Brandi Morris spent more than a decade homebrewing before opening Red Moose Brewing Company with her family in downtown Pittsboro
By Eric Ginsburg | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Brandi Morris felt “a little crazy” deciding to open a brewery with her family, but after more than a decade of homebrewing with her husband, Derek “Moose” Morris, the idea was just too irresistible.
“It’s something we had talked about wanting to do forever,” Brandi, 34, says. Plans coalesced quickly on a family trip to Busch Gardens in 2020. Sitting at a packed brewery near Williamsburg, Virginia, Brandi’s dad, Danny “Red” Jenkins Jr. – who recently retired from a career in law enforcement – asked her if she thought they could run a successful brewpub back home in Chatham County. That’s all the push Brandi needed. A month later, the family signed a lease to open Red Moose Brewing Company inside a former karate studio on East Street in downtown Pittsboro.
Glass of Inspiration
Brandi and Derek started brewing about 11 years ago after a trip to Asheville, a craft beer mecca. As self-proclaimed foodies, they are always up for a new culinary experience. Inspired by the likes of Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium, the couple wanted to try their hand at making hard cider. So, they stopped at a farmers market on their way home and bought five bushels of bruised apples.
“We love to try cooking different and new things,” Brandi says. “We saw it as the next progressive challenge in that process.”
But pressing apples proved laborious, and, admittedly, they like beer better. Brandi’s first homemade brew – a Mexican hot chocolate stout with cinnamon, cocoa nibs and four kinds of dried chiles – is still her favorite.
Through the years, she’s experimented with a wide range of recipes, gravitating toward stouts and India pale ales over funkier sour beers or traditional lagers. She and Derek often daydreamed about turning their pastime into a profession, so when her father expressed serious interest in becoming business partners, it felt like the stars aligned.
Over Thanksgiving weekend 2021, the family welcomed the public into their industrial taproom which includes a large moose head mounted to the wall, a kid-friendly space and ample outdoor seating. The glass front entrance is within a stone’s throw of Pittsboro’s central courthouse, and the pub is quickly becoming a local favorite. Each week, they sell 600 to 800 pints – especially of their popular Morning Beer coffee porter and Above Ground Pool lager – and the one-barrel system microbrewery may be outgrowing its production capacity.
“There’s something really satisfying having so much overwhelmingly positive feedback,” Brandi says. “That’s been a really cool thing.”
The family’s deep local roots help draw a crowd. Like many of their relatives, Brandi and Derek both attended Pittsboro’s Northwood High School. Then they connected as friends at North Carolina State University. The couple recently moved to Goldston to have more space for Tatum Morris, their 4-year-old daughter, plus a chicken coop. Brandi and her relatives drew on their community ties to assemble the brewery, too, sourcing decor locally and even reusing some tin from her grandfather’s roof.
Brandi is still holding down a day job as a project manager in clinical trials research for a pharmaceutical contract research organization in Morrisville. Her deliberate and technical expertise, including financial planning, have helped the brewery succeed quickly.
“In my day job, we’re very much risk management-minded,” Brandi says. “I wanted to take things slow and be very thorough and intentional with the brewery.”
At Red Moose, Brandi does a little bit of everything and shares brewing responsibilities with Derek, who left his job as a police officer to work at the brewery full time. On any given day, taproom patrons might find her sitting in one of the brewery’s signature bright red chairs crunching numbers on her laptop, working behind the live-edge wooden bar or brewing a new batch in the back.
“I like getting to interact with people,” Brandi says, “but I also like getting back there, throwing on my boots and brewing.”