Rocky Mount rising

In an Eastern North Carolina town that once played host to an old cotton mill, theres something else spinning.

The community at Rocky Mount Mills is crafting their own story with big ideas.”There is a lot of momentum here right now. This is the right time to build and explore this area in a different way making this space a vibrant and active part of the community,” said Evan Covington Chavez, development manager of the Rocky Mount Mills.This community was established on the grounds of the second-oldest cotton mill in North Carolina. The original wood beams, brick and vast windows overlooking the Tar River provide a historic feel in a place where you can discover, build, and create.”A lot of what we are doing is providing a place where people can create and tell their own story. We’re helping Rocky Mount find its momentum and resurgence,” said Chavez.The site was purchased in 2007 by Capital Broadcasting and in 2014 the vision began for a new realm of possibilities. Rocky Mount Mills is a carefully sculpted community spanning 80-acres that includes a brewery incubator, office spaces, outdoor spaces for music, games or hopping on the Tar River Paddle Trail, and new village homes for rent. Apartments at the Mills are in the future plan.Brewmasters Erin Flora and Eric Ghiloni found a place and a space in the brewery incubators at the Mills to craft their own stories as they each created the next great craft beers.”Start-up breweries are notoriously expensive to operate. The Rocky Mount Mills incubators was an opportunity that presented itself and was the best fit for our plan,” said Erin Flora, brewmaster at Sweet Taters Brewpub.”We use Eastern North Carolina crops in our beer,” she added. “Sweet potatoes are the number one produce from Nash County so we use several potato varieties in some of our beers.”Sweet Taters offers guests a variety of taps including Golden Belle, an American pale ale, and Evangeline’s Lemon Tart, a fruit beer. Nibbles included everything from the classic buffalo chicken flatbreads to smoked pulled pork sliders to the famous Herbivore’s Delight sandwich.In the incubator next door, you’ll find more local brews from Koi Pond Brewing Company.”I knew I wanted to get into the brewing industry — it’s something that I love. The Mills gave us the place to craft what we do and that’s giving customers a good product, a solid brand, and a good location,” said Ghiloni, brewmaster at Koi Pond.”We are Rocky Mount’s first craft brewery offering 25-26 varieties of beer that we rotate through. We’ve never sold a keg. Every drop of beer we’ve made has been sold right here,” he added.At Koi Pond, beer drinkers will find Double Dragon Imperial IPA, Rising Sun Mocha Java Stout, Voodoo Wit and Falls Road Golden Kolsch to name a few.To further assist brew makers, the Rocky Mount Mills has partnered with Nash Community College which offers innovators the opportunity to earn a Brewing, Distillation and Fermentation Degree.”When you look around Eastern North Carolina, craft breweries are on the rise. Students are able to learn not only the brewing skills needed, but also the business side of this entrepreneur tract. We’re teaching them the science of brewing as well as the business components to market, advertise, and manage sales,” said Dr. Trent Mohrbutter, vice president for instruction and chief academic officer.Students gain a full associate’s degree in applied science in two years and can find a space in the brewery incubators at the Mills to begin their business.”We want students to do more than just mix ingredients together. We want them to have a career in craft brewing,” added Mohrbutter.Between Nash Community College and the Rocky Mount Mills, people can craft their business, their story, their future. They can find a place to join their neighbors, grab a cold beer, and see the next great chapter in their community unfold.