Boone: Emerging as a beer destination
Beer events calendar: Year’s worth of craft beer drinking
Richmond: Special beer history fuels craft beer boom
Exploring craft beer in the South
NC Beer Month expands its spotlight on craft beer scene
Read more Pintful
Interactive by John Frank, Andrea Weigl and Matthew Fortner
Charleston: A craft beer lover’s tour of Charleston
A craft beer lover’s tour of Charleston
Where to go in Charleston
By John Frank Like everything in this city, brewing beer has a long history.  Palmetto Brewery Co. in Charleston dates its founding to circa 1880. Prohibition put an end to the brewery, but its reincarnation opened in 1993 and still operates on the downtown peninsula.  Now, a new generation of brewers is reinventing the craft beer scene, making it just one more attraction for a cobbled-stoned Southern city that national publications constantly rank at the top of travel destinations.  The still-emerging scene is marked by three main craft breweries: Coast, Holy City and Westbrook. And a new law is helping to boost the enthusiasm.  Starting in June, South Carolina began allowing breweries to serve pints, not just 4-ounce tasting pours. The law is still onerous compared to North Carolina, limiting on-premise consumption to 48 ounces, or three pints, and only 16 ounces for beers above 10 percent alcohol content. The breweries are required to keep track; some use a logbook and others mark a wristband.  Jaime Tenny, co-owner at Coast Brewing in North Charleston, said it’s a welcome start. The crowds are increasing and so are the sales, she said. “I still hope to look back in five to 10 years and laugh about how silly these laws are,” said Tenny, who serves as president of the S.C. Brewers Association.   The excitement is energizing the scene, and more breweries are opening in the near future. “Charleston is an anomaly in the South,” said Chris Brown, brewer at Holy City Brewing in North Charleston. “I’ve never been in a city with more bars and restaurants in the South.” “Charleston in particular is a real both food-oriented and local business-oriented city, so (craft beer) is a good combination,” added Tenny.  The itinerary   To hit the best Charleston breweries, requires planning. Most offer limited taproom hours and awkward times for those making the trek from out of state.   The three main craft breweries are located just off Interstate 526, the beltline of sorts that encapsulates the city. And it’s possible to make it a one-day itinerary on Saturday, saving time for the beach and good eating on Sunday. (Charleston Brews Cruise, a tour service, will even do the driving for $50.)   Coast Brewing opens the earliest – at 11 a.m. It’s located in a warehouse district on the former Navy base in North Charleston. It’s not much at the moment, but it’s undergoing a massive expansion this fall, moving from a seven-barrel system to 30 barrels. (A barrel is 31 gallons.) It will allow them to offer more beer more consistently at the brewery, and an inviting taproom with a bar is expected to come next year.  Don’t linger too long at the first brewery; Westbrook Brewing to the east, in Mount Pleasant, is open for a short window Saturdays and you’ll want to catch what founder Edward Westbrook is concocting next. The brewery’s Mexican Cake stout is probably the state’s most hyped beer but its release is limited. Even still, the year-round lineup is great and available to take home in cans or bottles. Westbrook’s partnership with Evil Twin Brewing also adds spice to the tasting menu.  Across town to the south, Holy City Brewing won’t look like much from the outside, but inside it’s a delight. A lengthy tap list in June meant a tasting flight stretched across the upturned end of an old whiskey barrel that served as a table in the taproom. The Pluff Mud Porter is the mainstay, selling about 900 gallons a week citywide, but the pale ale is bright with hop flavor.  Open since 2011, the brewers have made more than 50 different beers. “It’s really kind of random,” said Brown, the head brewer. “We go off with whatever we want to drink at the time.”  Not far away, Frothy Beard Brewing, a nano-brewery with limited hours, awaits the diehards. The top craft beer bar in the city is probably Closed for Business on King Street, but more are beginning to embrace the movement.   If you get time to visit for more than one night, try hitting Holy City, with its generous taproom hours, on Friday or Sunday to lighten the Saturday load. Also, if you arrive Friday evening and can’t wait for the state’s nectar, visit Homegrown Brewhouse in Summerville, just off the interstate on the way into town, for all things South Carolina craft beer. Contact John at 919-829-4698 or
