Protagonist Clubhouse quietly opened its doors this past week in NoDa (3123 N. Davidson St.). You can grab a beer at the bar like any other brewery, or take a seat and a server will come to you.
“Part of our philosophy is that we do want to provide service to people,” said Jeremy Claeys, Protagonist’s head brewer. “If you sit down, you’re going to get served. People are going to interact with you and explain the menu. Part of the concept here is letting people ask questions and being interactive with customers, which I think is really important when you’re building a robust menu and putting a lot of things that aren’t from around here on it.”
That menu currently features two beers from Protagonist, both brewed in collaboration with other breweries. Wilder Hirsch is a Helles lager that Claeys brewed in collaboration with Charlotte’s Town Brewing and Greensboro’s Little Brother Brewing (all three of the brewers attended Germany’s Doemens Academy together). Leeloo, a 5.1 percent ABV saison brewed with American hops, was brewed in collaboration with Protagonist’s neighbors up the road at Divine Barrel Brewing.
Claeys, who brewed previously at Asheville’s Wicked Weed Brewing, is aiming to fire up the two-barrel brewhouse for the first time next week. With the smaller brewhouse, Claeys anticipates being able to keep at least four Protagonist beers on tap at all times (they will also open a larger production brewery in Optimist Park next year). The rest of the bar’s 24 taps are filled with a diverse taplist curated by Chris Westgard, the brewery’s beverage and education director and an Advanced Cicerone. The inaugural taplist includes often overlooked styles like a dark lager, Scottish ale and a mead, as well as hazy IPAs, sours and barrel-aged stouts. Beers can be ordered 5, 8 or 14 ounces at a time, or by the 32-ounce Crowler (a canned alternative to the traditional glass growler).
A cooler stocks an additional selection of bottles and cans, and the bar also offers a selection of rotating beer cocktails. The seasonal shandy blends sour beer, agave syrup and orange juice with coriander, an orange slice and thyme, while the Smoked Apples and Hops marries an IPA with maple syrup and smoked apple cider, plus cinnamon and a dehydrated apple slice.
A small menu includes dishes like a soft pretzel from Dukes Bread, a charcuterie and cheese plate or a hot dog with pimento cheese and chow chow.
Protagonist Clubhouse opens at 3 p.m. every day. The brewery closes at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 9 p.m. on Sunday.
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