“The best beer you can ever have is a beer [shared] with the best people.”
A brewery isn’t just a place to make beer, it’s a place for the community to gather. It’s a space where you can share a love of craft with good people, and a huge plus if you’re doing it while drinking some dang good beer. This doctrine is at the core of Cabarrus Brewing’s success.
Meet Corey Sloop, CFO of Cabarrus Brewing Company and one of the creators behind some hilarious videos posted during Covid-19 quarantine (like this one and this one). We were lucky enough to sit down with Corey to learn more about Cabarrus’ history, ideals, and people. They were one of the first breweries to pivot after Covid-shutdowns, bringing on a whole new technology and adjusting their service model, allowing them to do better than imaginable.
Read on to hear about how Cabarrus is using the help from their owner, who happens to be an infectious disease doctor, to stay ahead of the curve and keep their people safe while navigating a brewery in this Covid-conscious world.
Nancy Trigg (President and CGO of Arryved): Tell me about the history of the brewery.
Corey Sloop: These buildings used to be a textile mill. The building we’re in is called Plant 6 and, if I remember correctly, it was the shipping building for the old Gibson Mill. Finished textiles, whether it be towels or blankets, would all be packaged, sent to our building and then shipped out. We tried to keep everything original when we built out the brewery—repurposing the old wood for the bar, tables and benches. So you’re really sitting and drinking on a piece of history when you’re here. There’s a lot of stories built in the grains of everything that’s here.
Image courtesy of Cabarrus Brewing
N: So what about your story?
C: I was into craft beer when I was in college, just as much as every other college kid is into beer, and I decided to start bartending here at Cabarrus —it’s about 10 minutes from where I went to University. I had a pretty solid relationship with our owner and asked him if he had any extra work for me when I graduated. The one big caveat was that my degree is in mathematics… there’s not a lot for a mathematician to do in a brewery. Our owner’s father is a retired CPA and he’d been helping out at the brewery running the books and doing the backside accounting. I mentored under him, and started learning the ways. Well, his father is still here, three years later. He’s here Saturday morning at 7 a.m., he’s here Sunday, he’s here every single day. He knows he needs to go home but the guy refuses to retire. He taught me a lot about accounting, things I didn’t learn in school. I taught him what I learned from the math side to help with calculations and with tech now that we’re shifting more and more that way. I’ve been doing this now for a little over two years and it’s been interesting to see how there’s so much more behind a brewery than just a beer. There’s a lot in running the business that people don’t really think about.
N: I want to go back to that comment for a minute. Is there one thing, just one, about how the operations and behind-the-scenes work in a brewery that a lot of people don’t know coming in?
C: When you’re a customer going to a brewery, you’re going to escape, to have fun and have a few drinks. People don’t realize how much work and elbow grease there is behind the operation. It’s hard work. There’s a lot of planning that goes on, especially when you’re the size brewery we are. We’re not small nor are we a big brewery so inventory management is a tough one. It’s tricky to find the right places to get the best yield out of this product in terms of profit.
N: What are the things you’re doing well that have helped you get to where you are as a successful business?
C: Outreach to the community is absolutely massive. We do as much charitable stuff as we can. Our donations, all tips that we would normally have, are going to go towards the Cabarrus Arts Council. And that’s also because we’ve been able to pay our bartenders more than what they would have been paid on tips so it kind of balances itself out which is great. We have Mission Mondays where for every pint sold, we gave a dollar to some charity then that charity would come in and set up in our taproom.
Number two is creating an environment for people to sit, relax and enjoy. Our owner, Steve, has always been about the atmosphere and the destination. I just talked to [Steve] earlier today and he said the best beer that he’s ever had is the beer with the best people. It doesn’t matter what beer he’s drinking, it matters who he’s with. And that’s been our motto. Creating the best environment for people—a destination— something special. Our beer garden is that ‘something special’. We have a larger beer garden where people can sit outside with a stage for music. Inside it looks like a German beer hall with long, community-driven picnic tables where you can sit down with 30 buddies or you can sit down with four buddies and make it your place to enjoy whatever beer you want to enjoy. We don’t want to push any certain style of beer on you or if you want to come and drink wine that’s your call. We want you to come and enjoy your time at Cabarrus Brewing.
Image courtesy of Cabarrus Brewing
N: Tell us about the things you do in the taproom? The things you focus on to improve the experience and educate your guests?
C: Over the past year we focused on educating our bartenders. In addition to being great people and great bartenders, we focus on getting them as knowledgeable and excited about the product as the consumers. About six months ago, our FOH staff collaborated with our brewers on a pale ale called ‘Staff Infection’. They got to create their own recipe. The brewers let them in the cooler to taste the hops, grains and malts—they wanted the staff to truly make it their beer. The brewers gave them a lesson on the characteristics and styles normally used with the hops we had on hand. [The staff] chose four different hops and created the build that way. That was a really neat learning experience for them to know not only what was in the beer but being a part of making it too. That beer sold really well!
