A Toast to Tastemakers: Joel McCloskey ’00

Joel McClosky ’00 and his business partner had the unusual distinction of opening the first brewery in a city that has only allowed alcohol sales since 2008.

McClosky’s search for a teaching job led him to Asheboro, North Carolina, where he met Andrew Deming, the husband of a co-worker. When McClosky learned that Deming was a homebrewer, they began brewing together. While drinking the beers Deming made in his garage, the two started chatting about creating a brewery under the name “Four Saints.”

A few years later, the talk turned to planning. Events around town that featured local businesses and local food were still selling beer from big labels and McClosky thought the time was right for a local brewery to enter the scene. Deming had the brewing chops, and McClosky worked on the business plan. The community rallied behind them with a Kickstarter campaign raising $52,000 to get things started in 2012.

They found a building at the end of that year and started planning the work that needed to be done on the 100-year-old structure in 2013. Volunteers showed up to aid with the demolition in return for free beer and food.

Much of the groundwork for Four Saints was laid while McClosky was still teaching elementary school full-time. He was able to take a few months off after his daughter was born in March 2014 but after a brief return to the classroom, he realized he would not be able to keep up with his duties as a husband, father, teacher, and start-up brewery owner. It was difficult to leave a steady job and paycheck, but he resigned from teaching in June 2014.

“It was a pure act of faith,” McClosky said of opening the brewery. “I wasn’t doing it to be the cool guy who owns a brewery. I was doing it to create a better future for my family.”

Construction on the brewery started in April 2014 and Four Saints Brewing Company opened for business on May 6, 2015, one week after receiving its licenses.

Neither McClosky nor Deming had owned a business before or had professional brewing experience, but they were buoyed by the community support they received.

“Four Saints Brewing Company is not our brewery. Four Saints Brewing Company is their brewery,” McClosky said of their fervent supporters who have been with them from the beginning.

“The first year in business was a whirlwind, to say the least. Some moments, days, and months are a complete blur,” McClosky said. Though that initial year was a bit rocky in terms of learning the ropes of a new business, Four Saints Brewing Company began to earn the respect of the statewide brewing scene and the loyalty of the local community by giving back to Asheboro and Randolph County.

The second year saw new employees added to ease the workload of McClosky and Deming. Greater exposure and better marketing ushered more people through the taproom doors and increased requests for off-premise distribution.

As Four Saints moves into year three, the focus is not on growth for growth’s sake, but on living by their mission of “Great Beer for Great People.”

“The craft beer market in North Carolina, and across the country, is thriving. Mediocre beer, or even good beer, will not succeed. It has to be great beer,” McClosky said. As Four Saints considers expansion in production, brick and mortar, and flesh and blood, their initial mission is the beam that continues to guide them.

Four Saints has never had televisions, and McClosky hopes it never will. For him, it’s about creating a sense of community and the opportunity for connection. And great beer, of course.