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what local beer to buy in Chapel Hill/Durham?

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Can anyoe recommend a good micro brew to buy while in Chapel HIll/Durham area this weekend?

A nice Pale Ale would be my first choice.

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  1. Are you looking for draft or bottle recommendations?

    5 Replies
    1. re: brentk

      Both draft and bottle, I'll be near Franklin St and plan on bring some back home too.

      1. re: discndav

        In Chapel Hill, I would recommend three places to get beer on draft - Carolina Brewing Company (the best brewpub in town) and then two beer bars (both in Carrboro) - Tyler's Taproom and Milltown.

        Others have chimed in about the local breweries and I'll just add another shout out for Duck Rabbit, whose Rabbid Duck is a great current seasonal.

        In the Chapel Hill area, the best place I have found to purchase beer is TJ's, which is across the street from Milltown. However, if you can make it over to Durham, you will find Sam's, which is one of the best beer stores in the country.

        1. re: brentk

          Is Top of the Hill still around? Have preferred Carolina when I've been there, but just curious.

          I haven't been to Sam's in a long time, but I'd have a hard time putting it up against Sam's in Chicago, Green's, Belmont Station, or any number of other retailers. Realize that "popping the cap" may have changed things, but the best-in-the-country label is still hard to believe.

          1. re: ted

            TopO is still around, but I would agree, the beer is better at Carolina.

            With respect to Sam's, the RateBeer Best Beer Retailers 2008 list has Sam's in 34th place, with Sam's in Chicago at 27th and Belmont Station at 13th.

            I have shopped in many of the beer stores on the RateBeer list as I travel throughout the eastern half of the US. While I haven't been to Belmont Station in Portland, in the past year I have been to both Sam's in Chicago and Green's in Atlanta and I would rank Sam's in Durham above both of them. The selection, while different due to regional distribution patterns, is on par but Sam's in Durham allows you to buy anything in singles whereas the singles selection at the other two is quite limited. Green's, however, has a slightly better Belgian selection.

            The selection in North Carolina is tremendous, as many craft breweries are now distributing in the state. Within the last year, we have seen the arrival of Bell's, Stone, Smuttynose, Founders, Lagunitas and New Holland. And we already had Victory, Weyerbacher, Clipper City, Terrapin, Jolly Pumpkin, Rogue, Avery, Oskar Blues, and Great Divide in the fold.

            If were to visit the area now, I think you would be amazed at the breadth of the selection.

            1. re: brentk

              My recollection from spending 4 years nearby is that the imported/obscure stuff collected a lot of dust at Sam's. Hopefully, that's changed in the (long) interim.

              I agree with you on the lack of singles at Green's. I usually dive in with a sixer when I want to try something new.

    2. Look for Big Boss, Foothills (on draft only), Duck-Rabbit, Highland Brewing, Carolina Beer Company (as opposed to Carolina Brewing, which is so so), or French Broad. Of these, Big Boss and Foothills are the hands-down best, but all of them are quite good.

      3 Replies
      1. re: FlaHopper

        I'm curious about your assessment of Big Boss. I've tried two of theirs in bottles (Bad Penny and something else I can't recall) and wasn't impressed. What do you like out of them, so I can keep an eye out for it?

        On the other hand, I'd put Duck Rabbit as no-question the best NC brewery I've tried. But then, I'm a dark beer fan, so maybe it's not surprising.

        1. re: eliah

          It might just be a matter of taste. For example, I really like the Bad Penny brown. I also like Hells Belle ale, which I brought back to DC from last weekend's beer fest in Durham. While I was down, I got to try one of Big Boss' newest beers, the Black Diamond IPA, which has blackberries in it. Now, I do not like fruit-flavored beer, but Big Boss did a real nice job adding just enough blackberry to complement to IPA flavor, without giving the beer a fruity flavor. And their Holly Roller IPA is one of the best in the state (the best? Foothills' Hoppium).

          On the other hand, I've been slow to come around to Duck-Rabbit. Their flagship beer, the Milk-Stout, is not my favorite stout by a long shot. However, once I started trying the other beers they brew I started to change my opinion. In fact, the other six-pack I brought back from Durham was the Duck-Rabbit seasonal, a Wee Heavy Scotch ale. I can't wait to try it. So again, your preference for darker beers might be why you're not crazy about Big Boss, which tends to make lighter ales.

          1. re: FlaHopper

            I just had the Big Boss Pumpkin Ale at Horniblow's yesterday and they did a nice job with it this year - nicely balanced between real pumpkin flavor and the pie spices.

      2. Reporing back,... Top of the Hill has a fine IPA, this place was nice to hang out in on a college football weekend. Spanky's across the street had a Pale Ale by Pilot, I didn't
        like it and swicthed to Sierra Neveda. Spanky's is nothing fancy but the bar food was good and service was excellent sitting at the bar while the place ws packed.

        1. Triangle Brewing Co. IPA is the clear answer here. It is the best of their beers, and it is on tap many places in Durham.