Saturday, September 23, 2023

Skytown Beer Company is opening soon, here’s a sneak peak at the restaurant’s ‘best of barbecue’

The husband-and-wife team behind Beer Barrio trade tacos for barbecue, and delve into their love of beer making, at their new venture.

WILMINGTON—Skytown Beer Company, the sister-restaurant of downtown’s Beer Barrio, is set to open early next month, combining smokehouse barbecue and craft beer.

Skytown is the latest project from Husband and wife team Stephen Durley and Hayley Jensen. The couple moved to Wilmington with impressive resumes: Durley worked as a chef for Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten; Jensen also worked for Boulud, after he hired her to be his beer sommelier at DBGB Kitchen & Bar in New York City.

The couple opened Beer Barrio in downtown Wilmington in 2015.

Now they’re close to opening their next venture, Skytown Beer Company. Located off New Centre Drive near the Target Shopping center, Skytown brings together Durley and Jensen’s love of beer – and they really do love beer – and barbecue.

‘Best of barbecue’

Chef and co-owner Stephen Durley with a platter of Carolina pulled pork, Texas-style brisket, coleslaw and chips. (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)

Durley described Skytown as a “sandwich driven restaurant,” featuring the “best of barbecue” from around the south and Midwest: Fried chicken, Texas brisket, Carolina pulled pork, Alabama white-sauce chicken, and – in a nod to Durley’s hometown – St. Louis style spare ribs.

The ribs, brisket and pulled pork will be slow cooked overnight, every night, Durley said.

Patrons can also look forward to some outside-the-box appetizers, for example, one dish Durley described as “biscuit-breaded, deep-fried sausage gravy balls.”

Despite the barbecue-heavy line-up, vegetarians and vegans won’t need to feel left out.

“We don’t want anyone to be left out,” Durley said. “So we’ll have gluten-free bread. We’re going to do our own house-smoked jackfruit, with eggplant bacon … we want to make sure vegetarians and vegans can enjoy it too.”

Skytown will also have plenty of local vegetables; the restaurant will feature a seasonally-rotating selection from local farms, courtesy of Carolina Farmin’.

An appropriate finishing touch is Durley’s own creation, a “hop salt,” that blends the floral and citrus notes of hops with salt. Durley’s hop salt will be used on everything from heirloom tomatoes to tater tots and potato chips.

There will also be a complete kid’s menu, Durley said.

Homebrewers go pro

Durley and Jensen aren’t newcomers to the brewing game, winning several awards, including a gold medal at the 2012 National Homebrewers Conference for their take on a Belgian Dark Strong Ale – a beer Durley said would make an appearance on Skytown’s winter tap line-up.

“We’ve brewed over 180 batches of beer,” Durley said. “My wife has been a professional beer sommelier and beer buyer for years, and she’s very good at looking into what’s not out there yet, what’s new.”

Durley said one of Skytown’s flagship beers will be their take on a michelada. Similar to a Mexican lager, it will be dry-hopped with jalapenos and finished with salt and lime. Durley plans to sell it exclusively at Skytown and Beer Barrio.

Skytown will have only a modest 5-barrel brewing system; Durley isn’t looking to distribute beyond Skytown and Beer Barrio.

“I want people to come to Wilmington in order to try it,” Durley said. “I feel like it’s more of a special experience that way.”

Skytown will have 12 taps, serving all Wilmington beers, including those brewed at Skytown as the brewing process moves along.

Opening soon

Located off New Centre Drive near the Target shopping center, Skytown Beer Company plans to open in early July. (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)
Located off New Centre Drive near the Target shopping center, Skytown Beer Company plans to open in early July. (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)

Skytown is finishing construction – including work on the brewhouse by Durley himself – and plans to open in about two weeks, in early July.

Skytown will serve lunch and dinner, Monday through Sunday. The restaurant is located at 4712 New Centre Drive. For more info, and updates on opening day, check out Skytown’s Facebook page.

Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

Related Articles