Beer Bloggers Conference Pre-Conference Excursion: Raleigh
Beer. Food. People.
That’s about all I could think about all week at work despite some pretty intense deadlines.
After a really early wake up to get out to Newark, the trip to Raleigh took less time than the remainder of the other travel. Arriving earlier than my scheduled check-in at the Residence Inn Raleigh Midtown gave me some time to catch-up with my better half for updates from her and my son via our nanny.
While moving my seat to make room for a cleaning staff member, I bumped into my first fellow #BBC15 attendee, author Leslie Patino of â€œNot Your Father’s Beerâ€. It was her first conference, so I attempted to impart the words of wisdom shared by fellow alumni like â€œit’s a marathonâ€ or my personal favorite – â€œit’s an endurance testâ€. I have made a note to check out her books (amongst a flurry of others). Others started to roll in (VA Brew Review, Big Orca Brewing, Tanya Birch, the charming and ever-resourceful @sarahwolcott from Zephyr Adventures, our hosts for the day Visit Raleigh and Will Holland from Beltline Brew Tours, and our incredible bus driver George). I dropped my luggage in my room before congregating with everyone in the lobby as we awaited our chariot to take us around Raleigh.
Raleigh Brewing Company Homebrew Shop Panoramic Picture
We were all very eager to get the conference going in style. The hospitality and genuineness of the crew at Raleigh Brewing Company did just that. For me, they really helped set what came to be a very powerful motif for the weekend – STORYTELLING.
Each of their beers is named/created from either local history or with very colorful stories involving the brewery staff. Case in point is the â€œHell Yes Ma’amâ€ Tripel, where the title of the beer is a response to owner Kristie Nystedt’s insistence on making her preferred version of a Belgian tripel using Wit yeast. We took an excellent tour around the expanding brewhouse and their beautiful home-brew shop before getting a few minutes with Kristie Nystedt herself. A wonderful introduction to North Carolina craft beer.
- City of Blokes Bitter
- Moravian Rhapsody
- Coffee Hidden Pipe Porter
- House of Clay Rye IPA
- Hell Yes Ma’am
- Dear Ol’ Dixie Pale Ale
Panoramic Picture at Lonerider
Our second stop brought us to Lonerider, whose beers follow cowboy nomenclature. Hamilton at VA Brew Review was instrumental in my (and others’) selection, mentioning that he had the opportunity to taste a few at festivals. I went with Sweet Josie, one of their flagships, as I don’t often get to try many brown ales. At this point, we were much more relaxed, passing around our glasses to try as many offerings as possible. The brewery tour in one word? HOT. That being said, you can really get to know a brewery’s personality by not only visiting their taproom, but seeing their full setup. They like to brew beers they like – another commonality among many brewers from the entire weekend. I like their style.
White Street Brewing Company
Panoramic Picture of White Street Brewing Company
The layout of White Street Brewing Company is open – kind of like the people who operate it and their brewing process. Everyone got a sampler of 4 beers (see below) while Big Mike’s BBQ food truck showed up perfectly timed as everyone was ready to eat some good ol’ southern cooking! I went with the pulled BBQ chicken with â€œCack and Macâ€. For those not familiar with the former, it’s Cackawack Cole Slaw, which uses a specialized salt and spice mixture to add some kick. I dressed it up with a mixture of vinegar, sweet BBQ sauce and a dash of hot sauce. To end? Banana pudding of course! Instagraming all of it made a lot of people hungry though.
Fellow beer lovers have likely been to places with mammoth amounts of taps. While not open yet, Raleigh Beer Garden will clearly break the previous records with an estimated 366 or more (144+ from North Carolina on the first floor, 210+ on the second and the remainder to come on the roof). See the photos above to see their crazy setup. The place is open and almost boisterous in design, kind of like the jovial owner’s personality (Niall Hanley). Did I mention there’s a tree INSIDE the building?! For the outdoor area, he admitted he took some inspiration from The Beer Garden at Bohemian Hall in Astoria and Radegast (w00t!) in Brooklyn. They also own the area up to the train tracks, which will be expanded for Oktoberfest and other similar events. I would love to have local access to a place like this, though I wonder how quickly all the taps will turnover when they open this coming week.
Since Raleigh Beer Garden was not serving, we went to one of their sister places down the street, The Hibernian. Clearly of Irish bar inspiration, we had three breweries setup on the deck to pour us some wares – Nickelpoint Brewing Company, Big Boss Brewing, and Aviator Brewing Company. The bus came to pick us up, but Hamilton from VA Brew Review had another recommendation to head to before bed.
- Nickel Point Brewing Company Hefeweizen (tastes like summer!)
- Big Boss Brewing The Centaur (Dry-Hopped Saison)
- Big Boss Brewing High Roller IPA
- Aviator Brewing Company Devil’s Tramping Ground
Speaking of places with a large selectionâ€¦
Flying Saucer Raleigh had some incredible beer on tap, but I wanted to do the â€œwhen in Romeâ€ thing and have more North Carolina beer via a flight (see photos above and full list of beers below).
After noticing they had Uinta’s Birthday Suit (their ever-changing anniversary beer), we took it upon ourselves to try that Sour Plum goodness. The beer itself was amazingâ€¦and after an awkward interaction with â€œSelena Guzmanâ€, the bartender insisted we try the Founders Rubaeusâ€¦on nitro! If there was ever a concoction that was â€œraspberries and creamâ€ in a glass, this was it! While polishing off the remainder of our large bottle, we finally were joined by the rest of the late night #BBC15 crew who managed to stay an extra hour or two later than me.
- Lone Rider Shotgun Betty (American Wheat)
- Highland Gaelic Ale (Amber)
- Green Man IPA
- Big Boss Bad Penny (English Brown)
- Duck Rabbit Milk Stout (one of my all-time favesâ€¦see my prior review here)
- Unit Brewing Birthday Suit #23: Sour Plum
- Founders Rubaeus (nitro)
The next morning was a bit of a rude awakening, since we were scheduled to leave at 7am, though less so for me than Ross Hughes of Beer Musings. I will leave that story to him, though I will say he emerged triumphant as he boarded the bus and earns Trooper of #BBC15m , in my book. Although I would have loved more time to explore the rest of Raleigh’s food and craft beer scene, my limited visit certainly met and exceeded my expectations of â€œBeer. Food. Peopleâ€. Now, off (and napping) to Asheville, where many similar themes continued in and outside of the conference.