Celebrate Craft Beer for a Month, Enjoy It Year-Round

Celebrate Craft Beer for a Month, Enjoy It Year-Round

Beer flights are a great way to discover your favorite North Carolina craft beers

Whether you’re a hardcore brew hound or new to the craft beer scene, the multitude of breweries and brewpubs scattered across North Carolina – 185 and counting – are waiting with taps ready to tempt your taste buds.

In fact, for the fifth year in a row, the entire month of April is devoted to a statewide celebration (responsibly, of course) of craft brewing, fittingly known as NC Beer Month. And throughout the year, our breweries – and the growing beer scenes – garner national media attention, in addition to racking up top awards in national and international beer competitions.

Year after year, the local brew crews have demonstrated why North Carolina is one of the country’s top craft brewing centers, bringing home a keg full of medals. So if you’re putting together a brew-to-do list, these winners would be a good place to start.

North Carolina breweries won 17 medals, including eight golds, from the prestigious Great American Beer Festival in 2016. Claiming multiple awards were Brown Truck Brewery (three, including gold for its #10 American Lager) from High Point, Lynwood Brewing Concern (two, which are golds for both its Once You Go and Drop Bear Australian Pale Ale) from Raleigh, and Olde Hickory Brewery (two, including gold for its Irish Walker) from Hickory.

And our breweries scored 19 medals at the 2016 U.S. Open Beer Championship that drew nearly 5,000 entries from Maui to Munich. Four were gold: Putin Tang by Lynnwood Brewing in the Imperial Stout – English category; Biere De Garden by Sugar Creek Brewing (Charlotte) for French/Belgian Ale, and its Raspberry White in the Belgian Style Fruit Beer category; and Orpheus by Mystery Brewing (Hillsborough) for Belgian Dubbel.

Awards are great validation, but North Carolina’s dedicated brewers will tell you it’s really all about the experience of sitting down and trying out something new and different, or just out of the ordinary. While most breweries and brewpubs maintain a core of proven favorites, the majority are constantly experimenting, concocting and collaborating to produce ales, porters and stouts that challenge the senses – and ciders and sours have joined the mix as well.

Burial Beer Co. in Asheville

Burial Beer Co. is one of the fastest-growing breweries in Asheville, a city where craft beer is king

Wood barrels, maybe having previously housed bourbon, are lending new subtleties to old recipes. And always be on the lookout for seasonal and special brews available on a limited basis, but worth a try and often bearing a surprise ingredient, such as persimmons or sweet potatoes or maybe local herbs. You’ll also find that the staffs truly enjoy talking about their wares and offering samples, and sometimes even providing guided tours.

To the delight of foodies, it’s not just about beer in many establishments. You’ll experience chefs turning out innovative fare, often prepared or paired with local beers, or just good Carolina standards like barbecue, fried chicken or a juicy burger – sometimes fired over an open grill. Other breweries team up with neighborhood food trucks to bring a mix of offerings to hungry patrons.

And nothing goes better with a tasty brew than some toe-tapping tunes, which you’ll readily find in North Carolina breweries and brewpubs. From traditional bluegrass to Celtic to rock ‘n roll, you can count on regularly hearing local musicians gracing a corner of the room or jamming on a full stage while you sip a favorite.

Fortunately, a substantial number of brewing operations maintain websites that offer information on everything from what’s on tap any given day to food menus to news on special events. If you’re plotting a brew-based road trip, the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild offers a detailed map and list of breweries.

And remember, if you’re visiting during the month of April, be sure to experience NC Beer Month, where there are dozens of beer-inspired festivals, special events, tastings and giveaways across the state. Plus, there are travel deals, where you can purchase discounted packages that include lodging, brewery tours, beer dinners and more. And be assured, the state’s brewmasters will highlight the festivities with releases of new concoctions and proven favorites. To show your favorite North Carolina breweries some love, download the Untappd app to earn recognition for ones you visit.

When it comes to craft brewing, it’s all here in North Carolina, which is why the aforementioned brewers guild proudly declares this the “State of Southern Beer.”

Gary Carter is an Asheville-based travel writer who covers a range of topics for magazines, online publications and his blog, Eliot’s Tales 4 Gen B.

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