By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on August 14, 2020
Two local residents and self-described beer enthusiasts are moving forward with plans for a new brewery with a surf-boutique atmosphere at milepost 9.5 on the beach road in Kill Devil Hills. And they hope to have the taps flowing by next summer.
The Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners is slated to hold a Sept. 14 public hearing on a conditional use permit for Swellsa Brewing being proposed by local surfers Brad Fitzgerald and Alex Wolcott. If commissioners approve the project, Fitzgerald said they expect construction to begin next month at the corner of Lake Drive and N.C. 12.
Fitzgerald and his girlfriend, Sam Harriss, live in Kill Devil Hills while Wolcott, Harriss’s cousin, lives in Kitty Hawk with his wife, Laura Wolcott and their two children. Longtime friends and homebrewing enthusiasts, the Swellsa owners both have backgrounds in the brewing industry – Wolcott at Back Bay Brewing Co. in Virginia Beach and Fitzgerald at Revelry Brewing Co. in Charleston, S.C.
The idea for Swellsa Brewing has been one that the two longtime friends have tossed around for some time. “We’ve been talking about it forever and the wheels have kind of been in motion for at least the past five years,” Fitzgerald told the Voice.
If approved, the 4,700-square-foot brewery will have a tasting room, an upstairs deck and large outdoor area. Site preparation at the lot, which will include 30 parking spaces, has already begun in anticipation of the project.
“We just really wanted a cool place down here whose focus is on beer,” asserted Fitzgerald, adding that he and Wolcott are spending a lot of time on designing the actual space. “We’re trying to make it a cool year-round spot, not just a kind of tourist trap destination. We want to make it a place that we want to go hang out as well.”
Fitzgerald said he envisions a brewery with a surf-boutique vibe with “a flare of the old Nags cottage feel.”
Noting the wave of young entrepreneurs on the Outer Banks with artsy and craft-focused businesses, Fitzgerald said he and Wolcott are excited to be a part of that. “Between Ashley’s Coffee Shop, the Kill Devil Rum guys, and all the art markets and everything, it’s a kind of cool [vibe] down here. We’re stoked to be a part of it…and excited to move forward, too.”
Brewing at Swellsa will be done onsite and include a rotating tap of different beers, with a focus on American-style hoppy beers, Fitzgerald noted. And while Swellsa Brewing will not serve food or have a kitchen, he said that there is the possibility of hosting a food truck at the site.
“If the food truck scenario can work out, that’s what we’re really like to do but we’re not relying on that right now,” he added.
As for what’s on tap, Fitzgerald said they plan to incorporate local ingredients and experiment.
“We want to do some sours and some barrel-aged stuff. We want to do the whole spectrum,” he said. “We love good beer and we want to make beer we want to drink…so we are focusing on the beer and trying to make it a cool place to hang out.”