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Liberty Steakhouse

April, 2002

By Bobby Bush

North Carolina’s newest brewpub opened in High Point on January 11. Liberty Steakhouse & Brewery is part of the Charleston, SC-based T-Bonz restaurant chain. The group’s other brewery holdings are a T-Bonz in Mount Pleasant, the original Liberty Steakhouse in Myrtle Beach and partial ownership of New South, a Myrtle Beach microbrewery that produces beer for the non-brewing links in the restaurant chain.

Though he started brewing in High Point almost a month before opening date, Liberty brewer Eric Lamb found himself behind almost immediately. The peripheral Oak Hollow Mall site, formerly a Red Robin, has been packed since day one. And for good reason: Eric’s beers are delicious. He’s happily working overtime to keep all seven brews on tap. On our Saturday evening visit, we found the lone brewer hard at work inside his glassed-in brewhouse. Remember, most brewers would rather be drinking beer than making it on a Saturday evening.

Though they have the same names as the beers brewed in Myrtle, Eric’s recipes are of his own creation. Miss Liberty Lager, a beer so popular that ten barrels disappear each week, is conditioned four weeks before serving. Smooth from nitrogen infusion, IPA is moderately hopped and inviting, a pleasant session beer. The American Brown style, ice tea colored Nut Brown Ale is malty, a touch sweet with a recoiling hops effect late in its flavor profile. Eighty pounds of berry puree go into each 10 barrel batch of Blackberry Wheat. Though its deep reddish-black color was misleading, Liberty’s Oatmeal Stout was Eric’s most enjoyable. Full bodied and nitro-smooth, this complex brew, adapted from a homebrew recipe, was rich in deep roasted malt flavor, carefully balanced by unobtrusive hops additions, and a light coffee effect. Unfortunately, demand beat out the supply curve on the American-style Deep River Wheat and Rockets Red Ale. That’s all the excuse we need to make another trip.

Eric did not come upon his brewing skills by happenstance. He learned to brew in one of craft beer’s birthplaces, Northern California. For seven years he apprenticed at Mendocino Brewing Company, the home of nationally popular Red Tail Ale, in Hopland, California. There’s no doubt he learned well. After hanging out in Charleston in a non-brewing job, Lamb accepted a job with T-Bonz last November and was quickly transplanted to High Point. At regional micro Mendocino, Eric was one of several brewers working with well established recipes. But in his mall-side brewhouse, he plays many roles, from ingredients procurement to emptying spent barley from the mash tun to washing glasses behind the bar. He’s not complaining. At the current rate of consumption, he may hit 1,000 barrels this year.

The rest of Liberty Steakhouse isn’t doing badly either. Even though the wait for a table was long, food and service were excellent. We followed a lip-smacking artichoke and spinach dip with Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes, a juicy hamburger, Calabash Fried Shrimp and scrumptious Maple-Pecan Crusted Breast of Chicken. The menu also included the regular line-up of steaks - NY strip, ribeye, porterhouse, marinated center cut sirloin and “slow roasted” prime rib - brick oven pizzas, fish & chips and a Duck Club Sandwich. What better way to chase a great beer than with well-prepared and served food.

Chumley’s After dinner we made a quick stop in Greensboro at Chumley’s. A bar turned brewpub, sort of, this shopping strip establishment had only one house beer on tap. Brewed in an undisclosed basement brewery by Mark Zerfoss, the Amber started and ended sweet. Thin body with winey finish, this appropriately amber-hued beer left an apple-like aftertaste.

Along with pool and foosball tables, the deep, narrow barroom has a decent bottled beer selection and tap handles sporting Guinness, Murphy’s, Red Oak, Bass and Beamish. There’s a non-brewing Chumley’s in High Point as well. See www.chumleys-pub.com.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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