Ghost Harbor Brewing aims to open by year's end
By William F. West
Sunday, October 8, 2017
Seventy-one microbreweries have opened across North Carolina so far this year, and if things keep going as planned a 72nd will open in Elizabeth City by the end of the year.
At least that’s Thomas Reese’s plan.
Reese, who co-owns Ghost Harbor Brewing with his wife, Tabitha, provided an update on the couple’s microbrewery project to the Elizabeth City Area Committee of 100 last week.
Ghost Harbor Brewing is taking shape inside a building at 606-B East Colonial Avenue owned by George Jackson, just behind Hoppin’ John’s restaurant. The microbrewery will include both an area for crafting beer and a tasting room. Customers will be served beer both inside Ghost Harbor and outside at tables in Pailin’s Alley, which connects the site with both East Colonial and Elizabeth Street.
Reese told Committee of 100 members that equipment delays have set back the microbrewery’s completion date. However, his plan is to still have beer produced by Ghost Harbor Brewing available in time for the fourth annual River Rhythm and Brews — a local beer festival — on Oct. 21.
Reese, who moved with Tabitha and their three children to Elizabeth City from Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 2007, said he’s been brewing beer at his home for some time, primarily because he wanted to try beers with different flavors. As he got better as a brewer, and friends began tasting his product, he figured it might be time to start thinking about brewing beer full time.
“We got to the point where every batch of beer we made was spoken for before I even turned the burners on,” he said.
He credits Tabitha with deciding the couple needed to purchase bigger and better brewing equipment. But he says researching the local market convinced them both there was a niche for a microbrewery in Elizabeth City.
He said data shows the average age range of craft beer drinkers starts at 25 and ends just above middle age, and that more half of Elizabeth City’s population fits that profile. He also noted the city is home to one of the nation’s largest Coast Guard bases, and Coasties are big fans of microbreweries.
The name for the couple’s business, Ghost Harbor Brewing, is a nod to the history of the area and the area being the Harbor of Hospitality.
Ghost Harbor Brewing will begin serving customers in the Elizabeth City area at a time when microbreweries are rapidly growing nationwide. According to Reese, there were only 2,500 microbreweries in the country in 2012. Five years later, that number has grown to 5,600, he said.
“And I know of one that’s going to open by the end of this year in North Carolina,” he quipped with a smile.
With the likelihood Ghost Harbor Brewing will be only the first of many microbreweries opening in the region — in fact, another microbrewery is currently under development in Elizabeth City — Reese said his and Tabitha’s plan is to start small.
“One important thing to us is making sure that our growth is sustainable,” he said. “With that many craft breweries opening, to think about major distribution or major, major investment is a little scary to us.”
But the Reeses do see Ghost Brewery growing over time, he said.
“Certainly we want to be a regional distribution brewery,” Reese said. “That’s our goal, but we feel like we have to make it there (off East Colonial) through small, organic growth and hand-in-hand with our community.”
“As it grows, we’ll grow,” he said.
Ghost Harbor Brewing has a page on Facebook and also has launched a website at www.ghostharborbrewing.com.