CORNELIUS – Like many beer-brewing enthusiasts, Andrew Durstewitz started out in a garage with a home-brewing kit. Unlike most amateur brewers, he turned his hobby into an award-winning business, D9 Brewing Company, that now sells beer to hundreds of locations in two states.
Durstewitz and his two business partners initially commercialized what he called their “professional hobby” by selling beer a couple days a week from a space next to Ass Clown Brewing Company on Bailey Road in Cornelius.
“We were just having fun and if it went belly up, we would have just laughed and walked away,” Durstewitz said. “But the beer was good, and people were getting excited about it and wanted us to do more and more.”
Since 2014, D9 has expanded three times. The first day it opened, D9 had one employee; the brewery now employs 29. It originally had a monthly fermentation capacity of 80 barrels; now they have a 550-barrel monthly capacity. A barrel equals 31 gallons.
“And it’s still not enough. We’re still scrambling to hook up tanks and get more equipment in here,” he said. “We’ve been kegging and bottling onto the back of trucks for quite some time now, and we need to get out of that mode because it’s very frantic.”
D9 opened a new 2,000-square foot taproom in October, expanded its brewing facility and added an outdoor area with a fire pit. Durstewitz recently bought the company its own bottling line and four new fermenters.
“We’re pushing out beer as fast as we possibly can,” he said.
The new taproom incorporates the warehouse vibe of the building with high ceilings and a door leading to the production facility.
“We want to make you feel like you are actually in a manufacturing environment. This is a warehouse and a production company. You can hear the bottles clinking next door,” he said. “We wanted to integrate people a little more into the craft beer culture.”
Durstewitz describes the beer varieties as “fanatical ales” that are the products of creative brainstorming and experimentation.
D9 is the only brewery in North Carolina to win a gold medal for a sour beer at the Great American Beer Festival in Boulder, Colo. Systema 3, in the same series of award-winning sour beers, was released Dec. 9 and features Edelweiss, one of the rarest flowers in the world.
D9 is also one of the few breweries that employs a full-time microbiologist with a degree in microbiology, a focus in fermentation science and who had “never stepped foot in a brewery,” Durstewitz said.
“From minute one, we’ve tried to drive a huge amount of science into what we do. We push the limits of everything,” he said.
The company currently distributes to about 850 stores between North and South Carolina and is looking to expand to new states in 2017.
“When you start a small business, it’s pretty easy to make these small, incremental leaps,” he said. “But this company has become big enough where it takes a lot of energy, money and people to accomplish anything.”
Durstewitz said North Carolina was just getting into the craft brewing market when he moved here 12 years ago.
“I think the timing was just right that the beer we were producing is a hit, and we’ve also accomplished some pretty ingenious designs,” he said. “It’s quite a larger company than we had ever anticipated.”