Over a year ago, I started an effort called the Six-Pack Project. It’s purpose was simple:
…bring together writers from all over the country (and maybe world) to highlight a six-pack of our home’s native brews that best represent what our beer culture has to offer. If someone is coming to visit, what bottles or cans would we want to share?
I had lots of success early on, recruiting friends and beer lovers from afar to help in my quest of finding special “six-packs” to represent the culture of their home state. But in recent months, my luck has run out.
Part of it has been time spent with some in-depth reporting and part of it has simply been failed attempts to bring people on-board. So, I’m starting a renewed effort to bring some attention to the project and I’d love your help.
I’m starting by revisiting my own contribution, focusing on North Carolina. I’ve updated selections from my original piece, mostly thanks to the burgeoning craft beer industry in the state. I’m also on the lookout for new contributors, so you’re welcome to see the archive to help fill in blanks from around the U.S. or the world. Contact me on Twitter or leave a comment below to discuss some more.
Need a refresher on the Six-Pack Project? Here are the rules:
- This isn’t simply a “best of” list. The goal is to pick a collection of six beers that represents your state and/or state’s beer culture.
- Beer must be made in your state, but “gypsy” brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
- Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include.
- Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred. Specialty or one-off brews are not allowed.
With that said, let’s see what you need to check out next time you’re in North Carolina.
Southern Beer Economy
Durham-based Fullsteam actually bottles several of its year-round offerings, including its cream ale, sweet potato lager, IPA and more, but it’s this canned brew that you’ll find widely across North and South Carolina.
A pride of Fullsteam’s business strategy is the brewery’s focus on “plow to pint” in order to support local agriculture and highlight the breadth of goods North Carolina farmers and businesses offer. Cack-a-lacky (the beer) is brewed in partnership with Chapel Hill sauce and spice company Cackalacky, although it doesn’t have any hot sauce in it.
Instead, it’s a “hoppy, zippy” pale ale brewed with ginger, some of which is locally sourced. For a brewery so focused on its community and the state it calls home, it’s a natural choice to help represent North Carolina.
North Carolina Beer’s National Prominence
Wicked Weed Serenity
You may not know it, but North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing beer states in the country that already boasts more than 100 breweries and brewpubs.
The road to the state’s increased attention has been partially paved by Asheville’s Wicked Weed Brewing. It erupted into national consciousness a couple years ago, fueled by a commitment to a barrel-aged and sour beer program and a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in the American-Style Brett Beer category for Serenity, beating out Russian River’s famed Sanctification.
While I feel compelled to simply recommend any beer by Wicked Weed – I’m yet to find one I didn’t care for – Serenity is important because of its aforementioned award, its place in bringing additional attention to North Carolina beer and a relative ease of finding it in bottle shops around the state.
Olde Mecklenburg Copper
As the state’s beer culture has grown, many may overlook the importance of a place like Olde Mecklenburg Brewery – Charlotte’s first brewery that opened in 2009.
Olde Meck’s Altbier, “Copper,” is a flagship and showcases the brewery’s commitment to the German heritage of beer. The bready, sweet beer also happens to be considered “world class” by the folks at Beer Advocate.
Aside from a “classic” style, Olde Mecklenburg is special because it represents a brewery that started just before the beer boom within the state. Lucky for you, it may become a little easier to find this beer thanks to a recent expansion of Olde Meck’s brewery. For now, distribution is limited to Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro. However, you may be able to find this beer at some shops in Raleigh (that pick up bottles from Charlotte) and in Columbia, South Carolina. Charlotte’s Salud Beer Shop has been known to ship beer as well.
The New Kid on the Block
Hi-Wire Brewing Bed of Nails
In 2013, Hi-Wire was named best new brewery in North Carolina by RateBeer.com, a title that certainly carries weight in this increasingly beer-soaked state. The business is littered among about 10 other breweries in downtown Asheville, but is a must-stop for visitors.
Even better, you can find bottles of their beers, including Bed of Nails brown, in bottle shops around the state.
To me, Hi-Wire represents the excitement of North Carolina beer. It’s an industry that’s in constant growth. With new options becoming available on a monthly basis, it’s easy to admire the “new guy” and move onto whatever is “next.” The “New Guy” title may feel interchangeable, but Hi-Wire stands out because of its youth as a business and its commitment to distributing its beers almost from the get-go.
Hi-Wire’s Bed of Nails is also one of the best of the brown ale style I’ve had, focusing on an English tradition to showcase caramel and toffee notes.
The above beers were new additions to my “six-pack” of NC brews, but I can’t deny the importance of two from my original set of selections.
Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout
When I get visitors to North Carolina, I always tell them this is one of the beers they have to try before leaving. Based in Farmville, Duck-Rabbit’s milk stout may be among the best-known beers for in-state drinkers. Hell, this beer may be among the best milk stouts in the U.S. – just ask this guy. The lactose keeps it sweet, but the roasted malt keeps it grounded with a hint of acidic bitterness. You may be surprised by a jab of vanilla.
What I like about this beer is its longevity among the state’s brews. For as many new breweries open and new beers are released, this beer is far from being knocked off my list of brews that offer a unique drinking experience for what North Carolina has to offer.
Foothills Brewing Hoppyum IPA
Like Duck-Rabbit’s milk stout, this is a must-have NC beer. Winston-Salem’s Foothills Brewing uses a healthy dose of Simcoe hops to provide resinous citrus flavor. I’d argue this has been one of the seminal North Carolina beers for the IPA style and beer drinkers most certainly agree. In 2013, it was among the highest-selling new craft beer in supermarkets in the entire country:
Curious about my selection process? Think other beers should be considered? Want to get involved? Sound off below or get in touch with me on Twitter.
After receiving the award, interest in the beer deservedly went through the roof. It’s an incredible beer. Only problem? NoDa had a hard time (initially) keeping up with demand. NoDa is on pace for 150 percent growth in 2014 and is planning an expansion, which should help get Hop, Drop and Roll into stores outside of just Charlotte, which has been the case in recent months.
The beer most certainly deserves to be included in this list, but I had reservations on its availability. For what it’s worth, you can find places NoDa distributes to here and check if the beer is available. NoDa cans other beers as well (which are also good), but Hop, Drop and Roll is of course in very high demand and from what I understand, goes to local accounts first.
— Chris Bradshaw (@scbeerguy) September 10, 2014
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac