Business

Eleven Lakes Brewery taps into thirst for beer

By Dave Vieser. Location, location, location… Long recognized as the most important factors in determining the desirability of a home, two enterprising Lake Norman residents have expanded that phrase so it applies to beer. The neighbors behind Eleven Lakes Brewery in the Hyde Park flex space on Bailey Road expect to open up next month.

“We’ve had great cooperation with the neighboring breweries and we believe there’s plenty of market room for expansion. I see no reason why we can’t all succeed in the years ahead,”

—Eleven Lakes owner Ray Hutchinson

The name comes from the fact that there are 11 major lakes in the Catawba River Basin. “We wanted to have a name that was reflective of our community,” Hutchinson said. It’s taken a while for Ray Hutchinson and business partner, Jack Lippy, both from Huntersville, to get this far.

Hutchinson and Lippy, who are neighbors, did lots of home brewing in their spare time. “We really don’t feel the Lake Norman area is over-saturated with craft breweries. We believe they can help make our area a destination point for both residents and visitors alike.”

The emergence of micro breweries is a national trend. There are over 500 microbreweries and brewpubs in the United States alone; the number of micro breweries increased by over 15 percent during just the past 12 months. Why? “Freedom of choice is a central value of our democracy and a core tenet of being American,” says Bob Pease, president & CEO of the US Brewers Association. “The taps belong to beer drinkers and retailers, not the big producers. If one mega company tries to manufacture or force demand, consumers will rebel.”

Hutchinson and Lippy latched on to that theory, but their initial challenge was finding the right location. “The process begins with finding a location which is going to work economically for us while also being attractive to our customers,” Hutchinson said. At first, they explored local retail areas, such as Antiquity in Cornelius, which was “way too expensive for us.” The beer duo went to Hyde Park, a storage/office type facility on Bailey Road near the Cornelius/Huntersville border.

“The rent was more palatable and it’s an unfinished ‘vanilla’ part of the building, leaving us with the ability to put up walls and decorate as we needed.” Eleven Lakes will encompass more than 2,700 square feet in Hyde Park, including a tap room which can handle up to 49 patrons.

Cornelius is part of a nationwide brewery renaissance of sorts: There were more than 4,000 American breweries in the 1970s; less than 50 by the late 1970s. Cornelius breweries include Ass Clown, Bayne Brewing and D-9 Brewing Co. Popular micro-breweries are all around Charlotte. (Bottle shops, retail craft beer stores, pour beers brewed elsewhere.)

The challenge for Hutchinson, an art teacher at Lincoln Charter School, and Lippy, a consultant for KMPG in Charlotte, will be to find the time for their favorite hobby at Eleven Lakes. However, they’re not worried.

“We’ve had great cooperation with the neighboring breweries and we believe there’s plenty of market room for expansion. I see no reason why we can’t all succeed in the years ahead,” Hutchinson said.

D-9 Brewery cofounder Andrew Durstewitz agrees. “There’s room for more breweries in this area. In fact, it will be to our advantage to have several within a short distance of each other, thereby setting up a great destination for brewery fans.”

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