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May 1, 2008 06:59 PM

Add North Carolina to the pantheon of great beer states?

I've lived up and down the East Coast, including North Carolina, and have been struck by the number of breweries in the Tar Heel state producing great craft beer. I was also surprised and impressed at the number of bars and restaurants across the state that support their local breweries, as well as focus on high quality craft beers from across the country. Obviously, North Carolina does not have the number of great craft breweries that Oregon, Colorodo and California have, but the ones it does have (Foothills, Big Boss, Duck Rabbit, Highland, Carolina Brewery, and on and on ...) is notable, right? I'm back in D.C. and stunned how far behind the craft beer scene is here, which is both a compliment to North Carolina and an indictment on Washington. So, does North Carolina deserve to be considered among the great beer states?

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  1. You'll have to elaborate as to how the DC craft beer scene is behind.

    NC had a number of brewpubs pretty early in the game. I think those are mostly gone, but I always wondered why that happened there. Of course, Uli Bennewitz was there for a long time with the Weeping Radish.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Jim Dorsch

      There are a few breweries in the D.C. area -- Hook and Ladder, Raven, Wild Goose, as well as Cap City Brewery -- but there doesn't seem to be much of an emphasis on these breweries, or craft beers in general. Sure there's the Brickskeller and its newer location RFD, but most of the emphasis is on bottles, and I don't know why I should much credit to these places for having a sizable refridgerator rather than putting local craft beers on tap. In fact, D.C. is going through a Belgian beer phase, with new bars and restaurants opening up left and right. There might be a wider variety of bars and restaurants in D.C., but few of them show the same level of support for craft beer and local craft beer as the bars and restaurants -- up scale and otherwise -- in North Carolina. As for Weeping Radish, saw them at the World Beer Festival in Raleigh last weekend. They're doing it right.

      1. re: Jim Dorsch

        And I should say that North Carolina's craft beer scene is great primarily because the people there support it. All those breweries, bars and restaurants would not thrive if it were not for the people who buy the beers and frequent the bars and restaurants. That local support is critical in defining a state or city as a location for great beer.

        1. re: FlaHopper

          Panthoen.......maybe an out door revival church in the making....without going into statewide details , unless nec., I would hardly characterize us as a beehive of micro pub/brewery activity........unless you relate us to.....some place in the early throws of evolving....
          Raleigh scene...Greenshields burnt down and Arthur has never begun brewing again....Carolina Brewing (Holly Springs) services the area with decent but rather non descript offerings.....Mash House in Fayettenam....Top of the Hill.....Carolina Brewery......Duck Rabbit...Highland...Weeping Radish has moved, and their beers were often hit and miss.......Ashville seems to be happening.....Greensboro has some.........we are not a mecca...unless i'm missing something....please follow up and clue me in.....

          1. re: Saddleoflamb

            Revisiting the title of this thread, I can't see how one could call NC one of the 'great' beer states. There is a big difference between good and great.

            One might consider WA, OR, CO and CA great, or at least mighty good. How can you say NC is the equal of those states?

            It's interesting to note, btw, that even in a fine beer state like CA, you have places like Los Angeles that seem not to have gotten the message.

            1. re: Jim Dorsch

              Being a North Carolina resident, I would have to agree with Jim. Like many of the great beer states, the market is somewhat variable.

              Asheville is a great beer town, with a great beer store, some very good local breweries and very good availability for craft beer in the local restaurants. The Research Triangle (home to UNC, Duke and NC State) is very good. Charlotte and the Triad (Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point) are good, with a few highlights (several great beer stores and one very good brewpub). The rest of the state is hit or miss; mostly miss.

              If you are in any of the four aforementioned areas, the best thing that can be said about the state is that each of them has one great beer store. I travel all around the country and the great NC beer stores are on a par with those found anywhere else.

              1. re: brentk

                Perhaps, when we discuss greatness, we often need to drill down to the local level.

                E.g., Philly is a great beer town, and there's lots of good beer around PA, but I expect there are also lots of towns in PA that are dismal for beer.

                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                  However, I would imagine that there are towns in Oregon, Colorado, California and Washington that have bars, restaurants, stores and residents that give little or no support to their local beer scene. My criteria is to judge the products and the people as a whole. And based on that, North Carolina can stand up with most any state. It has breweries in every region of the state (from Highland Brewing Company in Ashville, to Weeping Radish in the Outer Banks to White Wold and Azalea Coast in Wilmington, and many places in between) producing beer that's every bit as good as what's coming out of the Oregon, Washington state, California, ect. Add to that a supportive local population (admittedly clustered largely in the Triange and Ashville areas) and a growing number of retailers, restaurants and bars making the beer available and it would seem North Carolina is every bit a great beer state as the other big guys.

                  1. re: FlaHopper

                    It's nice that you think NC is that great. With its thriving beer scene, I guess NC won't miss me if, incredibly, I decide to make my beer trek to one of the aforementioned states instead.

      2. NC has a lot more going on in the way of supporting their local breweries than DC-MD-VA does (and has more breweries in state, frankly). The other night I was in a pizza joint in Georgetown that prides itself on its large beer selection. There were no beers local to the DC area, and not for lack of interest on the part of the restaurant. It was both a distribution and a buyer issue (as in, previous attempts to bring in local beers had resulted in them sitting around). For my money, NC is a great beer state - it's got a lot of craft brewers compared to most of the Southeast, and you seem to find the local brews everywhere, along with your good brews from Colorado, California, etc. Is NC like Colorado? No, it's not, but it could get there in time. It's not surprising to see places like Tyler's around the Triangle with 40+ taps, whereas I'd be delighted to see that kind of variety in DC (and I never have - you can't count Brickskeller when you have to have 3 or 4 choices ready because chances are that at least your first two aren't actually in stock). The craft beer scene seems way more developed in NC. And the NC brews are good, IMHO. I think Foothills is my favorite overall, but I like Highland and Big Boss too.

        1. We just got back from Asheville and were very happy with the selection of local brews. I was on a mission to eat and drink local, and Asheville was the perfect town for it. Not only did just about every bar offer local beer, but every bartender and server recommended the local choices above the vast selection of other microbrews and imports.

          That is the key - strong support at the local level will make its way to national attention.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mojoeater

            Amen, brother. The guys from Foothills (Winston-Salem) were held their own against the best craft beers at Savor. Local support is critical, but it all starts with great beer. And there are an inordinate number of breweries across the Tar Heel state that brew great beer.

          2. OK I live in Asheville and according to a recent article in there is one brewery for every 10,000 people. There are some great hand crafted beers and more micro breweries open up every year. The brewers are supported by the locals and tourists have increased their popularity. Unfortunately many of the brews are not available outside, North,and South Caroluna, Georgia and Tennessee. if your a true devotee of microbrews check out This is how much we love our suds.

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