With the interest in "craft" beers reaching an almost frenzied pace across the country, Van Gogh's has become Statesboro's first restaurant with a microbrewery.
Brewing of its craft beers is being spearheaded by Chuck Duffney, who moved to Statesboro from New York City this past October to pursue his passion for brewing beer. Duffney is the brewmaster for Van Gogh's, located on Lanier Drive near Georgia Southern University's campus.
In the small community of craft brewers, Duffney was led to Statesboro by native Smith Mathews, who is a brewmaster and managing partner of Southbound Brewing Co. in Savannah, which opened this past April.
"I met Chuck when we were attending the World Brewing Academy in 2009," Mathews said. "We immediately became friends. He is very, very bright, and really understands the science behind brewing beer. He is the smartest brewer I have ever met."
Mathews told Duffney about the opportunity to spearhead the brewing process for Van Gogh's when the microbrewery was being planned.
"I felt like this was a good opportunity, and have been glad that I made the move," he said. "This is by far the smallest city that I have ever lived in, but I am really enjoying it, and I think that we are making some great beer here. I felt like there was an opportunity here in the Southeast, as it is just beginning to see explosive growth in this industry."
The Brewers Association reported 409 brewery openings in 2012 (310 microbreweries and 99 brewpubs). It also reported that 2,347 craft breweries operated for some or all of 2012, composed of 1,132 brewpubs, 1,118 microbreweries and 97 regional craft breweries. Craft brewer retail dollar value in 2012 was an estimated $10.2 billion, up from $8.7 billion in 2011.
Both Duffney and Mathews said they do not feel like competitors but, rather, co-workers of sorts.
"That is what I love about this business," Duffney said. "There is so much collaboration, and we are all pulling for one another. Our competitors are the big brands like Budweiser and the like. We just want people to stop and taste our beer and hopefully enjoy the rich flavors that we can bring to the table."
Van Gogh's is a microbrewery and restaurant where customers can order and drink a beer that is made on-site. That is different from both Southbound and Statesboro-based Eagle Creek brewing company, which are production microbreweries that sell their beer through distributors. Even though the setup is different, each entity is producing what is referred to as craft beer.
According to the Brewers Association, the hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent. Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley; interesting and sometimes nontraditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.
At this time, Duffney is producing four different beers.
"I hope that people come try the beer that we have made," he said. "I think it is very good, and people will really enjoy it, and, it is made right here in Statesboro with ingredients from Belgium, Germany and America."