Winston, a friendly bulldog, lounges in the wide storefront of
the recently opened beer and wine shop on King Street, situated next to beansTalk
The store, Bulldog Beer and Wine, is a new addition to the Boone area, the brainchild of Rob Johnson and Kenneth Beam.
Johnson decided that a beer and wine shop was where he needed to be after 40 years of living in Charlotte.
"I was in commercial residential real estate and finance," Johnson said. "When the market went south, I decided to reinvent myself, as to where I'm at."
Johnson moved into the mountains, citing that the healthier atmosphere was a big draw.
"The air is better, the water is better, the people are better," Johnson said. "I figured I would move up here and try to grow some roots in the mountains."
Johnson started his store in 2009 in Banner Elk, but the lack of air-conditioning was not good for his beer and wine, so he found a new place in Boone.
The storefront is not only a place to purchase and take beer and wine; as a wine shop, the store can sell wine by the glass right in the store.
"We can have wine tastings," Johnson said. "We can have wine classes; I have a wonderful DVD series on the different wine-growing regions of the world that we are going to start on Tuesday nights."
The tastings and classes held at Bulldog will be free and open to the public, and will be announced more as the store gets revved up in the coming months. "It's part of our obligation as a wine shop to educate the public about wine," Johnson said.
The name of the store came from Johnson's time at University of Georgia at Athens, where the mascot is a bulldog.
"I've been around bulldogs a long time," Johnson said. "I've had a couple of bulldogs, they are just lovable creatures."
The plans for the store are still growing, and they include promoting a strong online presence that will eventually lead to a regional warehouse that can ship craft beer and specialty wines around the country.
"We aren't going to be a brewery, but we do brew our own beer," Johnson said.
On the subject of bulldogs, Winston has famous roots.
"Winston's granddaddy was the bulldog in the movie Leatherheads," Johnson said. "Winston is 2, and he's a real ham."
As far as favorites, Johnson has varied tastes.
"My tastes change as the seasons change," Johnson said. "As the weather gets cooler, my tastes lean toward the porters and stouts and winter seasonals."
Bulldog offers pumpkin flavored beer in time for October and Halloween festivities.
In wine, Johnson prefers red wines, though he can advocate white wine when paired with the right food.
"The mood has to be right, and the food," Johnson said. "It tends to be crisper and prefers light fare like fish or salad."
The store has two full coolers of beer, as well as soft drinks and water now, and is installing a third cooler in the coming weeks.
The employees are happy to offer advice on homebrewing and on what kind of beer might be right for someone's tastes.
"We aren't here to reinvent the wheel," Johnson said. "We want to make this beer and wine environment a memorable experience. We want to be a place for people to come talk beer."
Johnson is excited about the possibilities. "I wake up and come to work with a smile on my face now," Johnson said.
Bulldog Beer and Wine is located on King Street in downtown Boone, just across from First Baptist Church.
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