North Carolina is like a Colorado of the South, chock full of mountains and breweries. Asheville, in particular, boasts more breweries per capita than any other city in the country and the number of breweries is constantly growing, as Oskar Blues and Sierra Nevada have recently set up East Coast operations here.
But Charlotte‘s NoDa district has also become popular with breweries, as have parts of Raleigh and Winston-Salem. I’ve outlined my favorites, but there are dozens more North Carolina breweries worth checking out.
Highland Brewing Company
Named for the Scottish Highlands that are similar to those of North Carolina, Highland Brewing is perhaps the most well known of North Carolina’s breweries.
Set in the hills above Asheville, Highland hosts live music in their tasting room and offers behind-the-scenes tours of the brewery.
Beer to Try: The Oatmeal Porter is my personal favorite, but any seasonal they have on tap is worth a try.
Appalachian Mountain Brewery
A favorite of students at Appalachian State, AMB is a casual brewery that has outdoor space for hanging out, open daily. They also make cider for those who aren’t into beer or are gluten-free. They also work to give back to the local community and to be a sustainable business.
Beer to Try: Spoaty Oaty American style pale ale is very sippable without being overly hoppy, fresh with Appalachian water.
Booneshine Brewing Company
Boone is lucky to have more than one brewery. Booneshine Brewing Company is a microbrewery that uses local ingredients for IPAs, pale ales, and wheat ales. After years of operating out of a restaurant, they now have a custom-built space.
Beer to Try: The seasonal Hatchet Coffee Porter uses locally roasted coffee for a malty flavor with notes of molasses and sugar.
Ecusta Brewing Company
Don’t let the strip mall appearance fool you. This large tasting room in Pisgah Forest has a big back patio with pet-friendly seating. Ecusta Brewing Company itself serves pretzels and hosts food trucks nightly, along with its diverse beer lineups, named for the region.
Beer to Try: Pink Beds is named for a favorite hiking area and is a sour with pink peppercorn notes.
Noblebrau Brewing is more than just a brewery with German style lagers. It’s also a live music venue and restaurant with wine, cocktails, and sandwiches. There’s a big patio out back where guests can sip their beers.
Beer to Try: The Hausbier is an easy to drink German style lager.
Oskar Blues Brewery
Oskar Blues Brewery has its second location in Brevard on a large campus in an industrial park. The brewery has the company’s lineup of beer as well as seltzer offerings. There’s also a food truck with barbecue, sandwiches, and other bites.
Beer to Try: Phantasmic Ride is a citrus-forward IPA with notes of passionfruit.
Located next door to NoDa, there’s always something going on at Birdsong Brewing Company, like live music or food trucks. The brewery is the best place to try it, as it’s not widely distributed yet and they always have something unique on tap.
Beer to Try: The Jalapeño Pale Ale isn’t overpowering but has just enough of a kick to make things interesting.
Free Range Brewing
Also in the NoDa area, Free Range Brewing is a community space where you can have a coffee by day and beer by night. The funky saisons and hazy IPAs are worth a try. They also sell products from local artisans.
Beer to Try: There are no flagship beers, so ask for recommendations!
NoDa Brewing Company
This World Beer Cup award-winning brewery is named after Charlotte‘s NoDa, or North of Davidson. Their tasting room offers both their year-round selections and specialty taps, where you can sit at the bar or take a table and play board games.
Beer to Try: Coco Loco is a chocolate brown malted porter and award winner, delicious and moderately hoppy.
Resident Culture Brewing
The large taproom at Resident Culture Brewing welcomes groups and families, who can sit inside or on the patio. The beer lineup includes hazy IPAs and kettle sours. They also have food trucks to provide food.
Beer to Try: The Anti-Social Butterfly is one of their terrific hazy IPAs.
Little Brother Brewing
Little Brother Brewing has taprooms in Greensboro and Graham, outside of Durham. The cozy space has indoor and outdoor seating with snacks and wine, along with beer and nonalcoholic drinks. The beer menu includes German-style beers like schwarzbier and hefeweizen.
Beer to Try: Cooler Stickers IPA is hazy and fruit forward.
