If you were following us on Twitter over the weekend, you probably noticed we weren’t at Bele Chere. In true Bruisin’ Ales last-minute fashion, Jason & I decided to hit the road across the state, chasing down some beers at breweries we’ve never visited (shamefully). Leaving the store in the able hands of Mike and Craig, the bosses took to the highway for a 4-day North Carolina beer adventure. We didn’t see everyone or everything we wanted to, but we did cram a bunch of sites into a whirlwind trip, met up with a lot of great people, and of course, drank many beers from our fine state and beyond.
And, we properly defaced to brewery beer coolers, too! That’s Jamie Bartholamus of Foothills Brewing throwing a little beerlanthropy® on his wall. All our pictures are below, followed by a little bit on each visit, if you’re the reading type.
Olde Hickory Brewing Company (Hickory)
Hickory Taproom (Hickory)
First stop with Steve Lylerly, brewmaster at Olde Hickory Brewing. The brewery was much larger than we had imagined it to be, filled with tanks, barrels and a killer private bar with amazing woodwork. It was hot, so we started out with a Piedmont Pilsner, but then went straight to a new batch of Imperial Stout when offered.
The Hickory Taproom is a stone’s throw from the brewery, too. Feels like a taproom should feel. Get the fish-n-chips or the fried oysters with buffalo plum sauce. No regret there!
Cool thing: The brewery was making its 500th batch when we visited. The beer will be a barleywine, likely aged two years.
Natty Greene’s (Greensboro)
In Greensboro, we met with Kayne Fischer, co-owner of Natty Greene’s. He gave us a little tour of the basement brewery and expansions that are going on. The sweet space on the corner of Hamburger Square (which used to be a grocery store, a brothel, and a hotel—not necessarily in that order), is a lovely taproom experience. Restaurant downstairs with plenty of outdoor seating with an upstairs taproom, similar to Barley’s here in town.
But upstairs, on the third floor is the mac daddy of all. A private, rentable suite, complete with leather couches, your own bar taps and pool table. Swanky stuff. I want one.
Cool thing: Natty Greene’s just celebrated their 7th Anniversary August 1 with a big, FREE outdoor concert outside the brewpub. Good stuff.
Foothills Brewery & Brewpub (Winston-Salem)
This stop was so overdue, it’s embarrassing. Yes, we had never been to Foothills. But we made it! Brewmaster Jamie Bartholamus greeted us with a *gasp* sip of this year’s Olde Rabbit’s Foot, which will be released at the brewery on August 13th. (In fact, they were going to bottle that evening.) From there, we got a quick tour of the facilities while sipping a Torch Pilsner filtered through Citra hops and whole peppercorns. What a treat.
What amazed us most about Foothills was how much beer they crank out of this space. It is mind boggling a little bit, although they do brew twice a day, every day. It seems they can never have enough Hoppyum since the bottles came out. Luckily, they’ll be starting production at their big facility in a short while, which means more Foothills for everyone!
Also, we had some killer onion rings with house-made beer-based ketchup.
Cool thing: We were told that on the day of our visit, Foothills filled it’s first-ever grain silo at the new Mooresville production brewery.
We got up and visited our comrades and City Beverage in Winston-Salem, a neat, family-owned and operated business just walking’s distance from Foothills. Sweet little spot, so hit them up on your travels and support another independent bottle shop.
We arrived in Raleigh to meet our friends Robin and Dave who offered to take us around, so we wouldn’t have to drive. Cheers to that! It turns out it’s also good they did, because we would have been lost. On top of that, it was three billion degrees in Raleigh on Saturday.
Busy Bee Cafe (Raleigh)
Before touring, we needed a little lunch, so we hit up this great little cafe with some great taps. A little open-faced turkey with bacon, fried egg and gruyere never hurt anyone. Neither did a Victory Headwater’s Pale Ale. We tried to get the Fullsteam Summer Basil cask, but it was gone. (No matter, since we head there tomorrow.)
Lonerider Beer Company (Raleigh)
With bellies full, we are ready for some beer. We head over to Lone Rider, located in a windy-road business park somewhere near the airport. Jason got a little brewery tour and Jackie, in the tasting room, took care of us with cold Shotgun Betty Hefeweizens. Did I mention it was three billion degrees? I don’t normally consider myself a frail flower, but the heat was unbearable, so we didn’t last long here before heading out to Roth Brewing just around the corner.
Cool thing: Their website says Asheville reigns supreme, just like Iron Chef!
Roth Brewing (Raleigh)
In the same business park more or less with LoneRider (but not in agreement with any GPS), is home to Roth Brewing. Many of you in WNC might not yet heard of Roth. We didn’t either. Roth is run by two brothers on a two-barrel system. These guys are the rowdy young guns. Word is, at festivals they and their fans run around in Viking helmets and sell foam axes with their logo on it. I know this to be true because Jason had to have one. The small little tasting room painted black with low lighting. A couple guys dropped by with homebrew, but otherwise it was just the four of us and the Roth guys. We tried the Amber, Hefeweizen and American Barleywine. I especially loved the Hefe, as it was made with plums and honey. Very interesting and very refreshing.
This is like your garage bar. Off to the corner is a beat-up couch, an old PS2, a Nintendo, two Guitar Heroes, and just in case… a coffeepot.
Cool thing: Allegedly, Roth’s American Barleywine, Foehammer, is the strongest year-round beer made in North Carolina.