Coast Brewing1250 2nd St. North, North Charleston, S.C. 29405, On tap: A major expansion will soon make Coast the place to visit. A new 30-barrel system comes on line later this year; look for a new tasting room with a proper bar next year. The tasting hours (and beer list) is somewhat limited now, but look for both to expand soon. Holy City Brewing4155 C Dorchester Road, North Charleston, SC 29405, On tap: The inventive and lengthy tap list at the brewery will keep you sipping interesting beers for hours. Taste among the tanks and play yard games outside. Bring a growler or buy one; you’ll want to take a few of the seasonal offerings home. Westbrook Brewing510 Ridge Road, Mount Pleasant, SC 29466, On tap: Unlike most breweries housed in off-the-beaten-path warehouses, Westbrook appears like a monument to craft beer with a refined tasting room. The tap list is not long enough, depending on what’s available, but don’t miss the Bearded Farmer saison series. The Frothy Beard Brewing Company7358 Peppermill Parkway, Suite B, North Charleston, SC 29418, On tap: A still-developing nano-brewery with limited offerings and tasting hours. But the small system allows them to make interesting beers. Other breweries:• Palmetto Brewing Company,, 289 Huger St., Charleston, SC 29403 • Southend Brewery and Smokehouse,, 161 East Bay St., Charleston, SC 29401 Bottle Shops• Charleston Beer Exchange , 14 Exchange St., Charleston, SC 29401, On tap: The small shop is tucked off one of the city’s many beautiful, historic downtown streets and offers a big bottle selection. They will also fill growlers. • House Brews , 1537-C Ben Sawyer Blvd. Mount Pleasant, SC 29464, On tap: Located in an old house on the way to Sullivan’s Island beach north of town, this bottle shop is a local favorite. Grab a beer to go or stay and enjoy the “backyard” when live music is scheduled. Mark Your CalendarBrewvival, every February The best craft beer festival in the Lowcountry features live music, food trucks and a huge list of national, regional and South Carolina craft breweries. Info: Contact John at 919-829-4698 or
Where to go in Boone & Blowing Rock
Boone area emerging as beer destination
By John Frank For far too long, this small town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains seemed like a barren desert for craft beer, a mirage compared to the oasis two hours south in Asheville. Earlier this year, the area’s image slowly began to change. The first craft brewery in Boone opened in February, another began pouring next door in Blowing Rock earlier this month and soon a third will start in nearby Banner Elk. Three more breweries are located a short drive down backcountry roads. The scene is nowhere near as evolved as rival Asheville, where roughly two dozen breweries make it the state’s craft beer haven. And the question for Boone area: what took so long? “That’s a good question,” said Nathan Paris, at Flat Top Brewing in Banner Elk. “We’ve pretty much got it all, and (craft beer) is finally catching on.” Boone, elevation 3,333 and population 18,000, is often ranked as a top mountain town by national publications. Anchored by quirky Appalachian State University, the town sports a mellow vibe and serves as a launch pad for adventure seekers. Good beer was always easy to find at Peabody’s Wine and Beer Merchants, the best local bottle shop, which is located at the town’s crossroads. But until recently, a local brewery was missing. Appalachian Mountain Brewery filled the gap when it opened earlier this year. Owner Sean Spiegelman says it wasn’t easy. He fought for months to get approval from recalcitrant town officials before opening in an unadorned building across from Boone Mall. Despite the cold shoulder, Spiegelman’s brewery emphasizes local pride, donating portions of many beers to area nonprofits. And the town’s craft beer fans are embracing Appalachian Mountain, leading Spiegelman to consider expansion plans and a bottling or canning operation. Most weekends the small tasting room is full, and the outdoor porch and a backyard area are popular. The brewery’s blond ale Honey Badger and steam lager California Common won gold medals at the recent U.S. Beer