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Davidson Depot & Taproom
January, 2000

By Bobby Bush

Fact is, Davidson Depot & Taproom is not located in an old train stop. That part of the name is fiction. Following major renovation of a late 1800’s cotton mill, which just happens to be near a railroad crossing, this restaurant/pub opened in May 1999. But the latter portion of the name is absolute fact. Fifty-two tap handles- and not a one pouring budmillercoors -grace the wall behind the Depot’s long, stained wood bar. Before we were even able to pull stools from the bar, friendly bartender Joey was ready to serve.

[editor's note: Davidson Depot ceased business around 2001. The facility is now a Showmars. I'm told they have a "good" beer selection].

But it took a moment to decide, for there was Abita’s Turbo Dog, Johnson’s Oktoberfest, Fuller’s ESB on a beer engine, Rogue’s Dead Guy, Mendocino’s Red Tail Ale and many, many more. Full bar service, an impressive wine list and mouth-watering selections of entrees- roast beef sandwich to handmade crabcakes to rack of lamb -make this fledgling facility even more intriguing.

Partners Bob Williams and Tom Wiltshire have been extremely thankful for the local support their new business has received. They’ve been busy hosting meetings, post-game gatherings and parties, many from nearby Davidson College. It’s probably no coincidence that the Lake Norman area, which also includes Huntersville and Cornelius, is a growing upper class suburb to North Carolina’s most populous city, Charlotte. The demographic breakdown for the Davidson region bodes ideal for an upscale place like Davidson Depot. Almost 45% of the residents are between the ages of 25 and 54. Nearly 30% have incomes in excess of $50,000.

And what I like most is the emphasis Davidson Depot places on beer. According to Williams, kegs turnover quickly, assuring freshness. And tap handles rotate regularly with a variety of craft brewed and imported beers. Budmillercoors drinkers have only bottles to choose from. The program is working. During a recent Red Stripe discounted priced promotion, only about 25% of Depot patrons chose the nasty yellow Jamaican swill, electing to pay more for a better, more flavorful beer.

On January 22, 2000, Tyrone Irby, president of BeerHunter.Org, a subsidiary of the Southeastern Microbrewers Association, bestowed quite an honor on this fledgling suburban establishment. Based on the results of a state-wide e-mail poll, Davidson Depot and Taproom was anointed by the Durham-based beer-appreciation group with the first annual Taproom of the Year award. Stiff competition from taprooms in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill beer triangle and from more established western taprooms like Barley’s, Olde Hickory and Atlantic Beer & Ice, made this a particularly sweet victory for such a new (nine months at the time) taproom. Long live beer!

Davidson Depot & Taproom is easy to find- just follow the tracks. Better yet, take exit 30 off I-77 and head east. Turn left just past the tracks and you’ll see the Taproom straight ahead: 209 Delburg Street, 704/987-8800.

This article first appeared in Focus Magazine of Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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