Craft Beers, Breweries and the Fast-Growing Beer Culture of North Carolina

Craft Beers, Breweries and the Fast-Growing Beer Culture of North Carolina

Whether celebrating the end of a productive day, a long overdue get-together, or the simple beauty of a North Carolina sunset, there’s nothing better than sitting outside on a warm spring evening enjoying the company of good friends and family, a frosty cold beer in hand. With over 300 breweries and beer pubs and literally thousands of local ales, lagers and IPAs to choose from in our fair, beer-loving state, the heady world of craft beers and libations is thriving in North Carolina.
According to Forbes, North Carolina has more craft breweries than any other state in the South. We are also one of the most rapidly growing craft beer producers nationwide – no. 4 on a list of states with the greatest growth in craft breweries over the past four years, with an astounding 3.4 breweries per 100,000 residents over the age of 21. Beer-related events, venues (breweries, tasting rooms and beer pubs) and organizations showcase an industry that supports North Carolina growers (local ingredients ranging from barley, wheat and hops to sweet potatoes, berries and even sorghum) and is dedicated to the promotion of NC beer production and the growth of the craft beer industry both locally and nationwide.

The A to Z’s of Beer Tasting

Few people realize that just as there’s a tried-and-true, “official” method for wine tasting – swirl, sniff, slurp, swish, swallow… – there’s a right way and wrong way to judge a beer, beyond the basic, “yeah, I like that one!” or “nope, that one’s a little too bitter/sweet/ strong/weak for my tastes.” Given the number of high-quality, often nationally-recognized brews that are produced in NC, it may be worth taking an extra minute or two with a new beer to find out which tastes and qualities you prefer. suggests the following seven steps for making this evaluation.
  1. Pour the beer into a clean glass, tilting it so that the head of the beer isn’t too large.
  2. Stick your nose into the glass and inhale. Warming the glass with the heat of your hands will release even more aromas.
  3. Hold your glass up to the light and notice the color. Different types of beers feature various hues and levels of opacity.
  4. Smell again! The aroma of your beer will continue to develop as it warms.
  5. Take a sip. Let every corner of your entire mouth taste the beer. Swallow, exhale through your nose, and determine which flavors from this initial taste you’re picking up.
  6. Take a second taste, this time feeling the weight, or the density, of the beer in your mouth.
  7. ENJOY. Follow the steps all the way through once again, focusing on the aspects of the beer that you particularly like. Give the beer a score, if you’d like, and rank it on a scale of other beers you’ve tasted and evaluated.

North Carolina Breweries and Pubs

A number of breweries and pubs have emerged over the past few years, including some that are very well-known – Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., New Belgium Brewing Co., and Bull Durham Beer Co., to name a few – as well as several up-and-comers that produce and/or serve a wide range of masterfully-crafted brews.
  • Lazy Hiker Brewing in Franklin, NC is named after the nearby Appalachian Trail and the passion for the great outdoors that every Lazy Hiker employee seems to embody. Hikers and non-hiking visitors alike will enjoy Lazy Hiker’s special Trail Mate Golden Ale in the new taproom and brewery located in Franklin’s former town hall and fire department.
  • A beer-lover’s paradise in downtown Raleigh, the Raleigh Beer Garden features a record-setting 366 taps – 144 in the North Carolina bar alone – served in a total of four bars on three levels. Customers come for the awesome selection of beers on tap, an outstanding menu and spectacular city views from a wide-open rooftop.
  • Free Range Brewing in Charlotte offers small-batch brews on tap that change often but are all high-quality and unique. Try the Sea of Companions Oyster Stout for something new, or My Fair Lady, one of their more popular IPAs.
  • Fuquay-Varina’s small, veteran-owned boutique brewery, the Fainting Goat Brewing Co., produces high-quality, handcrafter beers – What the Buck American Pale, Der Hoof Hefeweizen (a traditional German wheat beer) and the seasonal No Kidding Belgian Wit (a Belgian white beer) – in a casual, dog-friendly atmosphere.

North Carolina Beer Month and Other Yearly Beer-Related Events

There may be festivals aplenty celebrating North Carolina’s flourishing beer culture throughout our lager-loving state, but an entire month of the calendar year – April! – has now been devoted to NC’s craft beer industry and all the unique regional beers that call North Carolina home. Next month a roster of special events sponsored by Visit North Carolina and the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild from Blowing Rock to the Outer Banks will include brewery hops, brew fests and, of course, fun and informative beer tastings.
Check out a few of the various beer-related celebrations and festivals taking place throughout North Carolina over the next few months, as featured on
  • Cape Fear Craft Beer Week kicks off on March 22 and continues through the end of the month as a celebration of the vibrant craft beer culture of Wilmington and Island Beaches. Local breweries announce new releases, a brewing championship takes place, family-focused bike rides and scavenger hunts are held, and an elegant final evening with live music and gourmet pairings is enjoyed by all who attend.
  • The Bull City Food & Beer Experience, taking place this year at DPAC in Durham on March 24, features food and drink from Durham’s finest restaurants and area breweries. Visitors enjoy live music, local food trucks and unlimited craft beer samplings.
  • Music and beer lovers alike will enjoy the 9th annual North Carolina Brewers and Music Festival, happening this year in Huntersville, NC over the weekend of May 11th/12th. Over three hours of free beer-tasting and great homegrown food are complemented by one of the best outdoor concert programs of the year. Camping is allowed at the nearly historic Rural Hill site, and special under-21 and Designated Driver discounted tickets are available so that everyone can participate.
  • The famous BBQ & Brew train, highlight of the Bryson City’s BBQ & Brews Fontana Trestle Train event on May 25, will arrive at the Fontana Lake Trestle in time for a spectacular Smoky Mountain sunset and delicious southern meal and beer samples from several local breweries (as well as root beer for the kids, served in special family-friendly train cars).
To learn more about NC Beer Month or any of these upcoming events, visit
For additional beer-tasting tips, go to
And to find out more about North Carolina’s thriving craft beer industry, visit

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