Entrepreneur toasts brew mill

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Camero Schulz, owner and CEO of HopFly Brewing Company pours a beer for a customer Saturday at The Rocky Mount Mills. HopFly Brewing Company is the first new brewery to open at the Rocky Mount Mills Brewery Incubator.


Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Cameron Schulz left a successful, high-paying job in the corporate world in search of another challenge.

Schulz, a graduate of Duke University, spent six years in Columbus, Ohio, working as a senior merchant for well-known upscale clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. Although Schulz said he enjoyed his job, the 28-year-old Chapel Hill native said he found getting into the craft brewery industry appealing. He saved money for six years and decided a couple of years ago to start up a brewery.

Schulz wanted to return closer to his family so he considered starting his craft brewery venture in either North Carolina or South Carolina. On Saturday, a grand opening celebration was held for Shulz’s startup, HopFly Brewing Co., at 1147 Falls Road, Suite 121, in Rocky Mount.

HopFly became the first new brewery to open in the Rocky Mount Mills brewery incubator on the 150-acre Rocky Mount Mills campus. 

In most cases, starting a craft brewery costs about $1.5 million, Schulz said.

“I sort of had my pick of anywhere I could have gone in the Southeast, and I chose here at the Rocky Mount Mills because I felt there were plenty of financial benefits to starting up a place here,” Schulz said. “Rocky Mount is so extremely unique. I love the vision that the Goodman family has and the effort they’re putting in revitalizing this mill that is helping this whole city.”

Rocky Mount Mills officials said the brewery incubator is one of the most innovative setups in North Carolina. It’s designed to be a three-year program to teach entrepreneurs to brew, learn and proof their concepts while at the same time, helping them develop a business plan, recruit investment and eventually grow beyond the incubator space.

The brewery incubator is based in a refurbished 6,000-square-foot shipping warehouse on the nearly 200-year-old campus. The brewery incubator offers participants their own brew system with fermentors to produce and serve beer out of each space with eight taps, officials said. 

All incubator tenants have access to a keg washer, a 5-head canning line, dry and cold storage and a public beer garden to sell and serve their products. The incubator tenants also have entry to Nash Community College’s Brewing, Distillation and Fermentation program.

“We’re eager to learn, grow our business and work with our fellow incubator tenants to create a destination based on the growing industry in North Carolina,” Schulz said.

Schulz said the name HopFly comes from his love of hoppy beers and fly fishing. He said HopFly’s mission is to create beer for every adventure. HopFly will have eight fresh brews tapped from the jalapeno saison to a classic India pale ale.

“I’m focused on building my brand on my love of the outdoors,” he said. “I’m looking to put a little twist on my style, and try a fun way to best use different top flavors. I also installed a little barrel pilot system for me to try new things and get input from my customers. At the end of the day, I want to brew beer that a lot of people love drinking.”

HopFly Brewing Co. is part of the first class to go into the brewery incubator. The others include the established Bull Durham Beer Co., which is recognized for being the first brewery in a minor league baseball stadium. With production at the Durham Bulls Stadium at the American Tobacco Campus not able to keep up with demand, Bull Durham Beer. Co. has expanded to the brewery incubator to continue its success, officials said.

The other two breweries going into the incubator in the near future are Planetary Elixirs and BBD Brewing Co. Planetary Elixirs is founded by Scott Meyer, a brewing and winemaking veteran with a deep background in the culinary world. Meyer seeks to introduce exotic beverages from different parts of the world to the American palate. BDD Brewing Co. will be run by cousins, Chazz Oesch and Matt Nichols.

Sebastian Wolfrum, executive brewmaster at the Rocky Mount Mills, said the inaugural class of brewers comes from all walks of life and brings with it different approaches, methods and philosophies toward brewing.

“We see the spirit that built Rocky Mount Mills, and that continues to make our community one of hard work and triumph in each of them,” Wolfrum said. “We’re looking forward to seeing and, more importantly, tasting what they have to offer.”