Pig Pounder Brewery
Pig Pounder Brewery is a microbrewery covered in funky murals with games and outdoor seating. It was started as a barbecue restaurant. The beers include an English-style bitter, IPAs, Kolsch, stouts, sours, and seltzers.
Beer to Try: The Boar Brown has won a number of awards at the World Beer Cup.
High Point Breweries
Paddled South Brewing Company
One of High Point’s only breweries, Paddled South Brewing Company has an incredible taproom with a large rock face and climbing equipment. The lineup has a little bit of everything, including IPA’s, pale ales, pilsners, porters, and Belgian and German beers.
Beer to Try: The Punchlist Pale Ale is perfect summer drink.
Calling it simply a brewery would be a disservice to this stunning light-filled restaurant. Make a reservation to avoid missing out. The menu includes dim sum dishes like dumplings and vegetables, along with craft cocktails.
The beer is what stands out, including the constantly rotating selections. Enjoy creative IPAs, farmhouse ales, and grisettes.
Beer to Try: Grove IPA is citrus-forward and not too heavy-handed on the hops.
Foothills Brewing is based in Winston-Salem and has both a brewery and taproom as well as a downtown brewpub where you can sample the same beers.
In addition to their large selection of year-round brews, their seasonal selections are beloved enough to beg, steal, and borrow bottles of them. They regularly host events like food truck nights and yoga.
Beer to Try: Sexual Chocolate is just as delicious as it sounds. This imperial stout is addictive, rich and may be better than you know what.
Incendiary Brewing Co.
Set below the former railroad tracks that cut through the city, Incendiary Brewing is in a large complex with restaurants and outdoor space.
The menu features a number of IPAs, including milkshake and West Coast styles, along with stouts, porters, pilsners, and even a Berliner Weisse.
Beer to Try: Shift Blue is a juicy New England-style IPA that uses Mosaic hops and is 8% ABV.
Radar Brewing Company
Radar Brewing is steps away from other breweries and has a large patio with rotating food trucks. The stylish industrial taproom has plenty of seating as well.
The taps feature a variety of styles including a sour IPA, a farmhouse IPA, and a nitro dry Irish stout. They also have wine on the menu.
Beer to Try: The Tropical Gose has notes of passionfruit and mango.
Small Batch Beer Company
Located in downtown Winston-Salem, Small Batch creates just what the name implies. This allows the brewers to experiment with many different styles depending on their interests and seasonal ingredients.
For this reason, this is the only place to get their beer. The brewery was supported by their community through Kickstarter and has weekly events like brunch, trivia, and happy hour. In addition to beer, they also have craft cocktails and bar food.
Beer to Try: Cezanne Saison is your standard Saison with a refreshing bite of lemon zest.
Wise Man Brewing
Wise Man Brewing has a sprawling space in a former warehouse with windows into the brewery operations. There’s also a large patio with colorful murals.
The rotating taps include IPAs, pale ales, goses, pilsners, and stouts. There’s also cider, wine, and kombucha, along with snacks and food trucks.
Beer to Try: Tropical Shirts is a fruited Berliner Weisse that isn’t too sour.
Edward Teach Beer Co.
Named for the real name of Blackbeard, who trolled the waters nearby, Edward Teach opened in a former fire station north of downtown. The bar resembles the hull of a ship. The brewery opened in 2017 and has a 20 barrel system with 8 beers on tap.
Beer to Try: Pontus DIPA has delicious tangerine and grapefruit notes with medium bitterness.
Inspired by the Venus flytrap plant found nearby, Flytrap Brewing is in the Brooklyn Arts District of Wilmington. They specialize in American and Belgian-style ales. There are rotating selection and seasonal beers. There’s even a real flytrap onsite.
Beer to Try: The West Coast IPA is for fans of grapefruit notes and hoppy flavor.
New Anthem Beer Project
Located steps from downtown Wilmington‘s most popular attractions, New Anthem has a creative lineup of IPAs and sour beers all produced in-house.
The 1912 building was the last remaining stables in downtown. They keep around 12 beers on tap at any given time and have frequent special releases.
Beer to Try: Cease to Resist is a deliciously sour Berliner-Weisse that is tart enough for fans but palatable for sour newbies.
