North Carolina has more craft breweries than any other Southern state (60 and counting!). Here’s a six-pack of our favorites.
Fullsteam could be the most “Southern” brewery in North Carolina, paying homage to the region’s food traditions by brewing with ingredients such as corn grits and fresh sweet potatoes. “I think we’re the pioneering brewery to continually ask the question ‘What is Southern beer?’ ” says founder Sean Lilly Wilson.
The Scene: Fullsteam has turned a warehouse in Durham’s Central Park neighborhood into a hipper version of a German beer hall with brick walls, picnic table seating, and retro video games. Sundays are “Olde Timey Fundays,” with a barbecue food truck and live bluegrass. 726 Rigsbee Avenue; 919/682-2337
The Beer: The First Frost winter persimmon ale is made with North Carolina persimmons and flavored with natural notes of cinnamon and apricot. It’s a sweet and spicy salute to the cold-weather months.
Mother Earth Brewing
In just over a year, this up-and-coming brewery has earned three U.S. Open Beer Championship medals (including gold for its barrel-aged sour beer) and has already expanded distribution beyond North Carolina into Atlanta. Still, Mother Earth’s roots are grounded in the small farming community of Kinston. The brewery has transformed an entire city block into a destination-worthy brewery/taproom. Green bonus: Spent grain is donated to local farmers. “It’s cool to see farmers show up on brewing days to get grain to feed their pigs and cows,” says cofounder Trent Mooring.
The Scene: The taproom is both rustic and sleek, with a neon-lit bar contrasted with a floor crafted from a single tree that fell during Hurricane Fran. The solar-powered Mother Earth recently received Gold LEED status, making it the first brewery in the country to earn that level of certification. 311 North Heritage Street; 252/208-2437
The Beer: Try the seasonal Old Neighborhood, a rich oatmeal porter with an intense chocolate malt flavor.
Southern Appalachian Brewery
Don’t look for a peppermint-or fig-flavored beer at Southern Appalachian Brewery (known locally as SAB). Since buying the brewery in 2006, husband-and-wife duo Andy and Kelly Cubbin have focused on classic styles—a pilsner, a few ales, and a stout. SAB hit the sweet spot after moving into its new space downtown, taking home three medals at the 2012 Carolina Championship of Beer, including a gold in the competitive IPA category.
The Scene: SAB converted a downtown industrial space into a taproom with open garage doors so patrons could play lawn games in the paved “front yard.” 822 Locust Street, Suite 100; 828/684-1235
The Beer: The Autumn Ale, a limited-release Oktoberfest style, was so popular last year that “our regulars tried to circulate a petition to get it on the lineup year-round,” Kelly says.
NoDa Brewing Company
NoDa Brewing Company (named after the arty North Davidson neighborhood it calls home) has become Charlotte’s go-to choice for innovative beers in just a little more than a year. The brewery pulled in five medals at the 2012 Carolina Championship of Beer, and its brews have become so popular the staff has already had to expand production.
The Scene: NoDa taps into the area’s gallery-heavy reputation by displaying the works of local painters on a two-month rotation. Show up on a Tuesday for the NoDable release, a series of weekly experimental brews that incorporates ingredients such as mint, Bing cherries, and basil. 2229 North Davidson Street; 704/451-1394
The Beer: Try the Coco Loco, an organic porter flavored with 100 pounds of hand-toasted coconuts added to each batch.
Highland Brewing Company
Home to almost a dozen breweries, Asheville has become one of the country’s leading beer towns. Highland Brewing Company was the city’s first brewery, turning out its inaugural batch of beer in 1994. “I never thought Asheville would have this sort of beer scene,” says Oscar Wong, Highland’s founder. “But Asheville is a thirsty town.”
The Scene: A 5,600-square-foot tasting room is complemented by a deck and expansive lawn. Go on a weekend and you can catch one of Asheville’s standout bands on stage. 12 Old Charlotte Highway, Suite H; 828/299-3370
The Beer: The limited-release Cold Mountain is a mildly spiced English brown ale that’s low hopped and matured slowly.
Outer Banks Brewing Station
Kill Devil Hills
Co-owners Eric Reece and Aubrey Davis don’t know what their brewery will have on tap next month. “It’s more like a kitchen than a production plant here,” Eric says. “We’re always experimenting. Always improvising.” In the last 11 years their Outer Banks Brewing Station has turned out a whopping 120 different styles of beer, including a German-style sour ale that won the 2012 World Beer Cup.
The Scene: The wind-powered brew pub, built to look like a lifesaving station, has a fenced-in yard stocked with pirate-themed playground equipment. “I wanted a place where parents who’ve spent eight hours in the car can sip a beer while their kids run laps,” Eric says. They even make their own root beer for the under-21 crowd. 600 South Croatan Highway, Milepost 8.5; 252/449-2739
The Beer: The Olsch, a light Kolsch style, is one of only two beers always on tap. It’s refreshing and supremely drinkable.