NoDa nanobrewery ramps up construction, owner talks Charlotte’s first ‘flux capacitor’

By Jennifer Thomas  

January 14, 2019

This NoDa nanobrewery will cater to both beer enthusiasts and novice craft-beer drinkers.

Protagonist Clubhouse aims to deliver an experience that encourages learning and experimentation when it comes to new beers, says Ryan Owens.

He’s teamed up with childhood friends Mike Salzarulo and Ryan McKillen on the venture.

“We want it to be a space where people open up their tastebuds a little bit,” Owens says. “We also want it to be approachable.”

Protagonist Clubhouse will be tucked into a 1,700-square-foot space at the corner of North Davidson and East 35th streets in Charlotte — formerly the NoDa Grocery space. That space is part of Fat City Lofts.

Construction has ramped up, with a spring opening being targeted, Owens says.

For the friends, Protagonist represents the culmination a long-time love of beer.

They all dabbled in home-brewing, sending their creations across the country to compare and contrast the outcomes — with sampling done via video conference for feedback purposes, Owens adds.

The trio even met up one time in a central location to brew together.

The question soon became how to take their hobby to the next level. All three had built successful careers — “caught up in corporate America” — but decided to take a risk, Owens says.

Charlotte became their target market because of its growing craft-beer scene. It was still new, but far enough along that craft beer has a foothold, Owens says.

“There is still so much opportunity in this city,” Owens says.

So what should you expect when Protagonist opens?

Roughly 900 square feet will be dedicated to the taproom. There also will be outdoor seating.

Protagonist plans to serve its own brews — with at least four options to start — fresh from serving tanks.

There also will be 22 guest taps to provide a wide range of approachable and creative craft beers.

“It will be easy to have a good local representation,” says Chris Westgard, of Advanced Cicerone.

He’s been tapped as beverage and education director for the brewery and taproom.

Westgard will help shape what Protagonist brews based on feedback. Guest taps could help influence that.

“You’ve got to brew what people want,” he says.

Westgard also pushed for investment in a flux capacitor — a specialized system that will allow customized carbonation for each individual beer line.

Different pour sizes will be available encouraging people to try new options and learn different beer styles.

Nanawalls will divide the brewhouse from the taproom, but still provide a peek inside operations. The brewhouse is also tucked into space visible from street-level windows.

Protagonist will operate a two-barrel system. It has snagged land for future growth, though it hasn’t made plans to date, Owens says.

There also will be a menu of small bites and signature food items. Think options such as hot dogs with pimento cheese and chow chow, grilled cheese with different dipping sauces and charcuterie boards.

James Craig with Lat Purser represented the landlord on the lease, and William Haygood of Boundary Street Advisors represented the tenant.

Roby Commercial is the general contractor. AvroKO and Cluck Design Collaborative have been named as architect.