Mooresville’s beer scene comes of age

North Carolina has long been known as a haven for beer lovers; Asheville has been named “Beer City USA” many times. Charlotte has many craft breweries.
Now Mooresville is quickly joining the ranks of notable N.C. beer cities.Over the past three years, access to and interest in craft beer in Race City have boomed, as evidenced in the number of craft beer and homebrew supply shops, breweries and taprooms popping up there.Mike Prascak, owner of Lake Norman Brewing Co., brewed his own beer at home for 13 years. Then he started his own brewery and taproom on Barley Park Lane off of Mazeppa Road, minutes from his home.“There was such a variety (of breweries) in Charlotte, but not in the lake area,” said Prascak. The idea of a lake-specific brewery was born, with lake-themed beer names and décor, all designed and created by Prascak and his family.Lake Norman Brewing Co. is a family-run business. Mike’s son Andy Prascak is the brewmaster and operations manager. Mike’s wife and daughter help with the business as well. The brewery opened to sell commercial kegs in August 2013. Several Mooresville businesses tap its brews.The taproom opened March 1 and held a ribbon-cutting ceremony March 28 with the Mooresville-South Iredell Chamber of Commerce. Prascak said the brewery poured about 800 beers for attendees during its grand opening celebration. On April 12, Lake Norman Brewing Co. introduced its 10th beer.For the present, at least, it is Mooresville’s only brewery-taproom. “We’re here to fill that void,” Prascak said.He also commented on the cooperative spirit among members of the beer community: “Breweries are like a brotherhood. … We’d be excited if other breweries came.”He may not have to wait long for another local brewery. Mooresville residents Wesley Midkiff and Will Omspach hope to open another brewery and taproom in town by late this year. They created its name, OMMI Brewing Co., by combining the first two letters of each brewer’s last name. They recently worked on a project with Cornelius’s Ass Clown Brewing Co. called W Squared. Through the project, Midkiff said, they “got great feedback on all our stuff, so we are taking the plunge” to open a brewery. They are looking for the right location.“We are opening with plans to put out the most over-the-top, West-meets-East IPAs North Carolina has ever seen,” said Midkiff. “We both travel a good bit and drink the highest-rated beers around. “That is the stuff we are going to be brewing: beer we would travel to, just to get to try (it) once.”OMMI Brewing plans to release its beer at the Lake Norman Bags and Brews Festival in May.Setting the stage with IPAs (India pale ales) is an excellent choice, local beermeisters say. Every beer store and brewery we spoke to in Mooresville – as well as the homebrew supply store Beer & Wine Hobbies International – identified IPAs as their No. 1 best sellers.Prascak, Midkiff and Omspach all are, or in the past have been, highly involved with Mooresville’s homebrewing group the Iredell Brewers United, abbreviated “IBU” as a pun on the beer rating scale International Bitterness Units. IPAs generally score high on the bitterness scale.The Observer reported on Iredell Brewers United shortly after the group started in August 2011, when it had about 30 dues-paying members. Membership peaked at around 70 members last year, said Midkiff, though membership fluctuates and many nonmembers participate in I.B.U. events. The group is well known in Mooresville’s beer culture.Omspach is president of the IBU, and Midkiff previously held the role. Mark Moore has also been involved with the I.B.U.Moore, who grew up in Mooresville, owns Ultimate Ales near Mooresville Town Square.In the past, Moore traveled as a site selection specialist. While traveling, he said, he sought out places with craft brews and friendly people. When he decided to open a craft beer store and taproom, he wanted it to be the type of place he had always sought.“I really liked the vibe in those establishments,” Moore said, and he believed Mooresville was a good market for such a place. He opened Ultimate Ales, with six taps and about 250 different beers for sale, in July 2013. The shop hosts trivia on Tuesdays and live music on Thursdays and some Saturdays.“It’s been great,” Moore said, attracting “a good core group of customers that create a welcoming vibe.”“It’s the only bottle shop that has a tap here in Mooresville that is completely focused on craft beer,” said customer Kevin Reyes, who works in racing, “I love to support small and new local entrepreneurs.”The inaugural Lake Norman Bags and Brews Fest – offering beanbag toss games (the “bags” of the title), live music and beer – will take place 10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 3 near Ultimate Ales, in the Mooresville Town Square Shopping Center, 125 Town Square Circle, Mooresville. Beer will be served starting at noon or 1 p.m., depending on what type of ticket you have.The festival will raise money for the Capt. Mark McDowell Memorial Foundation, Welcome Home Veterans Living Military Museum in Mooresville and Carolinas HealthCare System’s Adaptive Sports and Adventure Program.Mark McDowell was a South Iredell High School graduate who lost his life in 2009 as an airman in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The foundation was started in his memory with the goal of providing yearly scholarships for South Iredell High School students.Lake Norman Brewing Co., Iredell Brewers United and OMMI Brewing Co., among other breweries, will be at the festival. Ultimate Ales is the main event sponsor.

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