When Protagonist Beer Co.’s founders announced plans for a second location in Lower South End last December, they didn’t anticipate building that brewery during a global pandemic.

Despite this, the buildout has largely been unaffected by COVID-19 these last few months as they approach an October opening, with one exception: They’ve used some of the funds originally allocated to the new brewery to keep their existing employees on staff and to bring on another 30-40 employees for the new brewery.

“We’re just really happy and excited, especially during the current times, to be able to offer 30 to 40 jobs to people,” co-founder Mike Salzarulo said. “People have been hit really hard, especially in this industry.”

There will be plenty to do at Protagonist Lower South End, which sits at the corner of Southside Drive and Yancey Road in the space formerly home to The Broken Spoke (which recently announced plans to move to NoDa). Cluck Design Collaborative is the architect. The 15,000-square-foot space will include three separate bars, a 15-barrel brewhouse, a barrel-aging room, a mezzanine and a pizza kitchen turning out whole pies, as well as individual slices.

“When you think of beer you think of pizza, and when you think of pizza you think of beer,” Salzarulo said. “It’s going to be a cool, immersive experience. It’ll be an open pizza kitchen. You’ll see the whole process happening from dough being made and tossed, to the toppings being put on and all the way into the oven.”

While the pizza menu is still in the works, expect seven to 10 different pizzas, as well as a build-your-own option, plus salads and appetizers. You can enjoy the food at the brewery, of course, but Protagonist plans to deliver as well.

Protagonist Beer is taking over the former Broken Spoke space. Cluck Design Collaborative is the architect. Kelsey Kline Photo & Design

Protagonist rotates through a number of different beer styles at its NoDa location, where co-founder and head brewer Jeremy Claeys brews on a small two-barrel system. Salzarulo could think of only two beers — Danks Obama and Chunk — that they have brewed three times. With a much larger brewhouse in LoSo, however, Claeys will be able to focus on building the brewery’s core beers.

“We don’t do a lot of repeat beers,” Salzarulo said. “What’s nice about the new location is that we’re going to start building our core brands. We’ll have some core beers that we’ll start to package and that we’ll have on our taps at all times.” The beer lineup will take shape in the months to come, but Salzarulo said it will feature a mix of the clean, traditional styles they are passionate about, as well as those that their consumers are asking for.

Protagonist Beer plans for its new location to new offer more space and food options, including pizza. Cluck Design Collaborative is the architect. Kelsey Kline Photo & DesignBefore COVID-19, the brewery regularly featured “Beer&” events, tastings that offered an educational look at anything from glassware, to yeast, to the brewing process or food pairings. They plan to bring that program back at the new brewery.The brewery plans to age some of its beers in the barrel room, and Salzarulo notes that the barrel program will grow in time. The management team is already planning on reaching out to the building’s former tenant.

Protagonist is working toward an October 2020 opening for its new location. Cluck Design Collaborative is the architect. Kelsey Kline Photo & Design

“We’re going to work with Ollie Mulligan of The Broken Spoke to get some barrels to age some beers,” Salzarulo said. “We want to keep that spirit of The Broken Spoke in there with some of those barrels.”

The new brewery will also feature a 6,000-square-foot patio outside that will be partially covered, allowing visitors a view of the LoSo neighborhood that Salzarulo likens to “the Epcot of the brewing experience.”

Plans for the new Protagonist location include a 15-barrel brewing system and a product packaging system. Cluck Design Collaborative is the architect. Kelsey Kline Photo & Design

Protagonist will keep its NoDa location open, with plans to possibly brew wedding beers on the smaller system or host private events. The brewery will also offer up events space at its new brewery to nonprofits, free of charge.


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