Capt’n Bill’s to venture into craft beer with onsite brewery

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Capt'n Bill's owner John Musser, left, is launching Bill's Front Porch, an onsite full-service brewery, restaurant and pub, with son-in-law Donnie Stone at the helm of craft beer-making. Courtesy photos.
Capt’n Bill’s owner John Musser, left, is launching Bill’s Front Porch, an onsite full-service brewery, restaurant and pub, with son-in-law Donnie Stone at the helm of craft beer-making. Photo courtesy Brookes Musser.

A longstanding local restaurant will soon add onto the Port City’s growing craft beer scene.

Capt’n Bill’s Backyard Grill, 4240 Market St., is set to open an onsite brewery with a restaurant and tap room in early spring. The offshoot, called Bill’s Front Porch, will be located in the vacant building in front of Capt’n Bill’s that has been, among other things, the popular Mexican restaurant El Vaquero.

It is also where Capt’n Bill’s owners John and Erin Musser opened their first restaurant, 220 Seafood, more than three decades ago. The Mussers later opened the Rusty Pelican before getting the Backyard Grill fired up behind the original eatery.

Bill's Front Porch will use its new seven barrel system to craft a handful of original beers, with plans to expand selections in the near future.
Bill’s Front Porch will use its new seven barrel system to craft a handful of original beers, with plans to expand selections in the near future. Courtesy photo.

The venture into brewing was inspired, in no small part, by the Mussers’ daughter, Brookes, who is a self-described beer enthusiast.

Along with her sister and brother-in-law, Kaitlyn and Charlie Freeman, and husband Donnie Stone, Brookes has avidly kept up with the growing movement at home and across the country.

“We enjoy trying new beers,” Brookes said. “We all took a trip up to Asheville to visit the breweries. Everywhere we go, we like to stop and try new beer. And my husband and I collect growlers from every brewery we go to.”

But her dad wasn’t so sold on craft brews, at least not at first.

“My dad has always been a Budweiser guy. My sister and I always tried to get him to try new things but he always went back to his Budweiser,” Brookes said.

But with a little nudging from his daughters, John stopped into a brewery while in Asheville. That, Brookes said, was a “turning point.”

John began visiting more area breweries and tasting more beers. Noting the rapid rise of breweries locally, Brookes said her dad decided if there was a time to get in on the trend, that time was now.

So, John and crew set about to renovate the building, most recently used as a banquet hall. Brookes said the space is now adorned with custom woodwork by urban salvage master Daniel Butler, who specializes in creations made from discarded wood. Whiskey and bourbon barrels have been made into table tops.

But Brookes said Bill’s Front Porch is also filled with farm-style tables to encourage strangers to strike up conversations.

“It’s more community-based, so everyone can sit together and talk and enjoy each other,” she said.

It is a fitting approach, since Brookes and Stone’s entry into the industry has been met with a surprisingly warm welcome. Although Stone – who will be at the helm of the Front Porch’s seven-barrel system – is an experienced home brewer, he needed some guidance in manning the larger equipment.

He didn’t have to look far. Brookes said craftsmen from Wilmington Home Brew and Check Six in Southport, among many others, stepped up to lend a helping hand.

“One thing we’ve learned about the brewing community is they’re just so open-armed. That’s very different than the restaurant industry,” she said.

The bar at the Front Porch was handcrafted by local Daniel Butler, known for his 3-D style shaped from reclaimed wood.
The bar at the Front Porch was handcrafted by local Daniel Butler, known for his 3-D style shaped from reclaimed wood. Courtesy photo.

As Stone hones his skills, the Musser family is in the process of hiring chefs, who will be tasked with creating signature dishes that pair well with the Front Porch’s original batches. While the menu is a work in progress, Brookes said one item has definitely made the list: her father’s legendary fried chicken, which has previously been served up exclusively during catered events.

“And we will have a lot of good beer-drinking appetizers and a raw bar, so we’re definitely carrying the seafood piece over,” she said. “My parents started out there with seafood, so we wanted to bring that to [Bill’s Front Porch].”

Stone will start out making a handful of batches, with plans to expand offerings in the future. And Brookes said the brew house’s 20-tap system will feature a lot of guest beers from local and regional companies.

With six TVs and a projection screen, the Front Porch will also be a nice spot for the sports fans, she added.
Brookes hopes to have the business up and running seven days a week by mid-March. It will be open for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays, as well, and on a limited number of weekdays.

Hilary Snow is a reporter for Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com