By Page Leggett
On Thursday, Sept. 29 , Suzie Ford was at work. But she wasn’t exactly working. She and her husband, Todd, own NoDa Brewing Co. in Charlotte. Their Hop, Drop ‘n Roll IPA put them on the map when it won the Gold Award at the 2014 World Beer Cup. Now, the brewery has two locations and 44 employees. By the end of this year, Ford says she expects NoDa to produce about 22,000 barrels of beer. And to think before starting the brewery, the California native was contemplating becoming a court reporter. Now, NoDa plays host to frequent events and charity fundraisers, including Ales for Autism and performances by the all-female Shakespeare troupe known as Chickspeare. Ford, 49, has a particular fondness for Pink Pint Night, an annual event put on by Charlotte Radiology that raises money to provide free mammograms for uninsured women.
What would you typically be doing on a Thursday at 6 p.m.?
Sadly, still working. This is a great excuse to take off early.
Whose idea was Pink Pint Night?
Charlotte Radiology came to us with the idea four years ago. We started small and raised about $5,000 the first year. This year, we raised $40,000. There’s no admission charge, but there’s a silent auction, and $1 of every Pink Pint sold during October goes to the Breast Cancer Fund.
And you serve pink beer. What makes it pink?
Well, it’s a different brew every year. This year, hibiscus and cherry make it red. It’s a Belgian Pale Ale and is lower in alcohol. Our brew house team is very creative.
let’s talk about the rest of your day. What time does it start?
Ohhhh, I get up at 5:30.
Argh! I would sooner die.
I know. I am not a morning person. I never thought I could do this, but now I love it. I like getting to the office before anyone else and starting my day off peacefully. I get to work at 6:45 and get the drivers — with all their kegs or cans — out on their way. This is the only “set” thing I do all day. The rest of my day is varied and hectic, but it always starts out quiet at 6:45.
How do you and Todd split your duties?
We’re lucky; our talents don’t overlap. Todd had been a chemistry major at [Washington and Lee University] and then became an airline pilot. He understands the brewing process. I had been in operations, accounting and personnel before we opened NoDa. So, once the beer is canned or kegged, my crew takes over.
Do you have a favorite time-management tip?
Getting up early has made the biggest difference for me. Being the only one in the office — not counting one of the dogs [the Fords have three “pound mutts”] — is when I mentally prepare for the day.
What’s one thing you do, without fail, every week – just because you love to?
Have lunch with my best friend [Elaine Claiborne], who’s really like my sister. We never vary our routine; we always meet at Sabor Latin Street Grill [in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood].
What’s something you do each week, without fail – even though you dread it?
Get up at 5:30. Are you seeing a common thread here?
It’s obvious what’s great about owning a brewery. (The beer, duh.) But what’s tough about it?
In North Carolina, there’s a self-distribution cap of 25,000 barrels. That’s a real challenge for us. [After craft brewers reach the cap, they’re required to sign over their beer to a wholesaler who controls sales and distribution and is likely selling other brands, too.] People tend to think we drink beer all day, but that’s not the case. This is a fun business, but it’s still a business. Owning your own business — even a brewery — is stressful. We have 44 employees, and we’re responsible for their livelihoods. We take that responsibility seriously, but we also want to create a good work environment. But at the end of a bad day, we do have good beer to drink.