A new voice in beer news

jfrank@newsobserver.comJanuary 15, 2013 

The craft beer experience is as big a part of the Triangle dining scene as food trucks and farmers markets.

The N.C. Brewers Guild lists 15 breweries in the Raleigh area, and another dozen are in the works. The names Brad Wynn and Chris Davis, the brewers at Big Boss and Fullsteam, respectively, aren’t as well known as Ashley Christensen and Andrea Reusing – but hopefully that will change with this new weekly craft beer column.

To recognize the artisan brewmasters and beer in our midst, this column will bring you the latest news from the local scene, highlight big events in the area and offer a few tasting notes along the way.

It’s my pleasure to serve as your guide. I spend my 9-to-5 as a political reporter at the newspaper and my 5-until hours as a craft beer lover. My wife calls it an obsession; I prefer the word aficionado.

If these count as credentials, I’ve tasted hundreds of craft beers and spent more than $30 on a six-pack, as well as toured dozens of breweries in many different states. And I’m a home brewer, which gives me a good appreciation of the artistry involved in making good beer.

So welcome and feel free to send feedback to or on Twitter @ByJohnFrank.

Check for Frank’s column and other beer news on the Mouthful blog,

Carolina Brewery offers small batch beers

A mainstay in the local beer scene is reviving its beer lineup with six new small-batch beers. The new offerings double Carolina Brewery’s selection at its Franklin Street location in Chapel Hill, where the small batches are made. With the brewpub approaching its 18th anniversary next month, owner Robert Poitras said he “made a commitment to go back to our roots, and our roots are being a pioneer in craft brewing.”

The new beers include old recipes the brewery hasn’t put on tap in years, such as the Franklin Street Lager, Funky Monk Ale, Alter Ego Altbier and Old North State Stout. Other new beers include a tan-headed black IPA and an 8-percent ABV tripel.

A constantly evolving tap list with new styles of beer is becoming an industry norm. Carolina Brewery is late to the game compared to its other local peers as it focused on expanding production at its Pittsboro location and reaching a wider audience in South Carolina, Tennessee and even Virginia Beach, Va., later this spring.

So far, Poitras said, the response to the new beers is exceeding expectations. And he said the brewpub is doing more to appeal to the increasingly savvy consumer by aligning glassware with beer style and offering more beer-food pairings.

New brewery bound for downtown Raleigh

Crank Arm Brewing Co. announced recently it plans to open a new brewery and tasting room in downtown Raleigh’s warehouse district.

Adam Eckhardt, the founder, said the company submitted its paperwork to the government Monday, one of many steps left before they open this spring. The operation is an expansion of the local rickshaw company, Crank Arm Rickshaw, and a rolling team of peddlers at the brewery will take people on tours of downtown Raleigh and make beer deliveries to individuals, bars and restaurants. Veteran brewmaster Michael Morris, a former brewer with Big Boss and Natty Greene’s, will man the mash paddle.

“We brew what tastes good; we’re not held down by specific beer styles,” said Morris, also a co-founder.

On tap at all times, two flagship beers – Rickshaw Rye, a Rye India Pale Ale, and White Wall Wit, an American take on a Belgian wheat beer – in addition to a rotating list of four seasonal beers.

What I’m drinking

As part of each column, I’ll include a few notes about recent tastings. The first strays from the local scene, but it’s a regional find and a 100-point masterpiece.

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond, Va., released a Gingerbread Stout in time for the holidays as part of its Reserve Series. It is a dark, velvety smooth milk stout made with local honey and ginger that is worth putting on your beer bucket list. My brother, who lives in Richmond, gave it to me as a Christmas gift. He said the whole batch sold out in less than an hour. Stats: 9.2 percent, 55 IBU. Sold in 750ml bottles.

Frank: 919-829-4698

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