Wye Hill Kitchen + Brewing

201 South Boylan Street, Raleigh

www.wyehill.com | Opens June 5

It’s a beautiful, balmy late-spring evening just before sunset. A warm, gentle breeze drifts through a wood-covered patio bar nestled atop one of the highest vantage points in the city. Sweeping views of a burgeoning skyline adorn the horizon. A cold beer in hand, you pause to take it all in, or maybe pose for pictures with your companion against the metropolitan backdrop. The setting is perfect, and yet something is amiss. 

Where is everybody?

Chris Borreson and Sara Abernethy had the same question the first time they passed by the Boylan Bridge Brewpub. Established by architect Andrew Leager in 2006, a year after Pop the Cap—and at the vanguard of Raleigh craft-beer scene—the brewpub’s patio has been known for having the best view of downtown Raleigh, despite being (or maybe because it was) so often empty. It was a perfect sixty-five-degree evening in December 2017, and the San Diego transplants came upon the bar and wondered if it was open. It was, but no one was inside. 

“We asked ourselves, imagine what we could do to this place,” says Abernethy. 

The newlyweds hadn’t considered opening a brewery when they moved to Raleigh, Abernethy’s hometown, in May 2017, but with Boylan, the opportunity presented itself: Family friends introduced the couple to Leager, who initiated a conversation about a partnership, which evolved into a plan to transfer the bar’s ownership altogether. Leager was ready to retire. Running the bar, he told Borreson, “has been very hard.” When reached by email, Leager expressed his confidence in the new ownership. “They are experienced in hospitality and possessed by enthusiasm I can no longer summon at twice their age and after ten years at the controls,” he wrote.

By September 2018, the couple had acquired the brewpub. They immediately began devising a new concept, including a new name. On Sunday, Boylan Bridge officially ended its run. In its place, opening June 5: Wye Hill Kitchen + Brewing. 

The name is connected to their vision for the space, as an inclusive neighborhood bar: “The reason why this view is the most unbelievable view is because this building is built over a wye—it’s where trains change directions,” Abernethy explains. But the wye is not only symbolic for a change in direction. It’s also a hub where we meet and part ways, a stopover that takes us from place to another. 

The first order of business was to improve the beers on tap. That began several months ago. They hired Brad Wynn (formerly of Big Boss and Pennsylvania’s Victory), who switched to local malts and developed six new nano-batch beers—one of which, a delightful sour, was a refreshingly tart complement to a recent hot day on the patio. They hope to offer up to sixteen small-batch beers onsite and eventually sell bottles elsewhere. 

The same creative flair will go into Wye Hill’s boutique wine offerings, which will include several on tap that will rotate through the seasons. Max Trujillo, who was hired as a consultant, is developing pre-made batch cocktails—old-fashioneds, margaritas—that will be served as a shot and paired with a beer. 

“We’re a brewery first,” Trujillo says. “The beer is preliminary, then it’s culinary, then cocktail, but it all pushes back to the brewery.” 

Which is exactly where the concept behind Wye Hill’s chef-driven bar food comes in. Bobby McFarland (Royale, Cafe Lucarne) has developed a menu more appealing to herbivores than the heavy classic pub fare of Leager’s reign.

From a chicken saltimbocca, an Italian-style chicken breast served over cheesy purple grits, to Fox Farm & Forage mushrooms drizzled with garlic and honey, to beer-forward pilsner mussels with chorizo, to Durham’s Snap Peas with tahini yogurt topped with hazelnuts and fresh mint, inclusive decadence is a common theme. The new menu will also include a pub cheese upgrade and a Super Sexy Burger—a short rib and sirloin blend from Firsthand Foods topped with fried pickled okra. Though McFarland was hired to create the menu, Kyle Fletcher (Buku) will be taking over as chef de cuisine.

Wye Hill will open for dinner the first night, the lunch and dinner, eventually expanding service to six days a week. It will be open until ten on weekdays and eleven on weekends, and possibly later. 

Contact food and digital editor Andrea Rice at arice@indyweek.com

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