Jun 18, 2021 - Food and Drink

Rocky Mount brewery acquires Unknown in South End

Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios

Unknown Brewing owner Brad Shell announced on Friday a “farewell tour” for his South End taproom.

Within the next few months, Unknown will phase out operations in all business lines except its widely distributed ginger ale. The business will be taken over by Rocky Mount-based HopFly Brewing.

Why it matters: Shell’s announcement offers a vulnerable look at what it’s like to be a small business owner, especially one during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have lost so much value and time with those I love because my brewery is everything to me,” he wrote in a statement published on social media. “I have torn my mental and physical health to shreds, all in sacrifice of the passion to make beer.”

Backstory: When Unknown opened on Mint Street in 2013, it focused on craft beer. Over its eight years, Shell expanded the brewery, adding offerings such as a food truck, a line of craft liquor and a rooftop deck.

  • Unknown’s ginger ale is Shell’s fastest growing business, he says, with distribution up and down the East Coast.
unknown brewing south end cocktails
Unknown had just launched its cocktail program with in-house distilled liquors in fall 2020. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

What’s next: “We aren’t going out of business tomorrow,” Shell continued in the social media post. “This is the announcement of a farewell tour.” For the rest of the summer, Unknown will have new beer releases, new distillery releases, live music and events to celebrate its run.

HopFly also shared an announcement of the acquisition on Friday, saying it would make the space a new HopFly production facility and taproom. “We’re stoked and honored to be joining such an incredible craft beer community,” the three-year-old brewery posted.

  • Known for its IPAs and lagers, HopFly will have the choice to carry on the Unknown brands, Shell tells me.
  • Details on the terms of the acquisition weren’t immediately available.

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