Open. Other recipes are still being tweaked, and the dark seasonal beers are quickly becoming favorites. A 15-minute drive up the hill, Blowing Rock Ale House and Inn just opened a five-barrel brewery. Located in a two-bedroom cottage behind the inn, formerly known as the Maple Lodge, the ale house is getting special beers from brewer Ray Hodge in addition to the nine the brewery now offers. Hodge also brews for parent company Blowing Rock Brewing, which is opening a new 30-barrel brewhouse in nearby Hickory in December. It will serve as a production facility for the brand’s Blowing Rock ales. But Hodge, who has 12 years’ experience, said he is particularly excited about the smaller brewery, where he can experiment with new recipes. A taste of his first batch of an American wheat beer straight from the tank revealed a subtle spice profile and clean flavor that will ensure it’s a crowd pleaser. The dark Belgian with figs and more prominent spice character is also popular. A few mountain ridges away, Paris’ Flat Top Brewing is starting with a large 20-barrel brewhouse with a canning line. In addition to its stock offerings, the brewery has experimented with some creative concoctions, including an apple butter porter and a pale ale with Fraser Fir tips from a local Christmas tree farm. The brewery received a good reception at a recent beer festival and Paris said he’s anxious to open later this month. The High Country, he said, will soon become a craft beer destination. Contact John at 919-829-4698 or Read more here:
Boone & Blowing Rock
Appalachian Mountain Brewery163 Boone Creek Dr., Boone, On tap: Open less than a year, the brewery near the Boone Mall is the best bet for a good local pint. It is the first brewery in town in years and prides itself on local connections. The tasting room lineup offers a good variety. For dark beer fans, try the Black Gold porter, and for a lighter offering, the Honey Badger is winning early acclaim. Blowing Rock Ale House Restaurant and Brewery152 Sunset Dr., Blowing Rock, On tap: Once made in Pennsylvania, Blowing Rock ales are coming home to North Carolina. The production brewery opens in Hickory in December. But the ale house restaurant in downtown Blowing Rock is now serving the first small batches from the adjacent brewery. The Belgian dark ale with figs and spices is a popular new offering. Flat Top Brewing567 Main Street East, Banner Elk, On tap: One of the state’s newest breweries, Flat Top plans to open the taps in downtown Banner Elk in late November. It will offer four year-round beers, four seasonals and other special batches, such as its recent apple butter porter. With a 20-barrel system, the brewers plan to start packaging their beer in cans soon after opening. Dry County Brewing585 Oak Ave., Spruce Pine, On tap: Working on a homebrewing-sized 10 gallon system, brewer Chad Mohr rotates through roughly 40 recipes with varying results. Located an hour southwest of Boone, it’s a trip for the adventurous. But visiting dry Mitchell County to buy a growler of beer sold in a Mason jar sealed with masking tape adds a fun allure. Blind Squirrel Brewery4716 S. U.S. Highway 19 East, Plumtree, On tap: Don’t bother visiting this brewery until May 1 when it reopens. It’s seasonal like many of the property owners in this mountain town, just 11 miles up the road from Dry County Brewing. It’s not much to see, but a beer on the deck overlooking the Toe River is a treat. In the meantime, find Blind Squirrel beer in 22 ounce bottles at Peabody’s Wine and Beer Merchants in Boone. Boondocks Brewing108 S. Jefferson Ave., West Jefferson, On tap: Ashe County’s only craft brewery is a 35-minute drive north from Boone. Gary Brown is a former IT expert who moved into homebrewing and now brews his small batches at a restaurant on Main Street in West Jefferson. So far, it’s popular. Brown often runs out of beer, but he’s looking to expand his production in the future. Call ahead for availability. Bottle shopPeabody’s Wine and Beer Merchants, 1104 Highway 105 South, Boone, On tap: No stop in Boone is complete without visiting Peabody’s, where the high-stacked aisles of bottles and large glowing coolers offer the latest beer releases and plenty of regional brews. Olde Hickory featured beer manager Chris Riley on a recent bottle label. His cellar stash is worth exploring, too. Mark Your CalendarHigh Country Craft Food and Beverage Festival, The annual festival is held every year on Labor Day weekend and features local breweries from Boone and nearby Asheville. It typically sells out, so get tickets early. Contact John at 919-829-4698 or
