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What’s brewing?

Tasty beers served up throughout the Triangle

by Josh Faircloth


For the past decade, the Triangle has increasingly become known as one of the best places in the country to live. There are great universities, schools, parks and cutting-edge corporations, but they aren’t the only amenities turning heads. The area’s beer industry is rapidly growing and is making a name for itself, both nationally and internationally. 


See what’s brewing in the Triangle.


Aviator Brewing Co., Fuquay-Varina

Owner Mark Doble comes from a brewing bloodline. His family opened the Tampa Bay Brewing Co. in 1996, but Doble’s brewing days actually go back further than that. He first began brewing while studying in Wales as a way of satisfying his thirst while under the constraints of an almost empty wallet. As a pilot, he purchased a hangar at a nearby airport to house his plane but had plenty of extra room there, so he decided to add a 10-barrel brewing system.


Using a horizontal fermentation tank to increase surface area and produce a smooth taste, Aviator Brewing Co. strives to put a new spin on traditional styles of beer. Stop by its tap room to enjoy a pint of HotRod Red, an Irish Red-style beer with a unique twist. As the brewery grows, Doble plans on expanding its beverage lineup to as many as a dozen beers.


Big Boss Brewing Co., Raleigh

Since opening in 2006, this brewery has lived up to its name, quickly becoming one of the state’s pre-eminent breweries. Its popularity stems from Big Boss’ commitment to producing excellent beer that can be appreciated by everyone.


Big Boss has three year-round beers. Call them the Charlie’s Angels of the beer world, if you will: Hell’s Belle Belgian Blond, Bad Penny Brown Ale and Angry Angel Kölsch Style Ale. And the creative names don’t stop there. Big Boss brews up a variety of seasonal beers, including the ever-popular Surrender Monkey Farmhouse Ale, Belle Ringer Double Wit, and Aces & Ates Coffee Stout. Not only are Big Boss’ brews widely available in area stores and restaurants, but they’re also served up at Hornyblow’s Tavern, its full-service tap room.


Carolina Brewery, Pittsboro

This brewpub and restaurant opened in August 2007 as the younger sibling to Carolina Brewery in Chapel Hill. With a 15-barrel system that can produce 465 gallons of beer at a time, it more than doubles the capacity of the one in neighboring Chapel Hill.


Brewmaster Jon Connolly draws on his appreciation for the history and art of brewing when crafting beer. His ultimate goal is for visitors from throughout the state to drink his beer when they return home and have the flavor and aroma take them back — if only for a moment — to their time spent in Pittsboro or Chapel Hill. His affection and attention to detail in each beer has netted the brewery plenty of awards, including a gold medal during the 2006 Great American Beer Festival for its Flagship India Pale Ale. 


Carolina Brewing Co., Holly Springs

Not to be confused with the aforementioned Carolina Brewery, Carolina Brewing Co. has been brewing quality beer since 1995. Similar to many other brewers, this crew began their careers as home-based brewers. They attended brewing school in Chicago and made their way to North Carolina. Since arriving in Holly Springs when the town had only about 900 residents, the company has grown along with the community. Carolina Brewing Co. currently distributes beer throughout a six-county region, with plans for more growth.


Its three year-round brews — Carolina Pale Ale, Carolina Nut Brown Ale and Carolina India Pale Ale — reflect the brewery’s own take on these classic styles. It also offers a variety of seasonal beverages, including some not-so-traditional beers such as Wiggo. Stop by for a tour on Saturdays, and be sure to say hello to Surge the dog, who greets visitors at the front door.


Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery, Chapel Hill

A popular spot for area diners and college students alike, this brewery — located along Franklin Street in Chapel Hill — has a decidedly unique feel. Once inside, visitors are greeted with an expansive, full-service bar featuring house brands alongside an assortment of mixed drinks and spirits, while its charming patio area offers outdoor seating. But the most impressive feature is a glass-encased brewing facility that runs the entire length of the establishment.

Top of the Hill has earned 16 medals at various World Beer Championships. Its beers — all with Chapel Hill-themed names — include the Old Well White, Rams Head IPA and Lewis Black Imperial Stout.


Triangle Brewing Co., Durham

This brewery has begun making a name for itself since opening in July 2007. Owners Andy Miller and Rick Tufts have been hard at work producing about 800 barrels of beer annually, but that number is expected to rise as the company continues to grow. Triangle Brewing Co. has two year-round beers and a seasonal variety, with plans to add a third permanent beer to its list. It also offers a Rufus Reserve series of beers in honor of the skeletal remains that were found in the building’s basement during renovations, which they named Rufus.


Miller and Tufts also are working hard to break down the traditional fine-dining ideology that customarily pairs wine with food without considering that beer can be an excellent compliment to a nice meal. In fact, their Belgian-style Golden Ale pairs nicely with meats and rich sauces and cheeses, while their newest brew — the Bourbon Aged Abbey Dubbel — is excellent with almost anything, especially sweet desserts. 


Josh Faircloth is a freelance writer based in Raleigh.