I am currently in Raleigh, North Carolina for the 2015 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference, an annual event that invites the greatest beer writers and hottest breweries from around the country to drink, share stories, and drink some more. I attended last year when it was in San Diego, but I am especially excited to be attending again in NC because 1) I have never been to North Carolina and 2) the beer scene is blowing up around here. The event itself is in Asheville where local favorites like Green Man Brewing and Wicked Weed mingle with newly planted facilities from western giants like Oskar Blues and Sierra Nevada, an exciting mix of truly local and the pioneers of craft brewing.
As part of the Beer Bloggers Conference experience I had the opportunity to go on a pre-conference excursion to the breweries of Raleigh led by excellent hosts from visitRaleigh and Beltline Brew Tours. My general impression is that Raleigh is on the cusp of becoming a booming beer city and the breweries we visited will be bursting at the seems before too long. Interesting to note the breweries and consumers in Raleigh have a keen fondness for classic styles, something I wish San Diego brewers would pay more attention to (one can only have so many mega-dank IPAs). All-in-all some great beers were had and I left wishing Raleigh was not so far away!
Read on for the details.
The first stop was Raleigh Brewing, a 20 BBL brewery with an output just shy of 5,000 BBL/year. Started in 2013 they are already poised to make a big splash in the beer scene, they have some solid brewing chops and I was very impressed with their self-distribution and community networks. Even more interesting is that their their side-gig is fabricating brewery equipment!
I have to admit, I was most excited by Atlantic Brew Supply, the homebrew supply operated by the folks from Raleigh brewing. I took a close look at their inventory and was impressed with their selection and prices; they do the one thing I wish every homebrew supply did: label the maltster of their malts. If I lived in Raleigh I would probably hang out here all the time!
- City of Blokes (English Session Bitter) – Smooth, malty, and a firm bitterness. Very sessionable.
- Morovian Rhapsody (Czech Pils) – Crisp and clean. A bit doughy with firm hop character.
- Blatherskite (Scottish Export) – Smooth malt and fruity yeast character.
- Hidden Pipe (Coffee Porter) – Smooth nutty malt and rich mocha. No green pepper from the coffee.
- House of Clay (Rye IPA) – Citrus and a bit spicy. Smooth bitterness. Good rye earthiness.
- Hell Yes Ma’am (Golden Strong) – Golden strong with wit yeast. Hazy and extra fruity. Like an imperial wit.
- Dear ‘ol Dixie (Pale Ale) – Strong juicy hop character and smooth bitterness. My kind of brew!
The second stop was Lonerider in northwestern Raleigh. Lonerider is an up-and-coming brewery with an annual output of 14,000 BBL started by a former Cisco Systems employee who was tired of not having quality beer available. I was very impressed with the quality of their branding and artwork, it was evident they put a lot of effort into making their product look good.
- Peacemaker Pale Ale – Citrusy and smooth, real easy drinking.
- Shotgun Betty (Hefeweizen) – Good banana hefe character but a tad cloying.
- Tombstone Reserve (Barrel Aged Stout) – Nutty with smooth roast. Some coconut from the barrel.
- Sweet Josie (Brown Ale) – A little roasty, a little caramelly. A very nice brown!
The third stop was White Street Brewing in Wake Forest (incidentally, I learned Wake Forest College is no longer in Wake Forest). Originally just a brewpub on White St., they recently expanded to a 55,000 sqft production brewery and an annual output of 7,000 BBL. The owner claims the impetus to open White Street Brewing was that Wake Forest was pretty boring and he wanted to open an establishment that would bring some good times back to the city. Hey, whatever the reason it looks like it worked!
As a side note, there has been a lot of discussion recently about not appropriating the term “Lambic” for wild beers made in the US (or anywhere else but Pajottenland). Regardless of how you feel about that, I find it amusing there is so much sound and fury over the Lambic appellation when no one even blinks an eye at calling a US beer a “Kölsch,” which is also a protected appellation specific to the pale beers made in Köln. Long story short, I applauded White Street for calling their beer “Kölsh-style” instead of doing what everyone else does and just calling it Kölsch.
- Kölsch-style – Crisp with some good crackery pils character. Nice light fruity pear character. 2014 World Beer Cup gold medal winner.
- Scottish – Rich malt and moderately smoky. A dash of caramel.
- Hoptimist IPA – Juicy fruity hops and esters. Bitterness has a bit of an edge.
- Schwarzbier – Lightly nutty with a smooth, subtle roastiness. A really nice example of a Schwarz!
The final stop of the tour was as the soon-to-open Raleigh Beer Garden, an impressive monument to the consumption of good beer and good food. Three stories tall and boasting 366+ taps the Raleigh Beer Garden looks to make big waves in the local, national, and even international beer scene. Every aspect of the place has been scrutinized and optimized and features some of the most state-of-the-art beer dispensing systems anywhere. Regardless of the quality of the brews, the Raleigh Beer Garden is an impressive engineering and logistical feat. Needless to say, I wish San Diego had a beer garden like this I could attend frequently 🙂
Since the Raleigh Beer Garden was not yet fully operational we instead scooted down to the Hibernian Irish Pub, another property a few blocks away owned by the proprietor. A cool spot with great atmosophere, we shuffled upstairs to get some samples from Aviator, Nickel Point, and Big Boss. Unfortunately, I had far surpassed the exhaustion point and stopped taking notes, so I have no idea what I sampled–it was all good stuff!
Beer sampled: heck if I know! 🙂