Where to go in Richmond
By John Frank For a city steeped in history, it’s no surprise that Richmond holds a special place in the lineage of beer. The first beer sold in a can debuted in Virginia’s capital city in 1935. It was a grand experiment from New Jersey-based Gottfried Kruger Brewing Co., and it proved a hit. A toast to Richmond’s place in beer history is a good way to start a tour of its thriving new craft beer scene, just a 2 TH 1/2-hour drive north from Raleigh. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, in a warehouse district just north of downtown, makes it possible.  As an homage to one of the first Kruger beers to ship to Richmond, Hardywood sells its cream ale in a can, complete with directions on how to open it, just like the first shipment nearly 80 years ago. The brewery, co-founded by Eric McKay, who has family ties to Raleigh, is the city’s best. It specializes in barrel-aged beers and unique offerings, drawing crowds in the hundreds for some of its special beer releases. The Gingerbread Stout, a decadent holiday spiced dark beer, ranks as one of the Southeast’s most coveted bottles. Opened in 2011, Hardywood counts as one of the more established craft breweries in the city. Richmond is a young scene but one growing with huge potential, much like its brethren in North Carolina.  The scene “is very new,” said Tommy Edwards, who operates Richmond Brewery Tours. “But Richmond is grabbing onto that history of being the aluminum can innovator … and breweries are latching onto that and the consumers are really supporting it.” What’s exciting for visitors is the downtown beer district beginning to develop, with five breweries sandwiched within 5 miles or so and more on the way.  Hardywood is a good place to start. So is Legends Brewing, a brew pub on the banks of the James River that is the granddaddy of the beer scene, celebrating 20 years in 2014.  From there, move to newcomer breweries Isley and Strangeways, which are getting early acclaim. Mike Isley has a small three-barrel brewhouse that lets his brewers try a number of different styles. The early favorite is Choosy Mother, a peanut butter oatmeal porter served on nitrogen, which adds another layer of creaminess. “We have some real just true beers, and then on the other end we think real outside the box,” he said. At Strangeways Brewing, experimentation is the name of the game. The brewery features an unheard-of 25 taps of their own beer, including a series they call “curiosities.” Head brewer Mike Hiller said the brewery’s style is hard to pinpoint. “Everything we do is strange. It’s weird,” he said. “With few exceptions, we don’t brew anything to a particular style.” One of the must-hit destinations on the city’s beer list is not a brewery. Mekong Restaurant touts itself as the best craft beer bar in America (so declared by a national online survey) and lives up to the billing.  The Vietnamese restaurant is in a random strip mall on a main drag filled with neon lights. But inside the beer list and food won’t disappoint. An Bui, the restaurant’s beer director, says beer is the answer to just about any question, and he means it. He gets beers that you can’t find anywhere else in the region.  “They are our mainstay capital for everything craft beer,” says Edwards, the tour guide. “It’s where locals go to try to taste it first.” Contact John at 919-829-4698 or
Richmond’s beer history fuels craft beer boom
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery4100 Knolls Point Drive, Goochland, Va., On tap: A self-described farm brewery, Lickinghole Creek is about 45 minutes outside Richmond. The tasting room is small, but if the weather is nice, enjoy overlooking the fields that grows hops, grain and other ingredients for the brews. The Short Pump saison is a good example of the brewery’s style. