Going All In: The Evolution of Lost Colony Brewery and Cafe

By Heather Frese

At some point in our lives, all humans face a sort of existential crisis. Who am I? What’s my purpose here? Turns out businesses are not exempt from this sort of questioning either.     
Case in point: Lost Colony Brewery and Cafe, formerly Full Moon Cafe and Lost Colony Brewery, née Full Moon Cafe. “We’re still the same folks!” says Paul Charron, who owns the cafe along with his wife, Sharon Enoch.

Full Moon Cafe has been a beloved dining destination on the Outer Banks since 1995. In 2011 they became The Full Moon Cafe and Brewery, a favorite brew pub. In 2013 they became the fastest-growing locally crafted beer on the Outer Banks. By 2014 the beer they distributed to other restaurants became known as Lost Colony beer. Confusing? It was to Paul and Sharon and a lot of their loyal customers (even the sober ones). The search for The Lost Colony of Roanoke Island took on a new meaning as thousands of thirsty travelers with charts, treasure maps and smart phones in hand searched for the brewery. So it’s with great gusto and much enthusiasm that they announce a new name for the same great place for fresh dining and hand-crafted beer in downtown Manteo: Lost Colony Brewery and Cafe!

Sharon and Paul came to the Outer Banks in the dreary winter of 1989. It was to be a brief stop in Paul’s aviation career, a short sojourn to build up flying hours and land a spot with a major airline. Fate intervened. They bought a house, started a family, and in the fall of 1995 Sharon opened The Full Moon Cafe in Manteo. Paul ended up joining Sharon in 1996, and they’ve run the restaurant as a joint venture for 20 some years, expanding a little each season. “The genius behind this whole thing is my wife,” Paul says. “She wanted it to be different.” With offerings like gourmet sandwiches, hummus, quiches and baked brie, the cafe offered a little bit of elegance in a casual atmosphere. 

And then came the beer. In 2002 the mayor of Manteo unknowingly changed the course of the Full Moon Cafe’s existence when he stopped by to see if Paul wanted to try out the home brew kit he’d gotten for Christmas. Paul was hooked. “I started brewing as many times and as much as I could,” Paul says. Over the years his brew pots grew bigger and bigger as he tried recipes searching for the perfect brown ale. His passion for brewing was such that he decided he could come home and brew all night after the restaurant closed, an idea quickly shot down by his wife who pointed out that pesky biological need for sleep. Instead, in 2011, Sharon offered Paul her pottery studio that was connected to the restaurant. Paul says, “We turned it into the smallest brewery ever!” 

In 2011, Paul distinctly remembers saying, “Oh, no. We’ll never brew for anyone other than us.” Well, so much for that. Though they only intended to use the beer exclusively at their own cafe (their motto is “we drink all we can and sell the rest!”), Paul and Sharon started getting requests from other restaurants for their brown ale. They began making batches on order and hired a brew master, Owen Sullivan. “He’s the beer whisperer,” Paul says.  Owen added different flavors to their beer line and sent eight beers to the World Beer Championships — every single one came away with a medal. In a few short years Lost Colony Ale became available on tap in more than 30 locations on the Outer Banks. They needed bigger pots and a much bigger location. 

A two-year search led Paul and Sharon down the sound to the fishing village and the good people of Stumpy Point ... yep, that’s a real place. There they found a 10,000-square-foot former boat shop, pure water and a perfect view. They’ve gone from a 120-square-foot pub to a warehouse that holds some really big pots, capable of producing 1,000 gallons of beer at a time.  Paul and Sharon’s new production brewery is a “Malt Disneyland” nestled amidst the shrimp boats and crab pots.

But while the success of the brewing aspect of their business was exhilarating, Paul and Sharon found that their customers were confused, coming in looking for the brewery and finding the cafe or vice versa. “We were like Sybil for a while there,” Paul says. “We had so many personalities it was crazy.” It was time to evolve and meld the two businesses back into one. “We decided we had to be all in or all out,” Paul says.  Thus, the Lost Colony Brewery and Cafe was born.

Lost Colony Brewery and Cafe is located on a bustling corner in the heart of downtown Manteo, lending the restaurant a dynamic, trendy feel. You can sit outside with your dog under big umbrellas or by a window indoors; both choices offer a great view of historic downtown Manteo. The atmosphere is fun, relaxed and welcoming, with family-friendly service. They even have a basket of toys and miniature tea sets for kids. The dedicated staff, many of whom have worked for Paul and Sharon for years, give the place a happy, friendly vibe. 

Their food is diverse and delectable, using local ingredients when available. Fresh fish is brought in from the Wanchese docks, and seasonal North Carolina produce is delivered daily. Whenever possible they incorporate their brew into the menu choices. The beer-battered fish and chips (using Lost Colony Brown Ale) is a favorite, the Beer Cheese Soup is to die for and the homemade Imperial Stout Mustard has developed a cult following.

They are also dedicated to the community and the environment. Massive amounts of spent grain from the brewery are freely offered to local farmers to feed their livestock, rain water is recycled to water the garden and thousands of pounds of cardboard and bottles are recycled each year. Spent grains are also used to produce their signature Brew Chews, dog biscuits beloved by local and visiting canines. This year $1 will be donated to the local SPCA for every bag sold.

At the end of day, Paul and Sharon took a good look into their souls and asked themselves on behalf of their business, “Who are we?” 

Well, they’re the Full Moon Cafe. The one the New York Daily news called “brilliant,” the one the Boston Globe called “friendly, affordable and delicious.” The cafe the Philadelphia Enquirer, Washington Post and Atlanta Journal loved.

They’re the Full Moon Brewery, winner of eight World Beer Cups,  the place that world-renowned craft beer expert Charlie Pappazion said had a Porter as good as any he’s ever tasted. And, they’re the Lost Colony Brewery, with beers in more than 50 locations on the Outer Banks from Corolla to Orcracoke. They’re the home town joint where first dates, prom dates, wedding proposals, family gatherings, birthdays and bridal showers have taken place for 22 years.

 

208 Queen Elizabeth St. | Manteo, NC 27954 | (252) 473-6666