Beyond The Pale
It’s a great time to be a beer lover in North Carolina. With the opening of each new brewery – and with innovative offerings from long-standing breweries – North Carolina beer goes well beyond the ho-hum golden, pale, brown, and stout. From the mountains to the coast, North Carolina beer is truly beyond the pale.
Several forward-thinking breweries are looking back, crafting new beers based on historical beer recipes. Oysterhouse Brewing Company cooks up Moonstone, a dry Irish stout brewed with, you guessed it, oysters. This 19th century English recipe hearkens back to a time when oysters were cheaper than peanuts and stout was the common man’s ale of choice. The bivalves are added to the boil, imparting a brininess that adds a layer of complexity to the toasted and slightly bitter stout.
A few North Carolina breweries are ignoring styles altogether. Durham’s Fullsteam specializes in “plow to pint” beers that use local ingredients and often don’t fit neatly into any particular beer category. Carver is brewed with 500 pounds of North Carolina sweet potatoes, producing a surprisingly subtle, hoppy-yet-malty lager. In Black Mountain, Pisgah Brewing Company brews an ever-changing repertoire of unusual and delicious beers, many of them higher in alcohol and worthy of aging like fine wine.
Now in its second year of production, Olde Rabbit’s Foot is a collaboration between three leading North Carolina breweries: Olde Hickory (Hickory), The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery (Farmville), and Foothills (Winston-Salem). The beer is a blend of Olde Hickory’s imperial stout, Duck-Rabbit’s Rabid Duck, and Foothills’ Sexual Chocolate. The blended boozy beer is aged in 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle barrels.
Want a “beer beer?” A number of North Carolina breweries specialize in traditional European-style lagers and ales. Breweries that adhere to the Reinheitsgebot (the German Purity Law of 1516) include coastal Weeping Radish, the Piedmont’s Red Oak, and Heinzelmannchen in the mountains. Asheville’s Green Man and Chapel Hill’s Top of the Hill specialize in traditional English-style ales. Highland Brewing Company brews Scottish-inspired beers as well as seasonal releases like Cold Mountain Winter Ale.
In the months and years ahead, be on the lookout for new North Carolina breweries… and new styles like sour ales and session beers. If you like beer, you’ll find a beer you love in North Carolina.
By Sean Wilson
added: December 22, 2010
updated: December 6, 2012
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