A fire and a pandemic may have slowed down Ashlee and Brent Moore, but neither event was able to stop them from opening Lexington’s first craft brewery. The Goose and the Monkey Brewhouse had been open 16 days when Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order in mid-March closed all brewery taprooms.
The Moores had been planning the opening of their brewery for more than three years. In 2017, they had just found a 10,000-square-foot space in Lexington’s Depot District — not far from Bull City Ciderworks’ production facility — when a large fire at the adjacent Lexington Home Brands Plant 1 threatened their 1953 building. “Firefighters stopped the fire right at our building,” Brent Moore said.
They had some smoke damage, but fortunately had not begun building out the space, so their loss was contained. Still, the brewery project stalled as the city worked on demolition and cleanup of the surrounding area.
The Moores said that the delay eventually worked in their favor, as it gave them more time to learn about the brewery business.
The Moores are newcomers to brewing and the food and beverage business. They work for Koontz Masonry, a commercial masonry company owned by Ashlee Moore’s family. In fact, it was masonry jobs around Bailey Park and other parts of Winston-Salem that indirectly led the Moores to opening a brewery.
“We saw the tremendous growth and how Winston now has so much to offer,” Ashlee Moore said, “and we were like, ‘We want that here in our town.’”
She recalled sitting at Foothills Brewpub on Fourth Street when the brewery idea came together. “One day we were shopping in Winston. We had been throwing around ideas of what we could do that would be fun and would benefit our community,” Ashlee Moore said. “We were sitting at Foothills, looking around, and said, ‘Why don’t we do something like this?’
Foothills president Jamie Bartholomaus eventually became one of the Moores’ mentors of sorts, along with Kayne Fisher, then with Natty Greene’s in Greensboro; and Joel McClosky of Four Saints Brewing in Asheboro.
The Moores met those brewers and others through the Triad Brewers Alliance during the delay caused by the fire, and they spent the time learning all they could. “When Jamie started Foothills, there was really nothing there on Fourth Street. He showed us that it takes time,” Brent Moore said.
With their background in masonry and construction, the Moores were able to renovate the 1953 former furniture warehouse themselves. The Moores named the brewery after lyrics in “The Clapping Song,” a song Ashlee Moore remembers singing as a child.
The Moores aren’t brewing the beer themselves. The Goose and the Monkey’s brewers are Brandon Essick and Eric Gibble, along with input from general manager Justin Butler.
“Brandon and Eric were home brewers we met who wanted to get into the business,” Ashlee Moore said. “We like that they’re not afraid to try things. Justin will bring them an idea, saying, ‘Let’s try this,’ and Brandon and Eric will say, ‘Let’s do it!’”
Essick and Gibble have produced a variety of beers — they had four ready for the initial opening in February and they’ve been busy brewing all spring.
The Moores had to think fast when they were shut down in March. Fortunately, the Moores knew of a mobile canner. They hadn’t planned to can beers so soon, but given the pandemic, they decided to forge ahead. They canned 50 cases of each of their first four beers, and also had some beer put in kegs.
They were able to set up a temporary storefront outside the brewery and sell beer to go during the shutdown. They sold crowlers for a bit and then added cans as soon as those were ready.
It wasn’t until Memorial Day weekend that they started serving pints of beers out of the taproom — to be consumed outside on the patio for the first few days. They began allowing indoor seating on May 27.
Beers include the Triad Transplant, a citrusy double West Coast IPA; the Orly Dorly, a light wheat beer; and Boone’s Cave Brown, a malty brown ale.
Goose and the Monkey also makes an Irish red, a Dunkelweizen, a Kolsch and more — and it’s getting ready to release its first sour.
It also has begun offering a variety of small-batch, limited edition infused beers that have included a cucumber Kolsch, ghost pepper IPA and blueberry blond ale.
The Moores said they are moving slowly on expanding taproom hours and holding events because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve published a long list of COVID-19 procedures on the brewery’s website, following the N.C. Beer Pledge recommended by the N.C. Brewers Guild.
Bartenders aren’t wearing masks, but they are working at least 6 feet from each other. “We’re lucky because we have all this space,” Ashlee Moore said. “We can spread out.”
The 2,900-square-foot tasting room has a normal capacity of 285, but the Moores said they are keeping that below the 50% mandated by Cooper. They closed the bar seating area and removed about half the tables.
They have begun getting food trucks to come by, and are working out a deal with Medley, based in Durham, to have a regular presence there several days every week.
The brewery had its first yoga session outdoors on Sunday and plan to do more. But the Moores said it’s too early for live music, which probably would be a big draw. “It’s just baby steps,” Ashlee Moore said.
Still, the couple is happy with the initial response. “Lexington is right on the cusp” of a revitalization, Ashlee Moore said, and she hopes the Goose and the Monkey will be a part of that.
“We’re really grateful to the community for coming out and supporting us, especially during the pandemic,” Brent Moore said. “Business has been good. Everyone has been very responsible. Even with all that’s been going on, it’s been a good time.”