A mug of liquid gold sits on the bar at The National Tavern. Ittybitty bubbles rise like celebratory balloons into a pillow of frosty foam. A trip past the lips will be the next segment in the beer’s not-so-lengthy life journey from the Oconee Brewing Company in downtown Greensboro to where it now sits, flirting in a light sweat.

“It’s a favorite choice around here,” says Reynolds Director of Restaurant Services Oliver Wilcher, “partly because it comes from around here.”

Around here. Those words are worth exploring.

Twenty minutes up Highway 44 from Reynolds is a building with such a nondescript exterior that it could house stacks of lumber or stacks of boats. Inside, a visitor is consumed by stacks of beer. Silver kegs. Red cans. There’s even an empty bar with taps just waiting to be pulled. A placard on the wall reminds everyone of a very important fact: “Brewed by men, not machines.”

The men are Oconee Brewing founder, Taylor Lamm, and head brewer, Jake Vogel. They’re the only people here on a weekday at 1:00 p.m. Taylor looks for a quiet place to tell the full story of the brewery’s tight relationship with Reynolds, including the parts that have never been told. Humming sounds echo off glimmering metal containers.“

The noise means beer is being made, which is a good thing,” he says. “It also means someone is enjoying the beer somewhere, and that’s a really good thing.”

Somewhere is, among other places, The National Tavern and Eighty8 Kitchen + Cocktails. The connection between Reynolds and this brewery has become legendary to the people who know about it.

“The Members at Reynolds might not know this,” Taylor says, “but they were along for the ride with us before we were even up and running.”

Reynolds Members like to bring their friends to the brewery as a little tourist getaway. When there’s rain in the forecast, we have to be well-stocked.

Taylor points back to a Friday night in September 2016, when he stood at a tasting station during an outdoor barbecue event on The Ritz-Carlton lawn. He had no signs and no free t-shirts to hand out — just a couple kegs and a swiveling tower of tasting glasses.

“I had one shot to impress anyone who stopped by,” he says of that night. “Most people hadn’t heard of us yet. I was confident in our recipes, but our future came down to the people stopping and asking for a sip. What would they say about our beer?”

At that event, Taylor would pour samples while quickly explaining to curious event attendees that that his brewery was being finished just up the road in Greensboro. The Members liked him, the beer, and the fact he’d be making it in the greater neighborhood. Now that it’s all history, Taylor has a confession: he made those batches in South Carolina and drove them across the state line on a route that required some legal clearance.

“This building wasn’t quite ready before the event,” he says. “As the new guys with the new product, we had to find a way to pull it off. Those samples were the start of a great relationship with Reynolds.” The feedback also assured Taylor that he’d made the right career move.

Before he dabbled in barley, Taylor counted money. A 2006 graduate from the University of Georgia, he began his career in banking. For fun, he bought a $40 home-brewing kit and made beer in his kitchen. “At the time I thought it was the best beer ever, but now that I know better, I can admit that it wasn’t.” He studied books, bought better equipment, and eventually gave up his nice bi-weekly paycheck with the bank to learn the science of his new craft in two of the world’s beer-drinking capitals: Germany and Chicago.

He also worked in breweries to discover the nuances of flavor, balance, and those bubbles. Fully versed and invested, he then began to innovate in the same place that has given us Microsoft and Amazon: a garage.

“My neighbors were curious about what was going on,” he says. (One lady stopped her car at Taylor’s driveway and asked if he was boiling peanuts in his garage.) The brewery finally opened in 2017, around the same time “Oconee” appeared on a tap at The Tavern. Reynolds Members have been a built-in focus group ever since.

“It’s meaningful because of the high standards at Reynolds,” Taylor says. “If the Members keep ordering our beer, then we must be exceeding expectations.” The Reynolds community made his Kolsch a staple beer at The Tavern from the beginning. It’s become a best-seller throughout the southeast. Taylor and Jake call it … wait for it …

“An ‘around here’ beer,” Jake says.

“That means it’s consumed around here and made around here.” There’s no better place than here.

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