Writers: Jeffrey C. Billman (JCB), Christine Byrne (CB), Anna Cassell (AC), Sarah Edwards (SE), Curt Fields (CF), Brian Howe (BH), Julie Johnson (JJ), Leigh Tauss (LT), Michael Venutolo-Mantovani (MVM) 

The Triangle’s beer scene grew up fast in the decade after Pop the Cap. And while new breweries (and cideries) are still coming online, the once-rapid expansion has given way to a kind of maturity. 

We have established major players. We have funky experimenters. We have national award-winners. And we have places doing all of the above. Across the region, there are consistently good and sometimes excellent breweries cranking out consistently good and sometimes excellent beers, some of which rival the best offerings of Portland or San Diego. 

Which, when you’re putting together a Local Beer Issue, presents a dilemma: How do you do this scene justice in just a handful of pages? 

Our solution was to cast a wide net. By our count, there are 48 breweries in Wake, Durham, and Orange Counties, excluding the nanobreweries Dingo Dog and Regulator, as well as the excellent Asheville imports Hi-Wire and Burial. (Our apologies if we missed any.) We asked each which of their beers best represented their work—be it their most popular, their brewer’s favorite, or whatever criterion they wanted to be judged by—and dispatched our writers to go drink and write about it. 

So join us on this Triangle tour de beer.

And then—shameless plug alert!—join us again on March 1 for the first INDYpendent Triangle Craft Beer Festival at Durty Bull Brewing Company in Durham, featuring 12 local breweries pouring their finest concoctions while you vote for your favorite. Tickets are available at here

Without further ado, from A to, well, Y, here are the 48 breweries we visited. —JCB

Related: Is Miller Lite good now? 

Ancillary* Fermentation

Inside Out IPA (7% ABV)

Ancillary is less a standalone brewery than the product of Whit Baker’s hyperactive mind and beer obsession. Two years ago, Baker, the co-owner and brewmaster of Bond Brothers (see below), and fellow Bond Brother Andy Schnitzer partnered with local beer friends, including the president and VP of Fortnight Brewing, to create Ancillary*, a side project that gave them freedom to experiment. Ancillary*’s beers can be hard to find, as they’re small-batch and released primarily at pop-up events around the Triangle, though a few make their way to bars and bottle shops. Inside Out, a juicy IPA Ancillary* released at its 10th pop-up in December, is hazy and citrusy, packed with grapefruit notes, carries a hint of sweetness, and isn’t weighed down by hoppiness. A pint goes down faster than you’d expect. —JCB


Aviator Brewing

The Haze is Strong With This One (6.4% ABV)

The Haze is a tasty New England IPA with a complex hop profile. The combination of five varieties of hops used in just the right fashion reflects head brewer Mark Doble’s engineering background (and the name is an indication of his love of sci-fi). It’s a fragrant brew—the aroma hits your senses before the glass reaches your lips—that’s immensely satisfying. —CF

209 Technology Park Lane, Fuquay-Varina

919-567-2337 | aviatorbrew.com

Barrel Culture Brewing and Blending 

I Don’t Know if You Know This, But I’m Kind of a Savage (11.5% ABV)

Savage is a blend of two braggots—a mead-beer hybrid, made with both honey and barley—fermented with microorganisms that create complexity and deliberate sourness, then refermented on strawberries, Madagascar vanilla, and Videri cocoa nibs. Pours still, a strawberry pink; tart, floral, strawberry jam aromas. On the tongue, the experimental ingredients meld into a tart, dry, lightly honeyed (not sweet), potent sipping beer with a ghost of chocolate and berry, and a finish sweetened by the vanilla. —JJ

4913 S. Alston Ave., Durham

919-908-9659 | barrelculture.com

Big Boss Brewing Company

New Guy (6.5% ABV)

Brewer Seth Adams wanted two representative beers for Big Boss, so we had to choose for him. And we concluded that while the ubiquitous Bad Penny would have been the choice for the Big Boss of old, the New England IPA New Guy is more the beer of Big Boss’s future. Named after then-new-to-the-team Adams—though not by his choice—New Guy was one of his first Big Boss recipes and symbolizes the brewery’s “flexibility and a sense of what Big Boss can be.” The Raleigh brewery—founded in 2006, it’s an elder statesman of the scene—wasn’t known for IPAs but now has a line of well-received ones. Along with the style’s typical tropical-fruit notes, New Guy also includes hints of mandarin orange and grapefruit. —CF 

1249 Wicker Drive, Raleigh

919-834-0045 | bigbossbrewing.com

Bombshell Brewing 

Lady in Red (5.5% ABV)

Bombshell brewer Devin Singley makes four additions of three different hops while creating Lady in Red, a malt-forward, highly approachable American amber ale. Bombshell sees itself as a sort of gateway into the craft beer world, and it sees Lady as a beer that’s complex enough to be interesting but smooth enough for anyone to enjoy. —CF

