Epicurean

Hopheads, raise a glass

CorrespondentMarch 18, 2009 

After more than two years of delays, beer is finally flowing from the taps at the long-awaited Boylan Bridge Brewpub (201 S. Boylan Ave.; 803-8927; www.boylanbridge.com). Make that beers, plural, as in six brews ranging from Rail Pale Ale to Pullman Porter to the seasonal Polar Bear Winter Beer. You won't find any cherry lambic here, though -- or any hyper-hopped or fruit-flavored brews, for that matter. Brewmaster Mark Fesche has kept his focus on traditional variations of the British ale theme.

To go with the liquid offering, head cook Thad Petit has developed a streamlined menu of traditional American pub fare that offers plenty of variety while allowing the beers themselves to take center stage. Options include fish and chips, onion rings, oven-roasted chicken wings, salads and an assortment of sandwiches ranging from traditional Reuben to beer-braised bratwurst with spicy mustard and sauerkraut on a soft roll.

Owner Andrew Leager has taken a similarly focused, streamlined approach in designing the pub itself. Leager, an architect (and amateur brewer himself) has transformed a 1950s era railroad building into a space that's open and contemporary and at the same time manages to exude a warm, neighborhood watering hole feel. There's WiFi access, but no TVs to distract from the beer and the companions you're sharing it with. Those seeking visual stimulation will have to make do with a superb view of the downtown Raleigh skyline, available on the pergola-shaded patio.

Boylan Bridge Brewpub has been packed by eager beer fans pretty much since its opening. That isn't surprising, given that downtown Raleigh has been bereft of a brewpub since the 2004 closing of Greenshield's. The Bridge, as it's called, looks like a good prospect to fill the gap. Hoppy days are here again, you might say.

That's not all the good news for hopheads. Brewmaster Steve Kramling and partners have opened LoneRider Brewing Company (8816-100 Gulf Court; www.loneriderbeer.com) in North Raleigh. Their inaugural brew, Shotgun Betty Hefeweizen, is served at more than two dozen area pubs (whose names are on the Web site).

Finally, Carolina Brewery (460 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill; 942-1800; and 120-100 Lowe's Drive, Pittsboro; 545-2330; www.carolinabrewery.com) has teamed up with Counter Culture Coffee ( www.counterculturecoffee.com) to produce Jumpin' Bean Coffee Stout. As long as it lasts, the limited edition brew will be available on tap at both brewpub locations and in bottles at select grocery stores.

ggcox@bellsouth.net or blogs.newsobserver.com/epicurean

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