To many, the idea of a clubhouse brings up memories of childhood hide-outs and secrets hoarded between kids just looking for a place to be… well, kids. The founders of Protagonist Clubhouse, three childhood best friends—Ryan McKillen, Ryan Owens and Mike Salzarulo—may have outgrown the kinds of clubhouses found tucked in backyard sheds or blanket forts, but they’ve nevertheless managed to replicate the relaxation and happiness of that time in their own business.
“Back when we were kids who had the world in the palm of our hands,” Ryan shares, “the clubhouse is where we would go to create the next great thing, vent about problems we were having or to simply hang and escape the real world. That’s what we want this place to be—a spot for friends to gather, reconnect, brainstorm, laugh, and cry.”
Intimate and Local
Protagonist is a 1700 square-foot space with stylish light wood and greenery detailing. The business relies heavily on its ties to the local community. That, and the owners’ and brewers’ penchant for experimentation. McKillen, Owens, and Salzarulo source local as much as possible. Everything from the ingredients for beer and food to the non-food items like dishware and furniture come from the region. Advanced Cicerone Christopher Westgard is the beverage and education director. Meanwhile, Wicked Weed alumnus Jeremy Claeys will serve as head brewer.
Their emphasis on supporting local makes for a neighborly feeling menu. Plus, visitors feel right at home in the intimate 30-seat space. Yet their commitment to varying the beer menu ensures intrigue.
“Patrons can expect a wide variety of beer brands and beer styles,” says Mike. “And a lot of those won’t necessarily be coming from Protagonist. The Clubhouse is a place where great beer is celebrated—and great beer doesn’t only come from your own tanks. We want our guests to experience and experiment with styles of beer they normally wouldn’t. It’s all in the spirit of expanding palates, minds, and discovering new go-to beers.”
The Beer Is the Protagonist
Because of their commitment to curating a unique beer menu, guests hoping to quench their thirst with spirits will have to look elsewhere. Still, the founders don’t view this as a negative.
“Simply put, the lack of spirits is because this is a beer bar. We take an inordinate amount of time and energy to curate the best beer selection possible. We really feel strongly that beer can stand on its own when properly procured and cared for.”
By focusing solely on beer, Protagonist Clubhouse can not only create high-quality small-batch brews, but also use beer in innovative ways. Guests will find beer-based cocktails alongside seasonal beers and local favorites.
Protagonist Clubhouse is now open in NoDa, but that’s not the only place you can expect to find the micro-brewery’s beer. The founders plan to expand their brand to new locations, including one set to open in 2020.