Food & Drink

Raleigh’s craft beer scene keeps growing. How many breweries are too many?

Brewery Bhavana opened in late March in downtown Raleigh with its beer claiming inspirations from Belgium to southeast Asia. It’s one of the latest breweries to open in the area with the brewery scene showing no signs of slowing down.
Brewery Bhavana opened in late March in downtown Raleigh with its beer claiming inspirations from Belgium to southeast Asia. It’s one of the latest breweries to open in the area with the brewery scene showing no signs of slowing down. BREWERY BHAVANA

Between two new breweries opening in downtown Raleigh in the last three months, a new brewery opening in North Raleigh last month and a new brewery set to open soon in Fuquay-Varina, Wake County’s craft beer lovers have more options than ever.

The newest addition is Lincoln Brewing and Distilling, which added a second location in the Plantation Pointe shopping center, near the intersection of Old Wake Forest Road and Capital Boulevard.

The original Fuquay-Varina location is still open, and owner Richard Camos has plans to open a third location soon in Wade Park, a neighborhood near PNC Arena.

More bottle shops are coming to the area, too, including a new one in the heart of downtown Raleigh. With all the growth, it’s easy to wonder: Are there too many breweries here in Wake County?

“No, and you can quote me on that,” said Art Whiting, a business consultant enjoying a drink on a recent Sunday at the newly reopened Boylan Bridge Brewpub. “For a consumer like me, it’s great. For owners, there is a saturation point, but we’ll have to wait to start seeing places close to know where that is.”

And Boylan Bridge is proof that brewery owners have not, in fact, found the local beer scene to be too crowded with competitors yet.

The restaurant was forced to shut down more than a year ago after a wall collapsed. Owner Andrew Leager could have walked away. Instead he came back with more than before. It still has the same gorgeous views along Boylan Avenue, but now there’s a new private event space, an improved patio and plans to open a distillery to complement the in-house beers.

In downtown proper, Brewery Bhavana, claiming inspirations from Belgium to southeast Asia, opened in late March to wide acclaim.

And soon, Growler USA, a new bottle shop and craft beer bar, will open a quick jaunt down South Blount Street. It’s now under construction across from City Market. Growler USA, a national chain, already has a Charlotte location and has plans to expand to Durham, Wilmington, Gastonia and Indian Trail as well.

Amrish Raj, owner of the Raleigh location, told the News & Observer in January that as the local beer scene gets more crowded, bars like his will help the best breweries stand out.

“A concept like this might actually give them an avenue to demonstrate and sell their products,” he said.

In Seaboard Station off Peace Street, Oak & Dagger last year filled the space occupied by Tyler’s Taproom and recently began brewing its own beer, offering everything from salty, sour goses to hoppy ales. Some are your typical pale ales. But then there’s an IPA called Horseshoes, Handgrenades and Hops, with an off-the-charts IBU rating.

IBUs measure bitterness, which comes from hops. The hoppiest IPAs out there typically have IBUs between 70 and 100, but this one clocked in at 300.

“We were going for a world record and came up short, but we successfully brewed a world top five,” said owner Sean Adams. “And as far as we can tell, the highest certified IBU beer ever brewed in N.C.”

Outside of Raleigh

In Fuquay-Varina, as Lincoln Brewing expands outward, other breweries are building up their local presence.

Mason Jar Lager Co. will open this month. The owners are shooting for a July 6 grand opening with an unorthodox effort to make themselves stand out. The brewery will only brew lagers, which are the most popular style of beer sold in America but are often scoffed at by the true believers of the craft beer world.

Mason Jar is taking over at the former Draft Line Brewing location on Broad Street. Draft Line closed in April but quickly found these new buyers.

Adam Eshbaugh, who’s leading the new brewery, said Mason Jar’s goal is to convert domestic beer lovers into craft beer fans – and also to convert craft beer hop-heads into lager fans.

“We say we’re doing lagers and people roll their eyes,” said Eshbaugh, who also runs the 919 Beer podcast and the annual Beericana festival in Holly Springs. “But people don’t know what they are and what you can do with them.”

They’ll be starting with four core styles – everything from a crisp, classic light lager to a dark, sweet and smoky style called Schwarzbier – plus rollouts of experimental styles every Sunday. The brewery also will have its own food truck, in partnership with its namesake restaurant the Mason Jar Tavern.

A couple of blocks down the street, Aviator owns a different building on every corner of Fuquay-Varina’s main downtown intersection – a brewery, bottle shop and restaurant – and it just applied for permits to grow even more.

If the town approves the plan, Aviator will expand its bottle shop by adding a second story and a brick oven for fresh pizzas. Aviator is also going to start making liquor under the name Gold Leaf Distilling.

And finally in Durham, the Glass Jug bottle shop announced in May it will move to another spot in the shopping center on N.C. 55 it now occupies to open a brewery, outdoor beer garden and expanded event space. The Glass Jug Beer Lab, as it will be known, will be considered a “nano” brewery with experimental one-off batches, the company said in a news release. It will produce fewer than 5 barrels of beer of each batch to allow for creative flavor combinations. Owners Katy and Chris Creech said they hope to open in September.

Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran