Need a beer-cation? Then step onto Johnston County’s new Beer, Wine and Shine Trail.
In the past three years, the county’s Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail has welcomed more than 1,000 visitors to Johnston wineries. Now, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau is adding beer and moonshine to the trail.
Catherine McCormick of Clayton visits Hinnant Family Vineyards near Pine Level whenever her friend, Cathy DiPasqua-Eagan of Boston, is in town. Sitting on the long porch with a view of the vineyards, the women enjoy the sweetness of the wine, with flavors such as strawberry and pomegranate made from muscadine grapes. With the wine comes food, with cheese, meat and hummus plates for purchase.
At Hinnant Family Vineyards, the popular wine choice is Electric Pelican, a light and slightly acidic wine.
Hinnant is the state’s oldest muscadine vineyard, having opened in 1971. It was an early supporter of the wine trail, which launched in 2011.
McCall Sollars, tasting room and event manager at Hinnant, says the winery welcomes the chance to expand its reach with the trail. “The whole idea of being on the trail to me is giving someone something fun to do – after work on Fridays, a fun place to hang out, with different wines to try,” she said, adding that the winery often hosts live acoustic music on Sundays.
Deep River Brewing, a Clayton brewery that opened last year as the first legal brewery in Johnston County, is one of two craft brewers on the trail. The other is Double Barley Brewing near Wilson’s Mills.
Larry and Cheryl Lane opened Double Barley Brewing off of U.S. 70 about a year ago. It’s a neighborly place with a beer garden where patrons enjoy creamy porters and other craft brews that soar upward of 9 and 10 percent alcohol by volume. The Strawberry Field of Dreams, a wheat beer, is brewed with local strawberries, while the vanilla porter is known for a sweet aftertaste that many lovers of lighter-colored beers have come to enjoy, Cheryl Lane said.
Donna Bailey-Taylor, executive director of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, says the Beer, Wine and Shine Trail is part of the bureau’s effort to build partnerships across the county.
Although visitors could complete the four stops on the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail in a day, Bailey-Taylor thinks adding beer and moonshine will turn the trail into a weekend event. She is even talking with limo companies and brew tour operators to bring people in from other counties.
Moonshine from Johnston’s two distilleries are not quite ready for tasting. The delay stems in part from legislation that would allow distilleries to add tasting rooms, Bailey-Taylor said. One Johnston winery, Gregory Vineyards, already mixes its wine with moonshine to create a brandy.
Bailey-Taylor says the distilleries will join trail when they’re ready.
Current stops on the Beer, Wine and Shine Trail are:
• Adams Vineyards, 3390 John Adams Road, Willow Spring.
• Enoch Winery, 735 N.C. 50 South, Benson.
• Deep River Brewing, 700 W. Main St., Clayton.
• Double Barley Brewing, 3174 U.S. 70, Smithfield.
• Hinnant Family Vineyards, 826 Pine Level-Micro Road, Pine Level.
• Gregory Vineyards, 275 Bowling Spring Drive, Angier.
Myrick Vineyards near Selma offers pick-your-own muscadine grapes and plans to open a winery next year.
All of the venues offer stamps for visitors to add to their trail brochure. Craft brew lovers who collect all six stamps receive a $5 coupon for each of the locations.
Compared to the old trail, which required a purchase for a stamp, the Beer, Wine and Shine Trail offers a stamp simply for visiting. That way, wineries, distilleries and breweries can build a customer base and increase their volume of returning patrons, said Bailey-Taylor.
For more information, visit beerwineshinetrail.com or pick up a brochure at one of the participating venues.