North Carolina’s uncrowded shores are known for body surfing, ghost-crab catching, and tuna fishing. Where else can you find houses on stilts on moving sand dunes in an area haunted by shipwrecks, hunting lodges, and wild horses?
And today, we can add one more thing you can find along the North Carolina shoreline: craft breweries.
Meet Bavarian-born Uli Bennewitz, owner of the Weeping Radish Farm Brewery, the oldest microbrewery in North Carolina. Bennewitz worked to create brewing legislation in the 1980s that led to an increasing number of breweries. The former Manteo brewery now resides amongst the farmer’s markets in Grandy on the road to the Outer Banks.
A passion for shortening the food chain drove the decision to expand onto 24 acres of land that allowed for farming, brewing, and butchering on a single site. German master butcher Gunther Kühle established the butcher facility and works with local farms to source free-range pork and beef for sausages and charcuterie. The hearty pub fare can be washed down with Black Radish, a popular dark German lager, the OBX Kolsch; or the wheaty Weizen.
“Early on, I was interested in farm-to-table, which was considered crazy by most people, but twenty years later, it’s the latest big push,” Bennewitz said. “It’s amazing how it’s evolving, and how people are waking up.”
Visitors can take a tour, but don’t expect it to be about making beer. You’ll hear more about local food sourcing and craftsmanship than about brewing.
The Outer Banks Brewing Station sprouted up on the bypass road in Nags Head in 1992, a dream come true for founders Eric Reece and Aubrey Davis. They enlisted master brewer Scott Meyer, and now the environmentally friendly brewery is one of the most popular spots on the Outer Banks.
The beers range from pale ales to black stouts, and beer enthusiasts can order a flight. The full-service restaurant serves local seafood. Sit inside or out, and on warm summer nights, enjoy the music of top local bands.
On the other side of Ocracoke lies the “southern” Outer Banks, the Crystal Coast region. There you will find Crystal Coast Brewing Company in Morehead City and Atlantic Beach.
Owner Charlie Poppe noticed that coastal North Carolina was underserved and opened the newer brewery that is transitioning to a larger brewing system. The brewery offers fun beers such as maple breakfast porter with real Canadian maple syrup added.
Head brewer Billy Smith says, “I like to play with hops. In the past 10 years, over 100 new varieties of hops have been developed, which is fun.” Poppe describes the Atlantic Beach tap house near the ocean as “casual, family friendly, a fun environment where kids run around and people play board games and shuffleboard.” Customers can order food from pizza and sub shops nearby.
Nearby Atlantic Beach Brewing Company works on its craft on Atlantic Beach Boulevard. Chuck Horn, originally from Jacksonville, envisioned a place near the water where people could enjoy craft beer. He and his twin brother Spencer share a passion for brewing, and their love of the beach led them back home to North Carolina. Brewmaster Rory Malloy explores distinctive beers. Visitors can explore an ever-changing selection in a comfortable space.
It’s been over 30 years since the Weeping Radish opened. New breweries open every year, from Corolla at the north end to the south end at the South Carolina border. If you love drinking craft beer, the idea of brewing beer from scratch, and want to meet the people of North Carolina who are doing it, put a brewery or two on your next North Carolina beach vacation itinerary.
Weeping Radish Farm Brewery, 6810 Caratoke Highway, Grandy, NC 252-491-5205, www.weepingradish.com
Outer Banks Brewing Station, 600 S. Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, NC 252-449-2739, www.obbrewing.com
Crystal Coast Brewing Company, 702 Arendell Street, Morehead City North Carolina, 252-773-0974, www.crystalcoastbrewingcompany.com