2009 must have been a depressing year for those with gluten or barley allergies. A few freshmen breweries opened their doors this year, catching Raleighite’s eyes, noses and taste buds. The number, quality and most importantly, availability of these home-grown beers gave many of us beer hounds a reason to be proud of the 919. So raise your glass and enjoy a quick recap of the year as we run down some of New Raleigh’s favorite, local brews.
photo from LoneRider
It was late December 2008 when I was at a Tweetup hosted by Edge Office. There in the back was a quiet, polite man pouring beers out of a small corney keg. Little did I know that Shotgun Betty and Lone Rider Brewery would quickly become one of my favorite local treasures.
That man’s name was Sumit Vohra, CEO of Lone Rider Brewing Company and I haven’t stopped seeing him (or his beers) around Raleigh since. Lone Rider’s aggressive, grassroots and social media marketing coupled with the great, unique tastes of their brews has caught like wildfire in the Triangle. Their first beer and mainstay, Shotgun Betty, instantly grabs you with its hazel eyes and fruity aroma. A hint of banana and smooth texture make this hefeweizen one of my favorites.
Lone Rider has gone on to release three more beers in the past year, including Sweet Josie Brown Ale, Dead Eye Jack (Porter) and just recently Peacemaker Pale Ale.
For whatever reason, it seemed like Boylan Bridge Brewpub was never really going to open. However, the long-anticipated wait finally ended in early ‘09 and the joint has quickly turned into one of Raleigh’s downtown favorites.
Operator Andrew Leager knew that good beer plus a kickass location would keep the crowds coming - and he was right. Normally with six or seven beers on tap and a breathtaking view of downtown Raleigh’s skyline, Boylan Bridge Brewpub is the perfect place to spend the afternoon with friends or the night with friends. Its spacious patio, large picnic tables and the frequent breaking of a glass from being knocked off the brick wall make for a great atmosphere to kick back, lounge and relax.
While it opened in 2008 (November) Aviator Brewing over in Fuquay-Varina took off in 2009. Housed in a small airplane hangar, Aviator has a few beers that are regulars but the brewery is known to create new beers almost weekly.
The company has hosted many cask nights around the Raleigh area with these one-off-brews and opened their own bar on the brewery site just a few months ago. 2009 also saw Aviator obtaining their “beer truck license” for Cooke Street Carnival, meaning that you will definitely see more of them around Raleigh (especially street festivals) in the year 2010.
Ahh Big Boss. While it began in 2006-2007, I’d be remiss to not mention it here. It’s become incredibly easy to pick up a six-pack of Big Boss (thank you Harris Teeter) lately, that it deserves a spot in the ‘09 recap. The brand’s catchy design lures you in while its two ladies Hell’s Belle and Bad Penny make sure you stay. As well, the brewery on Wicker Drive just off Atlantic Boulevard, constantly has fantastic new brews on tap.
2009 also brought with it an increased number of beer events (no, not the World Beer Festival) - cask nights. Local establishments like Raleigh Times or the Busy Bee and The Flying Saucer tend to host a beer tasting at least once a month by cracking open a cask or two of an exotic brew. Sometimes the casks are filled with local Raleigh and North Carolina brews, but mostly the cask nights are a welcome chance to taste a beer not commonly found in the Triangle, so try one out.
photo by John Morris
If you’ve never been to Greensboro and downed a few at Natty Greene’s, you’re missing out. Luckily a drive down I-40 for the establishment’s famed beers won’t be necessary anymore as one opens up on Glenwood South in January 2010. The new restaurant/pub will be only the second location for the Greensboro company and looks to be a great way to continue to the spirit of local beer, local brands in 2010. For more on the new pub, click here.