Are you the kind of person who always takes the road less traveled and drinks the lesser known beer?
If so, you might want to visit Winston-Salem’s newest brewery, Lesser Known Beer Co. It opened July 2 at 901 S. Broad St., fittingly, one least likely places in town for a brewery.
Lesser Known Beer Co. is the brainchild of Will Loring and Ryan Gramlich, two transplants from Richmond, Va., who found themselves here after touring the state in search of the perfect place to put down roots and make beer. beer.
Gramlich has been brewing for about 10 years. He worked for two breweries in Richmond before deciding to strike out on his own.
Gramlich and Loring knew each other in college, and they later reconnected when Loring worked in craft beer wholesale distribution. Once they decided to go into business together, they started looking for the perfect home for their brewery.
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“We went to Asheville and Charlotte, and places like Burlington, Hillsborough and Greensboro,” Gramlich said. “But we couldn’t stop thinking about Winston-Salem,” Loring said.
They said they were drawn to Winston’s relaxed atmosphere and the fact that he’s small but not too small.
At Lesser Known, Gramlich is head brewer and Loring is in charge of the front of the house.
As the name suggests, Lesser Known makes beers that may be a little different from the competition. “We focus on underrepresented styles of beer,” Gramlich said.
“It’s also a commitment to more traditional brewing,” Loring said. “Others (in the US) are starting to do it now, but not many.”
So beer drinkers who love IPAs and the latest American styles may need to step out of their comfort zone at Lesser Known.
Loring and Gramlich draw particular inspiration from Czech and German beer traditions. They would never claim to make German or Czech beer. “But in our Czech-inspired beer, all the ingredients are Czech,” except the water, Gramlich said. The same goes for German-inspired beer.
And that water is heavily filtered to give them more control over the finished product.
Gramlich and Loring even traveled to Germany and the Czech Republic for education and inspiration. Part of the trip included a visit to Moravia, the homeland of the Moravians who settled in Old Salem (about two blocks from the brewery).
Gramlich uses open fermentation, in a closed chamber, for most of the beer it makes – the main exception being the Easy Keeper lager. (Fermentation ends in a closed tank to naturally produce CO2.)
Open fermentation, Gramlich said, gives beer a more rustic character and more nuanced flavor. The open reservoir also allows some unwanted volatile components to fly away.
Gramlich also uses a technique called decoction which involves removing part of the mash, boiling it, then putting it back hot in the rest of the mash. Gramlich said this process affects the conversion of sugar from starch in malt and produces more and different flavors in beer.
In addition to using less common methods, Lesser Known also offers tanks of some of its beers. In other words, they bypass the keg, instead using a spout on the brewhouse tanks.
“It’s not necessarily better that way, but it’s different. Every container you put the beer in changes it,” Loring said.
Loring and Gramlich said they don’t plan to offer live music, trivia nights or many other events. They prefer to stay focused on beer and socializing. There are no TVs at Lesser Known, and they have phone booths where people can store their phones to help them “shut down” while they enjoy a beer and company.
The brasserie has a small indoor tasting room complemented by two patios, one of which is covered. (Additional parking is available across the street at 914 S. Broad.)
Loring and Gramlich have used local food suppliers at every opportunity. They also plan to operate their own hot dog cart at some point.
Lesser Known currently offers four beers. A fifth will be released soon. Visitors will notice that the lesser-known beers tend to be lower in alcohol than many other craft beers.
Current beers are Oh So, a 4.0% ABV Czech-inspired lager; Lunar Handshake, a 5.0% ABV Czech-inspired dark lager; Easy Keeper pale ale at 4.7% ABV; and Fabian, a 5.2% ABV Franconian-inspired Kellerbier.
They plan to limit the selection of beers – they only have four taps and a few storage tanks in the brewery anyway – but they plan to rotate the selection.
“We will definitely be making seasonal beers,” Gramlich said. “And if you come back in two months, it’ll probably be five different beers.”