They say Virginia is for lovers. But North Carolina is for BEER lovers. Billing itself as the “State of Southern Beer,” NC is home to more than 200 craft breweries, brewpubs, microbreweries, and nano breweries statewide.
With such a wealth, it’s hard to pick favorites. But if you’re new to the area, in town for a visit, or just want to brush your taste buds up on what brews the Triangle has to offer, there are definitely some heavy hitters that are not to be missed.
Here are some of the biggest names in brewing in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Cary—with the national medals and awards to show for it. While they’re busy putting Triangle beer on the map, you should get busy working through their amazing brews.
(P.S. We know these aren’t the only noteworthy breweries in the Triangle and surrounding areas. Stay tuned for more from Offline on great beer-drinking destinations near you! Think we missed a quintessential Triangle brewery or have another idea for us? Send us a tip!)
Starting as one of the first breweries in Raleigh, Lonerider Brewing Company now distributes its beer in multiple states across the US (and even internationally), gaining a loyal following of “Outlaw” fans who like to come hang out at its “Hideout.” Classics include the Sweet Josie Brown Ale, Shotgun Betty Hefeweizen Ale, and Deadeye Jack Porter, while top performers in the 2018 beer-competition arena include the German-style Goldie’s Big Bock (silver in the Dopple/Strong Bock category) and Cowboy in Black (gold in the American-Style Black Ale category). Also, we have news: Lonerider Spirits. Because beer and whiskey go together like…beer and whiskey.
New in the grand scheme of beer (they began brewing in 2016), Clouds puts its focus on European lagers and ales, with a 15-barrel production brew house in Raleigh open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. In addition to the kid-friendly taproom, Clouds has two restaurant locations, one in Raleigh and one in Durham, where you can indulge in German-infused grub and even pour your own taps.
Since its first beer was shipped in 2007, Big Boss has certainly lived up to its namesake, being big and a boss in the Triangle brew scene. Alongside some killer new 2018 releases, regular favs include the Bad Penny Brown Ale, Hell's Belle Belgian Blond, fall seasonal Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale, and summer seasonal Blanco Diablo Cucumber & Lime White Ale. Grab a pint for only $3 at the taproom on Tuesdays. We’ll take one of each, please.
While Asheville gets its year-round visitors thanks to populars Wicked Weed and Highland Brewing, Durham’s own Ponysaurus builds its mega-empire. Maybe it’s the kickass beer (try the Videri Chocolate Stout, Biere de Garde, Rye Pale Ale, or variety of saisons), or maybe it’s the fun, welcoming atmosphere of the taproom and stellar outdoor drinking space. Maybe it’s the fact that Ponysaurus reps a dinosaur-horse hybrid. Either way, locals are loyal to this top Triangle brewery.
Since opening as a microbrewery in the mid-90s, Top of the Hill—better known as TOPO, y’all—puts its roots in English-style ales. Yes, that includes your favorites: the Blueberry Wheat, the Kenan Lager, and the Old Well White. Aside from the delicious brews and palatable grub, TOPO is known for its first-rate views, especially if you can snag a Franklin Street-facing seat on the patio after a Carolina win over Duke. TOPO is a top (oh!) Triangle brewery, if anything for its sheer popularity among UNC students, Chapel Hill locals, and Tar Heel alums alike.
There's a lot to appreciate about Brewery Bhavana, but we're especially thankful that this spot introduced us to an unexpectedly amazing pairing: craft beer and dim sum. Throw in a bookstore, flower shop and incredibly-beautiful space, and you've got a sense of the Bhavana experience—an experience that earned it a spot on Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurants of 2017. The taps feature ten core beers and an ever-changing variety of funky provisional offerings. Belly up to the sleek marble bar for a brew, and grab a snack to go with it (may we suggest the scallion pancakes with bone marrow and coconut-soy & oxtail jam??).
Open daily at 11:11 a.m., Bull City Burger and Brewery, BCBB for short, is a locally owned, independent restaurant and craft brewery in downtown Durham. We love BCBB for the fresh in-house food, not to mention the award-winning brewskis (Winner of the 2017 NC State Brewers' Cup for their Star Lite Black Night Black Lager, a dark German beer). While the adults play, kids will love the old-fashioned soda fountain, still in operation. Other things we love about BCBB are the Saturday brewery tours with beer samplings, year-round heated outdoor patio, and B Corp certification: Bull City Burger and Brewery was the first Certified B Corp brewpub in the world, verified by the nonprofit B Lab for their positive impact on people and planet.
