Like the rest of the buildings around Winston Salem’s historic Ardmore district, Stella Brew’s about as unassuming as it comes from the outside. Operating out of a remodeled pharmacy building, the bottle shop, whose name plays off the Grateful Dead song “Stella Blue,” fits in perfectly with its neighborhood surroundings.
You can kick a rock to PB’s Takeout, a cramped, cash-only burger and dog joint that’s, well, as good as you would expect. Stella boasts the same kind of secret bonus inside as well. In fact, the day we were there, it felt like a … BOMB! had gone off.
This was in late May, the Friday before Lagunitas was coming to town for a tap takeover and immediately after Prairie started shipping out BOMB!. (Yes, sometimes we’re slow. Whatever. Blame the beer.)
Obviously they had a lot of BOMB! on hand — that doesn’t include them having it on tap at the growler station.
Said growler station is actually the highlight of Stella, as it often features difficult-to-find beer, a wide variety of quality brews and some easily accessible beers if that’s your thing.
Go look at their tap list over the past week or so. You’ve got stuff from Olde Meck, Fullsteam and Haw River. Wicked Weed (Freak, Coolcumber, Pernicious) is abundant. And there’s harder to find stuff like Great Divide’s Yeti, Stone’s Enjoy By or Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin.
The quality of the fill here is good too. I picked up a growler of BOMB! and, because of a variety of issues involving travel and a personal memory disorder, didn’t drink it for a few weeks. Upon realizing this problem, Mrs. Brinson and I celebrated our anniversary by cracking it open. Nearly three weeks (!) after having it filled, it was still completely carbonated and quite delectable. Obviously letting growlers age isn’t preferable, much less advisable, but finding out Stella’s doing high-quality fills was a small bonus.
Also consumed on the anniversary? A bottle of Olde Hickory’s Omega Point. You probably know this beer from being impossibly hard to find, but well over a month after its release, Stella still had a few bottles. The price point ($24.99) was pretty solid too.
Speaking of prices, it’s absolutely worth noting how much better Stella’s prices are than the other primary bottle shop in Winston, City Beverage. I visited both shops on the same day and the price of BOMB! was at least a full dollar cheaper at Stella than CB. That’s a massive difference over the course of a six pack. I’ve also purchased Omega Point at CB before and it was $28.99 at the time. If you’re investing significant financial resources into imbibing quality beer, you don’t want to be getting hammered on a mark up. Stella does a nice job of keeping prices lower than they could based strictly on the competition.
We’re not talking a limited selection here, either. I came away with a pleasing haul, including a few beers we covered here already. (The AMB selections are all awesome.)
There’s a particularly unusual — or at least different — portion of the store that appeals to the dad-bod athletic crowd in all of us. The guys running Stella are avid disc golf fans and cater to that crowd in a way you don’t find very often these days.
(During the original disc golf “boom” of the early to mid aught’s, stores selling the hard-plastic Frisbees were popping up more often than breweries, or at least that’s how I don’t remember it from that stretch in college. What a gloriously cheap hobby that was. Heady times, man. Heady times.)
The biggest problem for Stella is a lack of draft beer (something the competition does offer, a sizable advantage for City Beverage). You can’t shop for beer while drinking beer. That’s a big negative in my book, especially when you’re talking about a place with great growler selection. Tasting beer while shopping isn’t just fun, it’s guaranteed to end up moving some more product for you.
Stella makes up for the lack of drafts by routinely having events at the store, meaning plenty of taste-testing can happen.
Take away the draft issue and it’s easily one of the best triad locations for picking up high-end beer at a quality price. Highly recommended if you’re in Winston or simply passing through.