About- Chris Hilliard
Cover photo courtesy of @brianlantzphotography
The Cape Fear Craft & Cuisine festival is as much about good food and beer as it is a demonstration of the many things Wilmington, NC, has to offer. Alongside retired battleships, gardens, and terrific sunsets, one can enjoy the city’s many fine restaurants and breweries. Indeed, the festival is held in one of Wilmington’s treasures: North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher
Craft Beer Week is upon us! That is, if you’re near Wilmington, North Carolina. The Cape Fear Craft Beer Alliance, through their Craft on the Coast initiative, is continuing the annual, week-long event. And, this weekend, craft beer fans can attend the unique Cape Fear Craft & Cuisine, held at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.
We’re very deep into the North Carolina summer. That means it’s sticky and wet and insufferable. That means it always looks like rain, but only actually rains for ten minutes at a time. That means heat so hot there’s no good reason to be outside, unless you’re sitting in the shade drinking a cold beverage. And what better beverage than something refreshing and delicious? For your consideration, I present Hopfly Brewing’s Triple Berry Sour.
The morning of Hi-Wire’s LagerFest in Durham, NC, was not at all promising. Storms raged through the night, and the noon start time crept closer and closer. The forecast said the weather should let up, but it’s hard to trust North Carolina weather to cooperate. Fortunately, it was right. By 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 7, 2021 the rain had eased and by noon it was downright nice out. The rain had cooled everything off and the clouds kept the sun at bay, not a moment too soon for the ‘90s beach-themed LagerFest to kick off.
The magic of North Carolina is in the land. Sandy eastern beaches roll into lush central plains which grow into majestic mountains to the west. Between mountains and plains, just north of Interstate 40, you’ll find magic of another sort: Fonta Flora Brewery.
This Saturday, Aug. 7, in downtown Durham, North Carolina, Hi-Wire Brewing is throwing a ‘90s, beach-themed LagerFest. Complete with 20 lagers (list below), live music and a waterslide, LagerFest promises to heat things up and cool them off at the same time!
One of my earliest craft beer memories is drinking Duck-Rabbit’s Milk Stout. For a fledgling crafty, it was a great way to break into the scene and has stuck with me to this day. Which is perfect, because today we’re taking it up a notch with one of Duck Rabbit’s latest concoctions: Oh, No Let’s Go! Cacao Milk Stout.
Without question, 2020 has been one of the wildest years in human memory. With world-shaping events happening (it seems) almost every day, and the constant, grating drip of catastrophe from the news, one is always on the lookout for reprieve, for some sort of grace.
We’re deep into the North Carolina summer. That means it’s sticky, wet and insufferable. It means it always looks like it’s going to storm, but only actually storms for ten minutes at a time. It means heat so hot there’s no good reason to be outside unless you’re sitting in the shade drinking a cold beer. And what better beer than something refreshing and delicious? For your consideration, I present Hopfly Brewing’s Triple Berry Sour.
Beer hunting is most fun when digging up long-forgotten, buried treasure. Recently, I had the pleasure of discovering Olde Hickory’s Flanders Red Ale. This beauty was aged for 30 months—a full two-and-a-half years!—in bourbon barrels before bottling on Halloween 2016. I found it in late 2019, hiding in plain sight on the shelf at Carrboro Beverage Company. That means this Bad Larry was aging for more than five years before I picked it up. Today, I have the pleasure of sharing it with you, our lovely PorchDrinking readers.
This past summer a trip ended with good luck and bad. The good started with a layover in Las Vegas. You can probably guess we met success at the airport slots. Not a jackpot, mind you, but enough to cover dinner and drinks! The bad luck started at our destination, Salt Lake City. Because our schedule was full with stuff like ziplining and hot air balloon launches, we had enough time to visit just one brewery. One.
They say you can’t go home again. I beg to differ, at least when it comes to beer.
A big part of my introduction to craft beer, as I’m sure is the case for many of you, was sampling as many different beers from as many different styles as I could, within reason (and sometimes without). I didn’t realize this at the time, but these were my formative craft beer years: a time spent feeling out boundaries and developing personal standards and learning what I like and why. One of the most outstanding examples in my mind is The Sixth Glass, a Belgian-style Quadrupel from Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing Co.
From Appalachia to Outer Banks and everywhere in-between, fine craft beer crops up all over North Carolina. For example, some 25 minutes east of Chapel Hill, you’ll find Saxapahaw, North Carolina. If you reach Haw River, turn around and look for a rejuvenated old mill. You’ll know by music from the chronically hip Haw River Ballroom, weekly community get-togethers in the form of Saturdays at Saxapahaw, and maybe most importantly, fine craft beer from Haw River Farmhouse Ales.
Regret is hard to live with, especially when that thing was right in front of you. My story begins at Brewery Bhavana in downtown Raleigh. My wife and I attended one of their private parties where they served up some of their signature dishes and drinks. Edamame and ginger dumplings, pork and mushroom bao, an open bar featuring many of their core brews and if that weren’t enough, at either end of the room they popped bottles of barrel-aged beauties. To try it all, you either had to be super lucky or a pushy jerk. For better or worse, I was neither. So, I missed out on a beer that I thought would be gone forever: Patina Gold #1, a peach and apricot sour aged for four months in a Cabernet foeder.
Fortunately, Bhavana had the good sense to produce more. Even more fortunately, I found a bottle of Patina Gold sitting in the dusty back room of Chapel Hill’s Bottle Rev. Given the price ($14 a bottle), I had to think twice about buying it, but only twice. The regret from earlier, missed opportunity was gnawing at me.
Before we get into that, let’s talk about Durham and its minor league baseball team, the Durham Bulls. Thirty-odd years ago, the Durham Bulls became part of popular culture with the release of the Susan Sarandon/Kevin Costner/Tim Robbins film “Bull Durham.” If Rotten Tomatoes can be believed, it’s safe to say people like it. I would say it has its moments.
It’s been a season of surprises in North Carolina. First, we have one of the biggest December snow storms I’ve ever seen. Then, I discover a new brewery — Preyer Brewing — that managed to fly under my radar for the past 3 years.
Confession: I never wanted to be a beer snob. In fact, I fought it. But I wouldn’t be writing this if I succeeded.
I started drinking craft beer because I didn’t know better. All I knew was I liked it better than the macros. Before long, I was drinking craft beer because I did know better. Words like “boozy” and “barnyard” and “mouthfeel” entered my vocabulary. At bars, the hunt began with the most expensive. I researched the history of lambic and pilsner and bière de garde. And to complete my snob-ucation, I joined a beer club.
We’re hitting the end of a hot North Carolina summer, which means we can look forward to the days being less hot, humid, and sticky. Hopefully you haven’t let the weather change many of your plans this year. But when you do venture outside, I recommend taking with you Lonerider’s new dry-hopped American wheat ale, For A Few Hops More.
Welcome to the next installment of Beer and Book Club! Today, my good friend Ben and I discuss Jeff VanderMeer’s genre-bending, science fiction-ish novel Annihilation (buy it here). Along with it, we’ll drink Double Helix, a Belgian-style blonde ale produced by Twin Leaf Brewing out of Asheville, NC.
Somehow I’ve managed to go years without reviewing a single thing from Burial Beer Company, one of the better-known, Asheville-based brewers in North Carolina. Today we make an end to that with One For Me, Burial’s collaboration Helles Lager brewed with Other Half Brewing out of New York.