120 Quantum Drive, Holly Springs

919-823-1933 | bombshellbeer.com

Bond Brothers Beer Company

Flavor Patterns (7% ABV)

Bond Brothers brews a lot of beer in a lot of styles: IPAs, stouts, even a quad to benefit the INDY Press Club, which will be available next month. But do yourself a favor and seek out Flavor Patterns. It’s a raspberry sour conditioned in the bottle on honey for something like two years, which turns the bright red of a fresh raspberry sour into something darker. On the nose, you feel like you walked into a raspberry field; on the tongue, it’s mellower than you expect, yet still bright and delightfully tart. —JCB

202 E Cedar St., Cary

919-459-2670 | bondbrothersbeer.com

Botanist and Barrel Cidery & Winery

Skin Contact (8% ABV)

Like all ciders at Botanist and Barrel, Skin Contact benefits from spontaneous fermentation—a process that forgoes controlled yeast strains and instead lets juice ferment naturally. After this initial fermentation of the apple-based cider, Skin Contact is refermented on cherry skins discarded from wine production. The rose-colored cider is unique and almost too drinkable, dry and delicate but with plenty of fruit flavor and the aroma of a good cocktail cherry. —CB

105 Persimmon Hill Lane, Cedar Grove

919-644-7777 | botanistandbarrel.com

Brüeprint Brewing Company

Zambrüeni (4.7% ABV)

Brüeprint’s Eric Wagner says the brewery is all about memories—helping you to make new ones and recall old ones. That’s why he says Zambrüeni is a good representation of the company. It’s a sessionable “hockey lager” designed to evoke nights at the rink, Labatts in hand, cheering on the action. It’s part of a sports-related series that also includes Double Dribbrüe, Brüe Diamond, and Brüe 32. “Zambrüeni is made to finish clean, balanced, and refreshing,” Wagner says. He’s not wrong. The medium-bodied Zambrüeni pours clear with a slight malt aroma and drinks easy, perfect even for when the game goes to OT. —CF

1229 Perry Road, Apex

919-387-8075 | brueprint.com

Bull City Burger and Brewery 

Hen Peck Rowbust Porter (6.3% ABV) 

Named for Hen Peck Row, one of Durham’s original streets, this robust porter pours opaque brown-black with a tan head. The aroma is roasty and bready. After a sip, a beer drinker might suspect the brewers had added unsweetened black coffee, baker’s chocolate, or cocoa nibs to the brew, but no: The burnt-toast bitterness—just shy of acrid—comes from roasted malt. It has a full, silky mouthfeel, and a sweet, lingering finish with a touch of vanilla. —JJ           

107 E. Parrish St., Durham  

919-680-2333 | bullcityburgerandbrewery.com

Bull City Ciderworks 

Taylor’s Travels (6.99% ABV)                                                                                   

This one-off cider was made with two Southern heritage apple varieties, Arkansas Black and Limbertwig, and no adjunct flavors, and fermented with wine—not beer—yeast, then aged eight months in a pinot noir barrel. It pours slightly hazy pale yellow with a faint pink tint. The aroma is sweet and vinous. The flavor is lightly tart and winey, with a slight natural effervescence and no apple character or funk, with a dry, short finish. —JJ

305 S. Roxboro St., #3628, Durham

919-237-2357 | bullcityciderworks.com

Bull Durham Beer 

Kolsch Style Ale (4.7% ABV)

Housed in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Bull Durham produces beers during baseball season that are ideal for a game. The hybrid kölsch style combines the slight fruitiness of an ale with the crispness of a lager. Sparkling, straw-colored with a tight, white head. Light yeasty, bready aroma, with some sweetness and a hint of spicy hops. Light-bodied and easy on the palate, with breadiness and a whisper of citrus. Finishes with a welcome lingering bitterness. —JJ

409 Blackwell St., Durham

919-744-3568 | bulldurhambeer.com

Brewery Bhavana 

Till Farmhouse Ale (4.8% ABV)

Till tops Brewery Bhavana’s menu of always-on-tap core beers. Belgian-style saisons are Bhavana’s signature, and Till is its most essentialized saison—a reference point for the rest. Low-alcohol, it’s meant to be replenishing and quick-drinking, as saisons have been for centuries of Belgian farmhands on their lunch breaks. It’s beautifully clean and just tangy enough to make you want one more. —AC

218 S. Blount St., Raleigh

919-829-9998 | brewerybhavana.com

Carolina Brewery 

Sky Blue Kolsch (4.8%)

