Originally created 03/10/99

New grill offers locally made brew



Claud Matos has been waiting for the Oldenberg Grill to open for a long time. He sat at the bar Tuesday to sample some of the new restaurant's fare -- Brawurst and specialty beer.

"It's definitely a thumbs up," Mr. Matos said.

A 8,800 square-foot restaurant and pub on Washington Road, Oldenberg Grill opened Tuesday, giving beer connoisseurs another place to get a locally made draft.

The only others in the area are The King George and The Aiken Brewing Co.

A growing trend throughout the nation, brew pubs are taking off.

A chain of restaurants with the same name, Oldenberg Brewing Co. opened it's first two eateries in Louisville, Ky. and Oviedo, Fla. This is its third restaurant.

Oldenberg Grill is designed to look like a beer warehouse.

Although the focus at Oldenburg Grill is on the food, the restaurant also serves its own beers. The company plans to brew four types of beer a year.

A worker was hooking up the brewing equipment Tuesday in the eatery's two-story tower. The restaurant expects to begin making beer Friday.

The restaurant offers a total of nine beer brands, cider and a homemade root beer. Entrees include pizza, hamburgers, steak, chicken, soup and salad and some German-style dishes.

The number of brew pubs had been exploding since the 1990s. There were more than 850 brew pub in the Unites States as of last year, according to the Association of Brewers, a Boulder, Colo.-based organization that tracks the brewing industry. More than 200 brew pubs opened in 1996.

"It definitely has been increasing," says Steve Perry, an Association of Brewers spokesman. "The general public has a curiosity about different types of beer."

The organization estimates that the craft-brewing industry -- which includes brew pubs, micro-breweries and regional specialty breweries -- has increased by about five percent in the past year.

"It's such a growing thing," said Chunky Freeman, one of the owners of The King George. "It's catching on so fast here in the South."

So far, the restaurants have been successful, with average annual sales of more than $3 million, Oldenberg Grill operating partner Tom Clark said. The parent company, Oldenberg Brewing Co., plans to begin construction on two more brew pubs in Fort Wayne, Ind. and Paramus, N.J. this year.

Still, the intense interest in craft beer does not automatically guarantee that any brew pub that opens will be an instant hit. One in eight brew pubs that open fail, according to the Association of Brewers.

Frank Witsil can be reached at (706) 823-3352.