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery2408 Ownby Lane, Richmond, Va., On tap: Expect complex, rich beers with a twist at this much-hyped brewery – like the Raspberry Stout or India pale ale aged on Virginia poplar wood. The Gingerbread Stout is a can’t-miss, and so is The Great Return, a West Coast-styled IPA sold in a can. Tasting room hours are limited, so plan accordingly. Isley Brewing Co.1715 Summit Ave., Richmond, Va., On tap: Owner Mike Isley’s family owns a 100-year-old plumbing and heating business that did the first work on the brewery’s building in 1920. The brew system is small, and he likes it that way to keep the tap list fresh. Try the peanut butter porter. And look for a rooftop deck this year to add to the brewery’s allure. Strangeways Brewing2277A Dabney Road, Richmond, Va., On tap: On a Richmond beer tour, save plenty of time for this place. The 25 taps require deep examination. The brewery often makes a single style of beer many different ways, allowing tasters to train their palates. The Albino Monkey Belgian White is an early crowd-pleaser, and if you like sour beers, this is the place to try. Center of the Universe Brewing Co.11293 Air Park Road, Ashland, Va., On tap: Known by the locals as COTU, it is located just north on Interstate 95 from Richmond. Founded by two homebrewing brothers, one a former major league baseball pitcher and the other an engineer, the brewery recently partnered with the local minor league team to brew an amber lager called Chin Music. Mekong Restaurant and Bar6004 W. Broad St., Richmond, Va., On tap: At this cavernous Vietnamese restaurant in a nondescript strip mall, the tap list is as thick as a book and needs the same amount of study. It features a number of special, rare beers from local breweries and others across the nation. It earns its billing as a top craft beer bar in America. Other breweries and toursLegend Brewing Co., 321 W. Seventh St., Richmond, Va., Midnight Brewery, 2410 Granite Ridge Road #5, Rockville, Va., Blue Bee Cider, 212 W. Sixth Street, Richmond, Va., Bottle shopsOnce Upon A Vine, 4009 MacArthur Ave., Richmond, Va., Corks & Kegs, 7110 Patterson Ave., Richmond, Va., Mark Your Calendar• National Beer Expo, July 16-19. A three-day festival celebrating food and beer with events at breweries across Richmond. Info: • Hardywood Gingerbread Stout Release, mid-November. One of the most-sought beers in the Southeast is released in bottles each November with great fanfare. Hundreds lined up in 2013, but there was plenty to go around. A month later look for the bourbon barrel-aged version release. Contact John at 919-829-4698 or
NC Beer Month expands spotlight on craft beer scene
Don’t miss these Noth Carolina Beer Month events
By John Frank This year, N.C. Beer Month comes stamped with a gold seal.   An official proclamation from Gov. Pat McCrory marks April’s celebration of the state’s craft beer scene, reflecting just how much the second annual event has matured.  It mirrors the growing North Carolina craft brewing industry, now boasting about 100 breweries and an estimated $791 million economic impact.  “It’s really important to us that the leaders of this state recognize the positive impact craft beer has in North Carolina on the manufacturing economy, but also in tourism,” said Margo Knight Metzger, executive director of the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild. “It gives real credence to this industry as not some little niche industry but something that is really blossoming and becoming really important to the economy of this state.” The monthlong spotlight is designed to indulge craft beer fans, lure out-of-towners and introduce newcomers to the state’s beer scene with special one-time brews and events. “The goal at the end of Beer Month is to have created a whole lot more fans of North Carolina craft beer,” Knight Metzger said. “Our goal is to really just get the word out.” It starts Saturday with an early kickoff party at White Street Brewing in Wake Forest featuring special beers and discussion panels with guild members. The following week, on April 5, the World Beer Festival comes to Raleigh. The big ticket this year is a raffle to win a “brewmaster’s experience.” The winner gets a chance to create and brew a special beer in a two-day immersion at NoDa Brewing in Charlotte. Brian Mister, event coordinator at NoDa, said they’ve never offered such a behind-the-scenes peek. The winner will get to brew a 10-gallon batch.  The entire beer month effort is a collaboration between the guild and the N.C. Division of Tourism. Knight Metzger helped launch it a year ago as head of public relations at the state’s tourism office. The inaugural celebration drew attention from publications across the state and nation, touting the fact that North Carolina has more breweries than any other Southern state. To buy that level of advertising, she said, would have cost $2.3 million. “We really made a big impact,” Knight Metzger said. “Part of what we want to do is elevate the reputation of North Carolina craft beer so that people want to travel to North Carolina and enjoy our craft beer.” Contact John at 919-829-4698 or
