Will Travel for Beer

Charlotte is surrounded by great beer. Here are four brew-centric day trips — now hop to it!


The riverside, family-owned Coast Brewing Company is a staple among South Carolina breweries. The all-organic brewing process complements its unique spot in South Carolina beer history — the owners, David and Jaime Tenny, were organizers and pushers of the South Carolina Pop the Cap Campaign, which resulted in the repeal of the 6 percent alcohol limit on all beers within state borders in 2007 (it's now 17.5 percent). Tours are on Thursdays between 4 and 7 p.m., and on Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and you'll be able to sample the lively HopArt IPA or a seasonal brew, like the much sought-after Blackbeerd Russian Imperial Stout. None of the brews are available outside S.C. 1250 Second St. North, North Charleston, 843-343-4727, coastbrewing.com

Once you've whetted your palate with a few samples, stop in Closed for Business for a full pint of local brew from one of thirty-six taps of craft beers. Enjoy a few Buffalo Oysters with a draft from the local Palmetto Brewery, or maybe a Pork Slap sandwich with an R. J. Rocker beer out of Spartanburg, S.C. 453 King St., Charleston, 843-853-8466, closed4business.com.

The best beer shopping in town is the Charleston Beer Exchange, where you'll find eyebrow-raising bottles like the vintage 2008 Rasputin (there are less than 300 bottles worldwide) or the Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. There's also an ample selection of Belgian lambics, an important player in the rising sour beer trend. 14 Exchange St., Charleston, 843-577-5446, thecharlestonbeerexchange.com

A pint of Ommegang Hennipen at Red Drum Restaurant in Mount Pleasant is the perfect crisp ale to go with the crab and corn salsa-topped sea scallops. Along with seventeen draft beers that include mainstays like Chimay White and Coast, the elegant, Southwest-inspired nightspot also offers another unique draft — a Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc, making it the first place in Charleston to offer wine on tap. 803 Coleman Blvd., Mount Pleasant, 843-849-0313, reddrumrestaurant.com

Triad Area

Birthplace of the Tar Heel State's favorite just-sweet-enough lager, the Red Oak Brewery just outside Greensboro offers tours at 3 p.m. on Fridays for $5. All three of Red Oak's beers are Bavarian-style lagers and are brewed according to the German Beer Purity Law of 1516, which stated that beer could only be made with water, barley, and hops. It was the world's first law governing food or beverage. It's called priorities, people. 6901 Konica Dr., 336-447-2055, redoakbrewery.com

In downtown Greensboro, be sure to stop in at Natty Greene's Pub and Brewing Company. Open since 2004, this pub brews a dozen small-batch beers on site, all of which are available on draft year round. Good thing, too, because after a plate of cheese-topped Mesquite Fries and a half-pound Super Bacon Burger, you're going to need a cold Guilford Golden Ale or a Southern Pale Ale. Or two. 345 S. Elm St., 336-274-1373, nattygreenes.com

When Winston-Salem's Foothills Brewing Company releases its annual Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout in February, there will be an all-night wait outside the brewery the likes of which you haven't seen since the last Harry Potter book hit Barnes & Noble. The rich, decadent brew has been written up in Men's Health and Esquire for its sensual (read: delicious) qualities, and despite doubling the amount it made in 2009 for 2010, the brewery still sold out within an hour. But even if you can't catch the mythical stout, this five-year-old brewery and brewpub is a one-stop shop for some of the best beers and bites in town. The Hoppyum IPA is perhaps the most notorious of the seven year-round brews, and you can try it at the restaurant attached to the brewery. There are windows behind the bar to give visitors a glimpse into the fermentation room, and the kitchen even works the brews onto the menu with Pale Ale–broiled Beer Brats and Ale-battered Shrooms. 638 W. Fourth St., Winston-Salem, 336-777-3348, foothillsbrewing.com

Greenville, S.C.

