Greenshields Brewery & Pub Raleigh, NC

Gary Greenshields
Greenshields Brewery & Pub
Raleigh, NC

Gary Greenshields is one of the South’s true brewing pioneers. He labored for years in the mega-beer and soft drink industries, only to grow weary of the corporate world. Frustrated and jobless, he and wife Martha decided to take matters into their own hands. By March 1988, the cherubic entrepreneur had a business plan and backing from several banks. Eight months later, Gary signed the lease on a historic 1914 farmers market building in downtown Raleigh. Eight more trying months, with renovation and legal work behind them, they fired up the Greenshields Brewing Company brew kettle for the very first time, establishing, in July 1989, only the state’s second brewpub. That places Greenshields among the first 50 craft brewers in America.

The original brewhouse was of English design. It was replaced in 1994 with a fully computerized 20 barrel German-designed brewhouse, eight 40 barrel fermenters and six 27 barrel serving tanks. Greenshields annual production hovers around 1,500 barrels. That output had much more significance back in 1992, when Gary was instrumental in convincing the state legislature, which meets just a few blocks away from his city-wise brewpub, to amend state brewpub law. At his urging, North Carolina brewpubs are now allowed to produce up to 10,000 barrels annually, five times what the statute initially provided.

Born and raised in Ponca City, Oklahoma by tea-tottling parents, Gary’s favorite beer is Bohemian-style Greenshields Pilsner and is the brewpub bar’s biggest seller. Fermented with a special low temperature lager yeast, which has a high level of attenuation, this bold but light, malty-turns-hoppy, clean tasting brew tops out at 5.3% abv. Greenshields Amber is the busy brewpub’s oldest and #1 selling bottled beer. Mainly European malts and three hops additions combine to produce fruity medium body and assertive hoppiness (30EBU – European Bitterness Units) in the English Extra Special Bitter category.

Dark roasted malt gives Greenshields Nut Brown Ale its rich brown color, while five different 2-row barley malts contribute medium mouthfeel and flavor. The Nut Brown is referred to by Gary, somewhat jokingly, as his Newcastle killer. Six malts, three of them European, go into Greenshields India Pale Ale. A three stage hopping regimen provides 60 EBU as contrast, leaving this 5.9% abv brew with a strongly bitter flavor profile from start to finish, chased by a hint of sweetness on final swallow. Pushing the North Carolina 6% alcohol limit, Greenshields Stout is another very smooth big beer. Utilizing decoction brewing technique, Gary selected “special malts to give color, flavor and fullness while minimizing ‘husk astringency.’” The resulting ale is roasty and robust, similar in sweetness though not quite as polished or slick as Guinness Cream Stout. Seasonal beers include a traditional Bavarian-style Hefeweizen, served with a slice of lemon. Greenshields Root Beer, made with cane sugar, satisfies the sweet tooth and makes a delicious Root Beer Float.

Gary is a stickler for fresh, clean beer. Since 1995, when the brewery began packaging their beers in attractively labeled 12 oz bottles for distribution throughout the Raleigh, Durham and Greenville areas, bottled samples of every brew have been retained at room temperature in the brewery office. These dusty bottles are periodically sampled as part of Gary’s on-going test of product shelf life. He also assures fresh beer on local grocers shelves by limiting distributor shipments to their exact requirement and no more. An impressive list of Eastern NC bars and restaurants carry Greenshields beer on draft as well.

The downtown brewpub is a gathering place for beer lovers and hungry city-dwellers alike. At the back of the hall, the stainless brewery overlooks, from behind glass, a spacious dining room where patrons enjoy such Greenshields staples as Jerk Mango Salad, Beer Cheese Soup, Sheperd’s Pie, Yorkshire Rarebit, Sashimi Tuna, Lamb Chops, steaks and English Prime Ribs. Martha’s Brownie Sundae – a home-made brownie topped with ice cream, chocolate syrup, nuts, cherry and whipped cream – is the highlight of the dessert list.

Greenshields boast seven different serving venues on three floors. A small smoking bar room is located near the hostess stand with a non-smoking library-like bar, shelves filled with an interesting selection of books, nearby. There are three dining rooms and an indoor beer garden. A canopied side patio, with seating for 96, stretches almost the entire depth of the building. Inside seating capacity is around 360. This Historic City Market District brewpub is a warm, friendly, well-run place, ideal for drinking Greenshields hearty beer.

Drawing on years experience marketing Anheuser-Busch products, Gary recognizes the position, actually a specialized niche, for brewpubs. Instead of winless head-to-head competition, he takes pride in providing a better product than the big boys. “High quality” beer that returns “high premium” pleasure in its consumption by discriminating beer lovers is his goal. In six packs and kegs, Greenshields does not give credence to the David and Goliath triumph of meek over mighty. He’s positioned his beer where it belongs, in price and location.

Gary relishes the opportunity to conduct brewery tours, walking curious patrons through the brewery process, from milling to bottling. Tours usually end with a tasting session in one of the bars. His “favorite tasting is getting visitors to try a warm beer, around 70F, to experience a sense for the real flavors of a craft-brewed beer.” Even after all these years, Gary takes great pride in his products and in Greenshileds Brewery & Pub.