North Carolina Lures Visitors With Craft Brewery Tours

North Carolina promotes its growth of craft breweries and calls Asheville “Beer City USA.” Charlotte celebrates Beer Week and the breweries produce unique beers.

While planning a follow-up trip to North Carolina recently, we went to the state’s official tourism website for tips on what to visit in the Tar Heel state these days.

We know about North Carolina’s basketball, its bluegrass music, mountains, skiing, modern Charlotte, “artsy Asheville,” Vanderbilt’s Biltmore hotel, Appalachian trail, beaches, wild horses on the Outer Banks, and even a little about its wineries.

Brewery tours?

Official promotion of breweries is expected in Wisconsin, but North Carolina? This is a state that adopted prohibition earlier and held on to it longer than most states.

The tours and promotion come from the relatively recent growth of craft breweries in the state.

“North Carolina beer goes well beyond the ho-hum golden, pale, brown, and stout”, Sean Wilson writes on the tourism department website. “From the mountains to the coast, North Carolina beer is truly beyond the pale”, the website adds, displaying a bit of swagger and attitude toward such traditional beer producers as Missouri, Colorado, and Wisconsin.

Beer City USA?

The state also boasts of Asheville being “Beer City USA,” a title that might be challenged by any number of American cities.

Like Colorado, North Carolina does have a lot of wonderful mountain water. Instead of partnering its beer with cheese as Wisconsin does, it promotes beer with pizza.

Indicative of the craft brewing industry’s growth in the state, the North Carolina Brewers Guild was advertising in January for someone to fill “a new, dedicated executive director position.” According to beerinator.com, more than a dozen craft breweries have opened or expanded in the state since the legislature lifted the limit on alcohol beer content from six to 15 percent in 2005.

Charlotte Beer Week

For interested visitors: The Charlotte Beer Club sponsors a beer week in March (March 11-10, 2011) and North Carolina breweries and associations promote beer tastings and brewery tours year-round just as California promotes wine tastings. Example: The Foothills brewery was promoting “Sexual Chocolate Tastings” in several cities in February.

North Caroline breweries are trying to distinguish themselves from the rest of the industry by crafting new beers and restyling old ones. Samples from the tourism department website:

  • Antebellum Ale by the Craggie Brewing Company of Asheville blends ginger root, molasses, and spruce tips from an 1840s recipe with traditional malted barley and hops.
  • Moonstone follows a 19th-century English recipe to produce a dry Irish stout brewed with oysters. It is produced by the Oysterhouse Brewing Company in Asheville.
  • “Plow to Pint” brews, using mostly North Carolina agricultural products, are produced at the Fullsteam Brewery in Durham. Fullsteam says it has or is making beer with sweet potatoes, corn grits, summer basil, scuppernong grapes, persimmons, rhubarb, and “malted barley house-smoked over hickory.”
  • “Handcrafted certified organic beer” is produced by Pisgah Brewing Company near Asheville.

Chocolate and Oyster Beer

Olde Rabbit’s Foot is promoted as a “blended boozy beer aged in 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle barrels.” It is a blend of:

  • The imperial stout produced by Olde Hickory brewery at Hickory
  • Rabid Duck produced by the Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery at Farmville
  • The Sexual Chocolate beer produced by the Foothills brewery at Winston-Salem

Foothills defines its Sexual Chocolate beer as “a cocoa-infused imported stout.” The beer is described as “opaque black in color with a dark brown head” and “big chocolate aroma with notes of espresso, blackstrap molasses, dark sweet toffee, and dark fruit.”

The Oysterhouse Brewing Company says the oysters in Moonstone provide “a brininess that adds a layer of complexity to the toasted and slightly bitter stout.”

The breweries now script descriptions worthy of any winery.

Traditional European Ales and Lagers

Several other North Carolina breweries produce more traditional European ales and lagers, including German, English, and Scottish.

If you have any interest at all in beer, the recent growth in new craft breweries and intriguing beers has provided one more reason to visit North Carolina.


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