the world-famous bill fishing tournament that takes place in Morehead City every June.

One brew that’s very near and dear to Lewis’ heart is the Shellfish Warning Double Black IPA, a big, strong chocolatey IPA that’s brewed with local oysters. At 10.5 percent alcohol, it’s a brew to savor slowly before moving on to something lighter. Lewis minored in marine science at UNC-Chapel Hil, and continues to be involved in mariculture and aquaculture issues. Through his nonprofit, Pints for Purpose, Lewis helps donate to the Crystal Coast Oyster Festival, which benefits the N.C. Shellfish Growers Association.

“Oysters are something that is super important to me,” he says.”Wild caught oysters, their stocks are dwindling in the state. If you look at places like New England or Maryland or Chesapeake, the oyster farming communities there are massive. So we’re not only trying to raise the prominence of North Carolina farmed oysters but also grow the industry.”

As for beer No. 10, Lewis and his team are thinking about potential recipes in honor of the 300th anniversary of the death of Blackbeard, the infamous pirate who called Beaufort home, and whose ship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, was recently discovered in Beaufort Inlet. Lewis also owns a restaurant named Queen Anne’s Revenge in Beaufort. Right now, Queen Anne’s Revenge is the only other place to find Tight Lines’ beers.

“Something I’ve learned is to move slowly and only take things as you’re ready,” he says. “I wanted to make sure our beers were ready, wanted to make sure we didn’t put the cart before the proverbial horse. This brand and the creation are extremely important to me — I want to make sure that when we’re ready, it’s right.”