Into The Unknown

Unknown Brewing Company
Unknown Brewing Company

Saint Arnulf of Metz, a Frankish priest who rose to become Bishop, lived during the Dark Ages (6th century CE). Believing water unsafe to drink, Arnulf preached the need to drink beer. According to legend, it was 642 CE when the parishioners of Metz went to Remiremont to recover his remains. The return trip to Metz was long and the terrain rough.  With little to drink, the parishioners feared for their lives and prayed, “By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnulf will bring us what we lack.” It is said that a small remnant of beer appeared at the bottom of a pot and continued to multiply until they arrived safely back in Metz.  

As a result, the Catholic Church canonized Arnulf giving him the title of Patron Saint of Beer. As he so aptly said during his lifetime, “From Man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.”  Wise words from a different era, but ones Brad Shell, founder of the Unknown Brewing Company can embrace wholeheartedly.

Shell started in the beer trade by accident.  In the right place at the right time, he asked the magic question and was hired on the spot.  Native to Atlanta, Georgia, Shell started working at SweetWater Brewing Company.  Loving the work, he found himself in a perfect position.  He learned from the ground up every aspect of running a brewery from an “underqualified” simpleton, to packaging manager, to building labs and engineering breweries.  Shell was at SweetWater for about three years when he was offered a temporary consulting job at Terrapin Beer Co.  Once in Athens, Georgia, he helped build bar lines, labs, and trained employees.  

It was about this time when Shell made a personal declaration.  “I vowed to myself,” says Shell, “that I would own my own brewery by the time I turned 30.”   This has come to fruition, but there were still a few holes in his education that needed filling before breaking ground on the 22,000+ square foot industrial space the Unknown Brewing Company calls home.

As a consultant at Terrapin Beer, his time on the job was not permanent.  When the offer of full time work came available, Shell received an additional offer from Rogue Ales Brewing Company in Oregon. Choosing the latter, he jumped at the chance.  It was an “awesome career opportunity,” Shell says.  “Here I was the youngest in the company. It drives you nuts and puts you in the hot seat, especially when you realize you are running three brew clubs and two distilleries. But these opportunities taught me that I really could make a go of it.   After five years in the making, beer is flying out the door [of my very own brewery]. It’s a miracle.”

With the opening of The Unknown Brewing Company, Shell’s dream became a reality. Charlotte is a growing city with “lots of people coming in from all parts of the country.  It’s a perfect place for craft beer,” says Shell.  “And besides, we are closer to our family.”  Embraced by both the local craft breweries and people of Charlotte, Shell stands by his word that “if you talk a good game, you’’ve got to deliver it.”  

With the beer culture being very similar to the wine culture there is an agenda. “I permanently want to change the face of beer and the culture surrounding it.  I want to showcase knowledge, talent, and passion for all things beer.” As a result, the brewery produces four core beers: an Indian Pale Ale (American style with more hops, more alcohol, more flavor, and with a thick white head), a Pale Ale (golden tan with a “light crisp sweetness and great body”), a wheat beer (light with a “smooth creamy note”), and what Shell calls a Pre-Game beer (lower hops, lower alcohol with a golden color).    

The Unknown Brewing Company is “unapologetic, always looking forward in an esoteric approach to brewing beer.”  Different from other craft brewers in Charlotte, Shell’s knowledge base, large scale production, and history incorporates personal experience with nationwide distribution.  The brewery has 30 tanks.  Each tank holds 13,000 pints of beer and takes two weeks to refill.  Twelve taps run at all times serving Shell’s special four core beers.  “It’s more important for us to get one beer perfect than several beers just so-so.  We don’t throw razzle-dazzle into it; less is best.”

Branching out in the future, Shell sees the company collaborating and making some “crazy beer.” The energy and passion he and his staff have towards beer is different than one would imagine.  According to Shell, “beer is a lifestyle.”  It’s a journey where dreams are reached, aspirations achieved, and life lived to its fullest.  For further information go to or grab a beer at 1327 South Mint Street, three blocks south of Panthers Stadium.