Patrons consider Lynnwood Grill & Brewing Concern a neighborhood bar, for reasons like the fact that the environment and staff are just so darn nice. Lynnwood Grill added the “Brewing” to its name in 2013, and five years later, we couldn’t be happier. Neither could the Great American Beer Festival, which, in August 2017, gave Lynnwood Brewing a glistening gold for their Saison Du Bois in the American Belgo-Style Ale category, and a shiny silver for their Mosaic Pale Ale in the American-Style Pale Ale category. As if things couldn’t get any better, a new Lynnwood Brewing production facility and taproom (with food trucks on rotation, and a new restaurant coming soon) is now open just north of downtown Raleigh at 1053 East Whitaker Mill Road. Happiness truly does come on tap.
Bond Brothers is newer to the Triangle beer scene but has already made quite the impression. The year it opened it was named the best new brewery in America by USA Today. That was based both off a panel of beer experts and a popular vote, showing the dedicated following Bond Brothers has already managed to gain. Visitors love the local IPA (with rotating hops in every batch) among other quality ales, sours and more, the giant patio, and the fact that they can bring their pups along with them.
Your first trip to Fullsteam will probably involve a game of two of ping-pong and one of the brewery’s signature colorful flights in an NC-shaped carrier. (Don’t forget to Insta!) Maybe trivia, if it’s a Thursday. And food. How could we forget the food?! If you’ve visited Fullsteam, you’re likely familiar with the rotating food trucks. In 2017, however, in-house food made its debut in the kitchen. On the menu, you’ll find Southern musts like the Classic BLT (pair it with the popular Carver sweet potato lager). If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Hogwash-Braised Pork Belly Quesadilla, which, if we had to guess, would pair nicely with the Hogwash Imperial Smoked Porter. Any takers?
Craft beer, delicious pizza, and naps: three of the best things in life, two of which Trophy Brewing Co. does pretty dang well. (Unless they’re now offering naps on the menu, which—wait—did we just come up with an amazing new concept for a brewery?) Make sure you’re clear which Trophy Brewing Co. location you’re heading to before your dinner meetup or happy hour: there are three locations, each of which is branded as its own unique experience. There’s the Brewery + Taproom (656 Maywood Avenue) with rotating food trucks, Tap + Table (225 S. Wilmington Street) with a full-service menu, and Brewing + Pizza (827 W. Morgan Street) with that delicious pizza we mentioned. Offered at all three is Trophy’s awesome beer, hence its spot on this list. We love the summer Yard of the Month Cream Ale, brewed with corn meal from the Historic Yates Mill County Park.
Carolina Brewery—not to be confused with Carolina Brewing Company, another awesome brewery just outside the Triangle—is a favorite in both Chapel Hill and Pittsboro. Its main home is on Franklin Street, in a generous-sized warehouse-style space with that welcoming brewery vibe you know and love. According to Chapelboro, only four other breweries existed in NC when Carolina Brewery opened in early ’95. Today, locals’ top brew picks are the Sky Blue Golden Ale and the Flagship IPA. Weekly specials include $3 Pint Night on Tuesdays (for year-round beers) and $3 Pints and $5 Growler Refills on Thursday. Plus, weekend brunch in Chapel Hill. Table for two, please!
Clocking in as Wake County's third largest production brewery (and NC's first woman-owned brewery!) there's a lot to love about this spot. The team here puts their love of the City of Oaks into every beer they produce, with fun homages like the Hell Yes Ma'am and Dear 'Ol Dixie. Bring visitors here for a true southern brewing experience.
Durty Bull Brewing Co. launched in 2016 with the goal of carving a new niche in the Durham brewing scene, offering unique barrel-aged and sour pours in a laid-back environment. Carve a niche they did: That year they were named one of the best new breweries in the US by Beer Advocate. Get adventurous here with a raspberry sour or other unconventional brew while getting nostalgic playing pinball, Nintendo, or other games from the taproom's collection.