The twelve-year-old Thomas Creek Brewery will hold private tours for visitors — you can call ahead to make a reservation, or just pop in for a run-through of its brewing process and a drink at its bar. Try one of the fifteen award-winning beers, like the flagship malty River Falls Red Ale or a limited-edition beer only available for tasting at the brewery (selection varies). 2054 Piedmont Hwy., Greenville, 864-605-1166, thomascreekbeer.com


If you only have an afternoon to indulge your craft cravings, take a quick drive up to Mooresville, where the Carolina Beer Company (the brew masters behind Carolina Blonde, Cottonwood Endo IPA, and other local faves) offer tastings from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. For a pint of pumpkin bliss, try the brand-new Cottonwood Pumpkin Spice Ale — the autumn answer to their summery Strawberry Blonde Ale. 110 Barley Park Lane, Mooresville, 704-799-2337, carolinabeer.com


Touring a brewery is fun, but (as with everything) it's more fun with a beer. That's why Big Boss Brewery offers $1 drafts from an on-site bar to keep you hydrated on its tours, held the second Saturday of every month at 2 p.m. You might know Big Boss from its shiny labels that look like they were copied from a motorcyclist's bicep — think the Hell's Bell Belgian Blond and the Bad Penny Brown Ale. 1249 Wicker Dr., Raleigh, 919-834-0045, bigbossbrewing.com

Since a liquid diet obviously includes grease, head to the Boylan Bridge Brewpub and try one of the Fried Shrimp Po' Boys with a brewed-on-site beer, like the rich Southbound Stout or the snappy Bruno Bitter. Don't feel like committing? Create your own hoppy smorgasbord by ordering half pints. 201 S. Boylan Ave., Raleigh, 919-803-8927, boylanbridge.com

After the tour, head over to the Pour House Music Hall, where the shows are as local and diverse as the drafts. You'll find a full bar with thirty taps, including state stalwarts Duck Rabbit Milk Stout, Cottonwood IPA, and Highland Gaelic Ale. 224 S. Blount St., Raleigh, 919-821-1120, the-pour-house.com

If you have extra time, head a few minutes south to Aviator Brewing Co. This brewery is a rising star, and it started operations in November 2008 in a plane hangar at a rundown, abandoned airport in Fuquay-Varina. It was forced to evict its roommate (a rusting airplane) out of the hangar to set up tanks for brewing. Thankfully, both its venue and its beer have been upgraded, with seasonal releases coming out each month, like the Frost Nipper winter ale. There is also a taphouse about a mile from the brewery, where you can kick back with live music, Aviator beer, and, starting in December, pub food. Though Aviator's flagship beer is the HotRod Red Ale, you'll want to try the thick, dense Black Belgian IPA. It's a unique breed, made with a single hop, and proceeds from its sales are donated to the Florida Aquarium's oil spill research. 209 Technology Park Ln., Fuquay-Varina, 919-567-2337, aviatorbrew.com


For those of you who thought flavored beer was for wimps, think again. Brewers at the just-opened Fullsteam Brewery are dedicated to finding the next fascinating (and often counterintuitive) beer flavor. The Plow to Pint series honors Southern agriculture by incorporating regional crops (and livestock — there's a Hogwash Hickory Smoked Porter) into the brewing process. The Carver Sweet Potato beer, an amber ale, has caught the most attention, but this winter, Fullsteam will tap Working Man's Lunch, a Moon Pie–flavored stout. While Fullsteam doesn't offer tours yet, there is an on-site tavern called R&G, where you can try an assortment of flavors or sip on one of its traditional beers, like the Rocket Science IPA or the 6:14 Mild Ale. 726 Rigsbee Ave., Durham, 888-756-9274, fullsteam.ag

If you must have your food in solid form, on a plate, rather than fermented into a beer, head over to Tyler's Taproom, where the sixty-tap bar attracts some of the country's most hard-to-find brews (it'll be the only bar in North Carolina with Ayinger Oktoberfest Marzen on draft). If you can find a spot on the patio, enjoy your meal and beverage outdoors, where a six-tap Biergarten offers a killer view of the iconic Lucky Strike Water Tower. 324 Blackwell St., Durham, 919-433-0345, tylerstaproom.com

Categories: Beer, Beer & Wine, News – Web Exclusives, Travel Feature