Big Boss Brewing (Raleigh)
We head off to Big Boss Brewing. The entrance welcomes you with stairs leading up between hop vines. Up the stairs, you go into another dark tasting room. It was busy while we were there, folks playing shuffleboard and pool. Another impressive space, much larger than we had imagined.
Here we tried the Lucky Bastard Porter, High Roller IPA, Monkey Bizzness farmhouse ale. The real treat, though, was Dave Rogers letting us sample a barrel concoction: Hell’s Belle blended with Monkey Bizzness on sour cherries on a wine barrel. Bejebus!
Cool thing: No food to be had here, but they don’t mind one bit if you bring something with you and hang out. In fact, we were told some people do pot lucks at the brewery. How cool!
[Here is where we got diverted. Plans to tour Aviator Brewing were changed due to a fundraiser.]
This has got to be the coolest cocktail bar we’ve been to in a long time. Concept: All NC-local or house-made cocktails. Ten taps of NC beer and drinks made with NC spirits, house-made syrups, etc. After a long day of sweating, a pear and Brut sparkling cocktail was just what the doctor ordered.
Cool thing: This place had to dig out its buried foundation to exist, so it’s dark and cool, which was especially welcome on a three-billion-degree day.
Raleigh Times (Raleigh)
“Seymour, feed me!” We were really hungry and our hosts told us to “linger” around tables because it’s first-come, first-served. Luckily, it wasn’t long until we scored a sweet little table in back. Six taps at all times. Although it seemed strange to have two taprooms, but the same beers on-tap at both. At any rate, cool menu like a newspaper with an impressive bottle list. Here we had a Bell’s Bourbon Barrel-aged Hell Hath No Fury, New Belgium Tripel and shared a bottle of Cascade Kriek. Not to mention totally badass burgers.
Cool thing: The building is actually the original location of the now-defunct Raleigh Times newspaper.
The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery (Farmville)
After breakfast, we braved some pretty wicked storms to head out to Farmville for a visit with Paul Philippon at Duck-Rabbit. Turns out, there really isn’t a lot in Farmville! Located in a business park, this small production brewery is bursting at the seams. Luckily, there’s a lot of property around the brewery and Paul hopes to take advantage of that someday. There’s a new entrance and the three of us toured the brewery while it poured rain and Milk Stout. Ever the nice guy, Paul opened a 2010 Olde Rabbit’s Foot and we got to sample the upcoming Schwartzbier, which will be out soon.
Cool thing: More visitors are making the trek, so the brewery has new little tasting room that will open soon.
Fullsteam Brewery (Durham)
Back to Durham for the last evening. We headed down to Fullsteam. Things were quiet on a Sunday, but Sean Wilson came to give us a tour because he’s cool like that. (We also got to see brewer Chris, who popped in to say hello.) This is a sexy place. The entrance has a rolling front door with back backwards “F” on it. With its steampunk theme, there are all sorts of gadgets around. There’s a wicked turning door between the air-conditioned bar area and rest of the seated area that’s made out of an old brewing vat. Clear glass interior windows allow you to see right into the brewery’s workings. With the agricultural theme, we tried the Carver Sweet Potato and Summer Basil. The special treat was the Wanderlust Imperial Stout, with a hint of cherry.
Cool thing: Food trucks park right around the brewery almost every night. Street food + beer = Good.
Tyler’s Taproom (Durham)
Located in the old tobacco district, Tyler’s is a massive place with three different bars: one in the restaurant, one in the back game room, and one outside, which we’re sure is a blast during baseball games. (The Durham Bulls stadium is just around the corner.) Great location with good food, we started out with FREE fresh garlic fries just from checking in on Foursquare. Sierra Nevada Ovila Saison and a house-made, worth-the-wait chicken pot pie. J had the pork belly sandwich. For dessert, we had a 2003 Thomas Hardy’s Ale straight off the menu. Yowzers.
Cool thing: All the bars have different draft lines, so if you don’t find what you like on one, you have two others to check out.
Triangle Brewing (Durham)
We started the morning with beer for breakfast with Rick Tufts, brewmaster at Triangle Brewing. We’re grateful he opened his doors to us, after brewing since 3 a.m. that morning. It’s a small open tasting room, but the building has loads of room for growth. The brewery has a canning line and also does some canning for other breweries. We sampled the IPA, the Abbey Dubbel, Bourbon barrel-aged Abbey Dubbel, a Flemish sour.
Cool thing: We also tried an experimental lambic in a can. Have you ever? Me neither.
Bull City Burger & Brewery (Durham)
Stopped for lunch here at Durham’s newest brewpub. Nifty little flight of beers. We especially liked the hsaWaknow Strong Ale and wet-hop ale. (The hops were grown locally next to a watermelon patch and so tasted very fruity.) The burgers were to die for “just a little pink.” Ask for fresh garlic on your burger, you get about ten cloves on top. And don’t miss out on the duck frites—string fries with rosemary, drizzled with duck fat. Goodness.
Cool thing: Even the bread is made in-house.
Dos Perros (Durham)
While we were at Bull City Burger, Charlie, owner of Dos Perros, popped in and invited us around the corner to his place. Wish we would have had time to eat here, too. We chatted beer and shared a Vrienden. Nothing wrong with that!
Cool thing: He’s got a pretty badass Stone event coming up, the Stone Brewing Cage Match.
A quick stop at Sam’s Quik Stop to grab some goodies that don’t make it our way, and away we went back to the mountains. (And a broken air conditioner.)
The weekend was great fun. We highly recommend making the trip to see the other fantastic beer folks in our state. Now get out there and drink some North Carolina beer!