Boojum Brewing Co.
Set in the heart of the North Carolina Smokies, Boojum Brewing Co. is a popular brewery and restaurant. There’s also the downstairs Gem Bar with pool and shuffleboard. Inside, you’ll find the lineup of brews, including IPAs, blondes, brown ales, and German-style lagers.
Beer to Try: Galaxy Far Far Away IPA is a hoppy IPA with Galaxy, Millennium & Falconer’s Flight hops.
Frog Level Brewing
Named for the historic neighborhood along the river that was often prone to flooding, Frog Level Brewing is located along the water and has 21 rotating taps. They include a cream ale, blonde, sours, and stouts. They also brew beers for 7 Clans, a Cherokee-owned brewery, and serve food.
Beer to Try: Salamander Slam is an American IPA that has pine and citrus notes.
Other North Carolina Breweries
Kettell Beerworks, Banner Elk
Located in the High Country, this modest taproom has a nice selection of brews like IPAs and German-inspired kolschs and Marzen lagers.
They also have bites like pizza, wings, and pretzels in their taproom as well as games for the whole family. Kettell offers tours of their brewery.
Beer to Try: Sip on the Supernova IPA, a fruit-forward beer with only slight bitterness.
Beech Mountain Brewing, Beech Mountain
Beech Mountain‘s ski resort has its own onsite brewery where you can get a pint after hitting the slopes. Beech Mountain Brewing Company is one of the only breweries in the country to be owned and operated by a ski area. They also have guest taps from other breweries in the region.
Beer to Try: Beech Blonde is a light and drinkable selection for any time of year.
Pisgah Brewing Company, Black Mountain
Pisgah differentiates itself as being one of the few certified organic breweries in the state. The Black Mountain brewery had much more of a laid-back vibe, where you can catch live music or take a growler of your favorite brew home with you. Tours are also available and they boast the most diverse and interesting seasonals around.
Beer to Try: Blueberry Wheat is my favorite seasonal, especially in the summer, but otherwise it’s got to be the Pale Ale or Nitro Stout, depending on your preference.
Nantahala Brewing, Bryson City
Tucked into the North Carolina Smokies, this craft brewery and taproom is in a former warehouse across from the train tracks. The brewery takes its inspiration from its surroundings with year-round and seasonal beers. They also host live music.
Beer to Try: The Trail Magic Ales series honors the people that hike the Appalachian Trail, including Belgian farmhouse styles.
Fullsteam Brewery, Durham
The college town of Durham has a handful of breweries and cideries, but Fullsteam has been around the longest. They use as many ingredients from around the South as possible in the creation of their beer. Fullsteam has a wide variety of styles for every flavor. They host weekly live music, trivia, and other events.
Beer to Try: Rocket Science American IPA is a good place to start.
Lazy Hiker Brewing Company, Franklin
Open since 2015, Lazy Hiker is inspired by the people that hike in the surrounding North Carolina mountains. The Franklin taproom even has a wall for Appalachian Trail thru-hikers to sign.
The lineup of beers includes IPAs, pilsners, and stouts. Food trucks also set up in the parking lot. They have a second taproom in neighboring Sylva.
Beer to Try: Trail Candy Tropical IPA is a juicy IPA with notes of mango.
Newgrass Brewing Company, Shelby
Native North Carolinians decided to revitalize an old building in downtown Shelby while creating great craft beer. Newgrass uses as many local ingredients as possible for their beers, which are sold at their taproom and around the state. The brewery is a favorite spot for live music and events and they also have a full menu.
Beer to Try: Lily Bean Stout will blow your mind because of its rich flavor but light color.
Balsam Falls Brewing Co., Sylva
Balsam Falls Brewing is in the heart of downtown Sylva and opened in 2017. The restaurant and brewery have creative beers including a peanut butter banana hefeweizen, oatmeal brown ale, and milkshake IPA.
Beer to Try: Cherry Hibiscus Berliner Weisse is a light sour with floral notes.
For more on North Carolina’s breweries, check out the North Carolina Craft Brewing Guild and our friends at NC Tripping.
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