N: What are the things that make you feel proud and excited about who you work with?
C: We have some really unique individuals all with different backgrounds. One of our owners is an infectious disease doctor—we’ve been ahead of the curve during all this with help of his knowledge. Another owner owns a healthcare company. Looking at the unique backgrounds on paper, you’d never guess they’d come together to run a brewery.
N: Does the community know that you guys have an infectious disease doctor for an owner?
C: We’re waiting on that. The hope is that whenever we reopen, we can at least say we’ve been using help from our own ownership, one of them being an infectious disease doctor. Myself and Davidd [the General Manager] have been trying to plan what the reopening will look like in terms of safety, and nothing we say counts until it gets cleared by the doctors. We don’t want to put anyone that walks in our building in an unsafe place. Whenever we’re open, it’ll be known that we are using the assets that we have as a company to really gauge your safety and our safety as employees before anything.
N: What changes did you have to make once Covid hit?
C: Well, we really had to sit back for a few days when these shutdowns happened and ask ourselves, “What are we going to do? How can we use any form of technology to really push that?”
We have a beer garden that has a bar at the backside that faces the road, so we decided to serve people from that bar and they can stay in their car. I think the same day [we made that decision], the [Arryved] app was pushed out and that was a great support to follow social distancing orders. We’ll put any product in their car—people just tell us what they like and we put it in there. We let them know to pay on the app and they’re on their way. There’s no contact and that was a really safe solution until options got even better when the [Arryved Online] store came out. The store is even quicker. I’d seen other places use [online] stores and I was never really a fan of it. I didn’t want to have to use another third-party processor to go through and if Arryved synced directly up with our inventory and our menu, why would I choose anything else? You guys came in clutch!
“We’ve been using [the online store] and we’ve now sold out of two different release products within like 24 hours of the release; this is the first time we’ve ever done pre-orders for beers.”
It’s big for us as a company, to be able to sell out here and there. To have pre orders set up makes it the most seamless transition. We release a beer, can it, and it’s in our consumers bellies within 24 hours. It just makes our life so much easier.
N: Is that something you think you will continue doing? Even after opening up the taproom?
C: We definitely won’t shut down the online store. A lot of how we’ll use it will have to do with demand. There’s only been maybe one other brewery in the Charlotte area that’s like us where it’s a large, on-site group demand. It has its positives and negatives. Of course with what is going on right now, it can be negative that we have a lot of volume in terms of how many bodies are in our facility. The store may be another great way for us to still be able to follow guidelines.
N: Given your knowledge of your customer base and who they are, do you think the people buying from you now are the same people that were visiting your taprooms?
C: I know for a fact no. We’re having a lot more people driving from Charlotte to Concord (about 20 to 30 minutes) buying kegs. A lot of those customers told me they frequent the Charlotte breweries and have seen our keg specials. They drive up here and check on our kegs, which has helped us move a lot of inventory we normally would have pushed to bars and restaurants during this time. We were able to sell it all almost overnight. It helped us not have to worry about dumping the beer, which a lot of breweries were doing.
N: You kind of wonder if people can’t have parties, what are they doing with a keg in their house?
C: You also wonder about the people you see three or four times a week… what’s going on? They’re returning a keg and getting a new one immediately. I’ve had conversations with a good amount of people that have never been to a brewery before and they’re interested in a keg that looks like something they’ve never seen before, and that’s because we’ve never put it in cans. That tells me they’ve never been to our taproom to have it on draft.
Image courtesy of Cabarrus Brewing
N: We’ve been really enjoying your marketing lately. We’ve actually reposted a bit of it because we really enjoy it. I want to know more about your marketing program and the ways you invite people to the taproom?
C: Every beer release we really try to get everything out that we can. When we shut down, we wanted to create videos rather than just post a picture. We knew that everyone’s spirits weren’t exactly at the highest. We created some short videos that didn’t take too much effort and just had fun with it, like our sneaky video. Davidd and I wanted to do something fun to engage with the consumers. And we plan on doing more. It’s just things have really taken off for us in extremely unexpected ways and we don’t have time now. As a business we’ve been doing a lot better than we ever imagined.
N: Give us your pitch—what makes your brewery special?
C: We’re the first full-scale brewery in Concord, in Cabarrus County, and we pride ourselves on making the guest experience far beyond anything any other brewery will provide. We keep things local—our products are made with as many local ingredients as possible. We give back to our local community as much as possible. We put customers above anything—especially their well-being with what’s going on right now.
You take care of your customers and they take care of you. That has been our journey… creating that special place for the customer.