NC Beer Month
Dozens of events across the state will celebrate the state’s craft beer scene in April. The list below includes a few highlights. Find the full list at N.C. Brewers’ Collaborative Kickoff Party12-5 p.m. Saturday, White Street Brewing in Wake Forest Four North Carolina breweries are combining to launch Beer Month with a special tasting of barrel-aged and wild ales, paired with two discussion panels featuring top brewers. Tickets cost $10, seating is limited. Info: Cask on FoolsTuesday 3-10 p.m. Crank Arm Brewing in Raleigh Fifteen Wake County breweries all in one spot. The county’s breweries are each bringing a different cask beer to share on April Fools’ Day. Expect all sorts of unique ingredients and hops thrown into these lightly carbonated ales to challenge your palate. Info: World Beer Festival – Raleigh12-4 p.m.; 6-10 p.m. April 5, Moore Square in Raleigh Unlimited samples of more than 250 craft and specialty beers from breweries across the world. Tickets cost $45. Info: Brewery Olympics5-9 p.m. April 19, Raleigh Brewing in Raleigh Six Triangle craft breweries will battle in competitions such as keg stacking and grain bag carrying while spectators taste special cask beers and vote on their favorites. Info: Brewgaloo Beer Festival2-10 p.m. April 26 in Raleigh’s City Plaza Local craft breweries will offer tastings, with local bands and food trucks adding to the fun. Free to attend but beer sampling costs money. Info: Hickory Hops Brew Festival1-7 p.m. April 26 in downtown Hickory One of the state’s premier beer festivals with breweries from across the state sampling their brews. It coincides with the 2014 Carolinas Championship of Beer contest. Tickets start at $30. Info:
MarchLonerider Showdown is 4 p.m. March 29 at Moore Square in downtown Raleigh. Info and tickets: N.C. Beer Month is the entire month of April but events starts March 29 in the Triangle with a pair of panel discussions by the N.C. Brewers Collaborative at White Street Brewing Co. in Wake Forest. The April 1 cask beer event also looks interesting. To search for events all over North Carolina from now until May 2, go to Beer and Bacon Fest on March 29 in Cary. Tickets still available for regular session from 2-6 p.m. Info: AprilWorld Beer Festival in Raleigh, sponsored by All About Beer magazine, will be noon-10 p.m. April 5 in downtown Raleigh’s Moore Square. Info: Kinston Beer Weekend will be April 3-5 with beer dinners, an oyster roast, pig pickin’ and brews cruise: Brewgaloo, a craft beer festival in downtown Raleigh, is set for 2-10 p.m. April 26. Info: The N.C. Cuegrass Festival is noon-6 p.m. April 26 in downtown Raleigh outside The Pit restaurant. A chance to listen to music and buy beer from several local breweries. Info: The 12th annual Hickory Hops Brew Festival is 1-7 p.m. April 26 in Hickory, N.C. More than 50 breweries will be serving. Info: Others upcoming eventsBeer Bourbon & BBQ Festival at Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary will be Aug. 1 and 2. Info: The annual Brew Durham event to benefit the Scrap Exchange will be held this fall, according to organizer Keil Jansen of Ponysaurus brewery. No date is set yet. Info: World Beer Festival in Durham will be in the fall 2014. Last year’s event was Oct. 5. Info: Brew It Forward, a homebrewers’ competition sponsored by Raleigh’s LoneRider, will be held this fall. Info: Homebrew for Hunger in Chapel Hill, sponsored by Fifth Season Gardening Co., features samples from breweries and home brewers to raise money for hungry relief agencies. It was held in November last year. Info: If you want to leave the state, World Beer Festival in Columbia, S.C. was last held in January 2014. The annual Raleigh Rare and Vintage Beer Tasting at Tyler’s Taproom in Raleigh is usually held in January. Info: More beer eventsN.C. Beer Guys, two bloggers and craft beer drinkers, maintain a comprehensive beer calendar, including brewery openings, anniversary events and beer dinners. Info: and consider following them on Twitter: @NCbeerguys
Calendar of beer events
A craft beer lover’s tour of Charleston
Boone area emerging as a  destination
Ricmond's beer history fuels craft beer boom
Beer events