Southern Pines Brewing Co.
BREWING A NEW KIND OF EXCITEMENT: MICAH NIEBAUER DIVES INTO ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The community of Southern Pines in North Carolina didn’t have a single brewery...that is until Micah Niebauer and his two friends decided to make it their project to open one. In October of 2014, Southern Pines Brewing Company had its grand opening with no employees and just a few wholesale accounts. Now it’s thriving at two separate locations, but its original motto of “rooted in community” still holds strong.
Neibauer didn’t grow up with dreams of being a brewmaster, but he has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, which grew stronger during his years in the military.
Growing up in Wisconsin, Neibauer played baseball and got out hunting often. The first typed letter he can remember writing was to his uncle, who had been a helicopter door gunner in the Vietnam War. “My uncle had a huge influence on me,” says Niebauer. “I asked him if he would send me his old army stuff, and after he did I had Halloween costumes for the rest of my life.”
Neibauer joined the army after graduating from the ROTC program at Wheaton College in Chicago, and served for 11 years, starting in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg and later serving as a Green Beret in the 3rd Special Forces Group.
Micah Niebauer, John Brumer and Jason Ginos, met in the army while stationed at Fort Bragg, a military base just 35-miles from Southern Pines. The three friends hit a turning point in their military careers around the same time— their roles were transitioning from frontline action to instructor, staff, and command jobs. “We were all looking for something fulfilling post-military,” says Neibauer. “We wanted to find a way to do something that would keep the risk and excitement in our lives, even if that looked a little different than it did in the past.”
The three friends decided that taking entrepreneurial risk was the next step for them. No longer putting their lives on the line, they would start a business - taking on financial risk and believing their hard work would pay off. There was one question left...what kind of business did they want to start?
With little-to-no experience in the beer industry, aside from a few attempts at homebrewing, they decided the community of Southern Pines needed a brewery. “The catalyst for us was listening to a podcast about a man in his thirties who started a brewery,” says Neibauer. “We were immediately sold on the idea because we felt that a brewery was a way to bring a community together.”
Micah, John and Jason visited as many breweries as possible, taking note of what they liked and what they didn’t, all while increasing their knowledge of how to make beer. Micah and John took Siebel Institute of Technology’s Concise Course on Brewing Technology, and then travelled out to San Diego to take the Essential Quality Control Course at White Labs, living out of an RV in the parking lot.
“The Southern Pines community is amazing,” says Niebauer. “All of the folks in the Special Ops live out here, but it doesn’t have a military feel at all. Everyone has been so supportive of the brewery from the very beginning, and we make sure to give back to our community as much as we can.”
“I really appreciate what we have here in this country - the ability to come up with an idea, find potential financing, and take a risk,” says Neibauer. “It’s a very unique thing in the history of the world - it’s part of the American Dream.”
Niebauer says that a lot of the skills needed to start a successful business from scratch were learned from his work in the military, but it’s not something he advertises. “When I started the brewery I didn't want people to buy my beer because I’m a veteran,” he says. “I wanted them to buy it because I’m a good brewer.”
Eventually, Brumer and Ginos left the business, choosing different life paths and leaving Niebauer to run the show. In 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he opened a second taproom in downtown Southern Pines. The business is all-consuming for Niebauer, but in a positive way. “Even just from a creative standpoint, the brewery is a complete outlet for me,” he says. “I haven’t needed a break from it yet!”
Niebauer tries to keep the brewery a fun place for the whole community to enjoy, and his three children can often be found gallivanting around the taprooms. During the lockdown last year, he built a ninja warrior course using obstacles he had lying around at the brewery - like bags of grain - to keep the kids occupied while he worked.
“I hope to impart on my kids a good moral compass and a sense of stewardship to their community,” he says.
Niebauer doesn’t have a go-to beer, because he always wants to try what’s new. That seems to resonate in all parts of his life - it all comes down to shaking things up, trying new things, and keeping it interesting while contributing to the community.