A brief overview of the Loggerhead Brewing Co.
The Loggerhead Brewing Company first opened its doors in April of 1990, was the fifth brewpub in North Carolina, and the first to open in Greensboro. The business was located at 2006 W. Vandalia Road.
The brewpub was co-owned by Gary Vickers and Larry Stanley, with Duane Abbott on board as assistant brewmaster. Mr. Vickers, the brewmaster and owner most commonly featured in media, was a former brewing supervisor at the now-closed Miller Brewing Co. in Eden, and holds a masters degree in chemistry.
There’s some confusion (on my part) as to the actual location of the business. Two locations are associated with Loggerhead, the aforementioned Vandalia Rd. address, and the now-defunct Cotton Mill Square, a century-old cotton mill that was being used as a shopping mall and which closed in 1996.
At some point there was a change in the location of the restaurant from Vandalia Road. It was housed on Vandalia as late as 1992, but would be at Cotton Mill Square by 1994. The brewery remained on Vandalia Road. Confusing matters for me were the construction efforts related to the brewpub in 1991 that led to Loggerhead’s bankruptcy. I’ve not been able to ascertain if these costs were associated with the initial opening of the brewpub, expansion of the brewery, or something else altogether. In any case, the company spent more on construction than they had anticipated, and ended up opening their doors with less than a year’s worth of operating funds. As a result, Loggerhead had to work out payment plans with their construction subcontractors.
Then came a commercial real estate downturn in the early 1990s, and a resulting bust in the construction industry. Loggerhead’s contractors began pushing for quicker payment of their bills and threatening lawsuits. As a result, the brewpub was forced to file Chaper 11 bankruptcy in November of 1991, the requirements of which included:
- Business to continue as usual
- The company had to begin paying creditors in January 1992
- All creditors to recoup 100 percent of what they are owed
- Some creditors would theoretically not see any returns until five years later
Loggerhead’s creditors approved the plan, and the business was able to emerge successfully from bankruptcy in early December 1992, at the cost of approximately
one month’s gross revenue at the restaurant (Vickers).
Things seemed to move forward well for the brewpub until mid-1994. By then they had begun supplying beer to two Ham's locations (January) and Chumley's Tavern (April) on Lawndale Drive. It was at the end of this period in April that Loggerhead sold the restaurant to Culinary Visions, a Greensboro catering business, and ceased the sale of beer and food at Greensboro Bats baseball games. They made these moves in order to shift their focus solely to the brewing and distribution business, and continued to sell bottles and kegs at the West Vandalia Road location. By mid 1994, Loggerhead had changed it’s name to Gate City Brewing Company (see below), and by 1995 the company was no more.
Loggerhead was a Bavarian purity (Reinheitsgebot) brewery. Introduced in 1516, the Bavarian purity law allows for only hops, barley, water and yeast to be used in the brewing process. Barring any seasonal or small batch brews, Loggerhead produced no fewer than four beers:
- Gate City Ale, their most popular brew and a pale ale
- General Greene Lager
- Loggerhead Pilsner
- Loggerhead Light
At the brewpub, a small 10 oz. mug of beer was priced at $1.65, a 15 oz. mug $2.25, and a full pitcher $7.25.
Without photographs, it’s difficult to know what exactly the Loggerhead brewpub looked like, and considering it may have changed location at least once, descriptions may vary. The Greensboro-based Wall to Wall Co. led the interior design effort, and it would appear that for the most part the decor was what one would expect from a 1990s sports bar, featuring neon lighting and beer-related memorabilia. Like many breweries and brewpubs today, a large glass window allowed for patrons to view the stainless-steel brewing equipment.
Evidencing the owner’s greater interest and/or expertise in the brewing aspects of the business, outside consultants were hired to complete the restaurant’s menu, which provided a range of sports bar-styled entrees ranging in price from $5 to $16. The Greensboro News & Record published a positive restaurant review on Aug 13, 1992 that includes an overview of various menu items as well as commentary on the decor and overall atmosphere.
Gate City Brewing Company
By mid to late 1994, Loggerhead Brewing was renamed as or succeeded by the Gate City Brewing Company, with Gary Vickers still as head brewmaster. The restaurant had by this point been sold to Culinary Visions. Still in business in 2017, the catering company maintained an ABC permit at Vandalia Road until April 3 2009.
Gate City Brewing was closely tied to the Ham’s restaurant chain, and was the primary means through which their beer was distributed, as there were no longer any sales through the brewery itself. Gate City only brewed two brands of beer, an amber lager called Charlie’s Barley and Gate City Ale, the lone holdover from the Loggerhead Brewing years.
I’ve brought together bits of information from multiple sources (primarily back issues of the Greensboro News & Record) to try to piece together a timeline and overview of Greensboro’s first brewpub. With Loggerhead having been a privately-held business in the early 1990s, there are gaps or contradictions in what I’ve been able to gather, particularly around the question of when the brewpub changed hands and moved, and where. For example, if Culinary Visions owned and moved the restaurant in April 1994, why did they have an ABC permit for Vandalia Road, when Gate City was still brewing at that location? Did the pub move to or away from Cotton Mill Square?