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Our Story

The Overview 

 Wrightsville Beach Brewery is committed to being a different kind of brewery, both in the beers we make and the impact we have in our community.   Our mission is to educate our customers about good environmental stewardship and contribute to the sustainability of local charities while also making tremendous beers.  Making beer and giving back to the community have equal standing with us.  One does not trump the other.  This is why we have partnered with 11 local non-profits to donate proceeds from our rotating “Beer of the Month”.  For each month of an 11 month cycle, a different nonprofit will receive proceeds from our featured beer.  Then in December (the season of giving), we will give 11% of all beer proceeds to support all 11 of our partners.  To find out more about the non-profits we partner with, check out our BEERS page.  Why 11%?  It’s widely accepted in a variety of faith groups that people should give away 10% of their income, right? So why not do ‘em one better, and give a little extra?!    

The History  

A long, long time ago in an estuary not that far away, three brainless local oystermen were out at their favorite secret oystering spot, "knocking" a couple of bushels.  They got to thinking about a perplexing question that desperately needed an answer: “Why was it that Wrightsville Beach, home to some of the world’s tastiest oysters, oysters which they thought were best accompanied by beer, didn’t have a local brewery???  These three brainless oystermen came from a family that had been gathering Wrightsville Beach’s bounty for generations.  They knew beer was always consumed (in rather large quantities) at the backyard oyster roasts, shrimp-a-roos and low country boils that their family hosted for friends.  And yet, why hadn't anyone thought to make their own beer?  So two of the  oystermen, knowing far more about seafood than beer, started home brewing.  Their first batch of beer was amazing...ly flat!  Turns out yeast doesn't take heat as well as an oyster does.  The second batch wasn't much better—apparently using the same equipment for brewing beer as steaming seafood wasn’t the best idea.  After this discovery they invested in the proper equipment, never (ok... rarely) intermingling brewing beer with steaming oysters again.  As the years passed, three oystermen became two, and then two became one. Despite these losses, many solid friends stepped up to support the last oysterman in making his family’s dream a reality.  Now, surrounded by friends far more competent than he, the last brainless oysterman has become a reluctant brewer (still preferring time in the marsh to time stirring wort). This oysterman, his waaaayy more intelligent wife and his group of friends / staff make for a team that guarantees your brews are tasty, your seafood is fresh and the atmosphere is always inviting—just like at a backyard oyster roasts for friends.

Our Staff

Jud Watkins - Owner, Brewer and Head Oyster Shucker

A Wilmington native, Jud grew up oystering with his father and grandfather in Wrightsville Beach and Masonboro marshes.  It was in these marshes that the trio dreamed up plans for a brewery and oyster house that would be a nod to Wilmington’s rich coastal history, educate patrons about environmental preservation and give back to the community.  Jud developed a passion for the food and beverage industry through several years spent homebrewing and working in Washington DC’s restaurant scene.   When not at the brewery, Jud is best found surf kayaking, oystering or otherwise enjoying the outdoors with his wife, Amber.

Contact Jud at info@wbbeer.com

Amber Watkins - Co-Owner, Events Director and Philanthropic Liaison

With a background in social work and non-profit management, Amber shares Jud’s passion for creating a small business focused on giving back to the local community.  Amber also loves nothing more than to throw a good party and has thrown her fair share through her experience working in the hospitality industry and managing charity fundraising events.  Playing outside is Amber’s number one hobby and she is newly obsessed with joining Jud in the marsh.  Match made in heaven?  We think so.

Contact Amber at events@wbbeer.com

Chef Owens, Kitchen Magician and Food Disposal Specialist

Chef Owen’s introduction to kitchen life began at age three, when his mother began calling him “little chef” (in fact, his real first name is a bit of a mystery--with even his marriage certificate referring to him as “Chef”).  He began working in his first commercial kitchen at nine years old and was running the show by age sixteen.  Chef has worked in 23 countries, earning AA Rosette Awards, Diamond Awards and three Michelin stars.  Chef Owens is passionate about organic/Non-GMO food, focused on sourcing local/sustainable products and strives for guest's satisfaction one plate at a time.

Contact Chef Owens at chef@wbbeer.com

Rick Grant - General Manager and Director of Shenanigans

With a background in restaurant & hotel operations management, Rick is passionate about beer, food, whiskey, wine, live music and all the other critical ingredients of a good party. Having grown up in the popular shore town of Wildwood, NJ, Rick has always led a coastal lifestyle, and solemnly swears to bring relaxed beach vibes to the brewery. Transplanted from Philadelphia, Rick and his wife Bridgette made Wilmington home in 2012 and are now proud parents of their son River.

Contact Rick at gm@wbbeer.com

Kevin Zelnio - Director of Brewing Operations and Deep Sea Brewologist

After working as a deep sea marine biologist on the NC coast for over a decade, Kevin and his wife traveled to Sweden where he first dipped his toes into the brewing world by opening a small production brewery in the basement of an old prison.  After several years abroad, Kevin returned to the US to work as a production brewer at Jdub's Brewery in Sarasota, FL.  Wrightsville Beach Brewery lured Kevin back to Wilmington with the promise of brewing a wide diversity of styles with nontraditional, local ingredients.  Kevin is a lager aficionado and is proud to pair his liquid alchemy with Chef Owen’s unique cuisine!

Contact Kevin at brewer@wbbeer.com

Anthony Palermo - Assistant General Manager and reigning Connect Four Champion

Anthony offers Wrightsville Beach Brewery a boatload of knowledge developed through many years working in wine/beer distribution and the Raleigh foodie scene.  A seasoned wine enthusiast and a founding partner of the Wilmington Tasting room, he has a passion for the food and beverage industry (and vintage video games) that is contagious.  Anthony and his daughter relocated to the Wilmington area from Raleigh for the allure of the Carolina coast.  Didn’t we all!!