Sick of IPAs but want something a little more interesting than lager? This traditional German-style craft beer might be your answer. The Sky Blue Kolsch is bitter but crisp, with an initial fizz that disappears mid-sip. It’s drinkable and straightforward, both of which make it a good place to start if you’ve got a long evening (or afternoon) ahead of you. —CB

460 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

919-942-1800 | carolinabrewery.com

Clouds Brewing 

Midnight Delight (6.7%)

Co-founder John Oldendorf studied beer-making in Munich, returning with a strict knowledge of pilsners and maibocks that’s formed the bedrock of Clouds Brewing. But Oldendorf and company have found that deviating from the German classics can also yield tasty—and popular—results. Midnight, a chocolate stout, might be their biggest hit yet, incorporating “chocolate” malts (from dark-brown barley), as well as actual cocoa nibs, for a chocolate flavor that’s sweet but not sugary. Added lactose furnishes a creaminess that’s even smoother when poured through a nitro tap. —AC

1233 N. Front St., Raleigh (brewery); 126 N. West St., Raleigh (taproom); 905 W. Main St., #22, Durham (taproom)


Compass Rose Brewery

Tidal Break (7% ABV)

Hazy beers have had a cultish grip on the beer world lately, but head brewer Justin McConkey says traditional IPAs are making a comeback. For those reconnecting with their IPA roots, Tidal Break—crisp, ultra-hoppy, and almost electrically bright—will welcome you with open arms. It’s piney and resinous with a rewarding citrus finish and tastes like what being wide-awake feels like. It’s also award-winning: At last year’s U.S. Open Beer Championship, it landed a bronze medal in the West Coast IPA category. —SE

3201 Northside Drive, #101, Raleigh

919-875-5683 | compassrosebrewery.com

Cotton House Craft Brewers

Hazy Daze (6.6% ABV)

Located in a historic building in downtown Cary, Cotton House is hardly your typical vats-and-brats brewery. And much like the locale, its popular Hazy Daze is a unique, double dry-hopped hazy IPA that accounts for upward of 20 percent of its sales. With a fruity, inviting aroma, the lighter-than-you-expect IPA offers a robust and flavorful start and, unlike many of its counterparts in the hazy IPA realm, a finish that is as smooth and easy as a lager. —MVM

307 S. Academy St., Cary

984-333-0050 | cottonhousecraft.com

Craftboro Brewing Depot

Unbound (5.2% ABV)

This new brewery aims to honor craft beer traditions rather than reinvent the wheel. Unlike the many pale ales that veer into IPA territory with big hops, this one drinks like a smooth lager. Unbound gets its name from the fact that the type of hop used to make it will rotate with each batch, four to five times per year. The current iteration has hints of caramel without being malty, and a mild flavor overall. —CB

101 Two Hills Drive, #180, Carrboro

919-240-4400 | craftborobrewing.com

Crank Arm Brewery 

Road Hazard (6.2% ABV)

This hazy IPA’s can is covered in graphics of a winding road littered with dangers, both real and fantastical, that a cyclist might encounter on a long ride (buses, bees, sharks with lasers)—all befitting a brewery whose motto is “Beer Love, Bike Love.” It’s a refreshing one to enjoy after a long ride: pineapple-juicy and grassy, with a hoppy taste but only faint bitterness. Why feature it? Says co-founder Adam Eckhardt, “All my children are special; just feeling the Road Hazard vibe right now.” —AC

319 W. Davie St., Raleigh

919-324-3529 | facebook.com/crankarmbrew

Durty Bull Brewing Company

Barrel-Aged Candiru (12.8% ABV)

Owner Matt Pennisi wanted to show off a barrel-aged sour, but it wouldn’t be ready until after we went to print. So instead, we got the Candiru, a monster of a quad that spent 16 months resting in red wine and second-use bourbon barrels. The red wine notes hit first but are quickly brushed aside by the malt’s subtle sweetness. For an ale packing this much punch, it’s not as heavy as you’d expect, though it’s not exactly a chugger, either. It ends up being complex but quaffable, a beer that should be served closer to room temperature than ice-cold, and a very fine example of the form. —JCB

206 Broadway St., #104, Durham

919-688-2337 | durtybull.com

Fainting Goat Brewing Company

Der Hoof (5.6% ABV)

Brewer Timothy Reichert thinks the approachable, award-winning Der Hoof hefeweizen embodies Fainting Goat’s focus on bringing people together. Brewed with Noble Hallertauer and Tettnanger hops, it’s a classic-style German session beer that’s light-bodied, with only a hint of hops bitterness and a faint echo of cloves. It’s perfect for an evening of getting-to-know-yous, or anything else you’re doing. —CF  

330 S. Main St., Fuquay-Varina

919-346-7915 | faintinggoatbeer.com

Fortnight Brewing Company

English Breakfast Stout (9.5% ABV)

Fortnight prides itself on using products that are as local as possible, which is why its English Breakfast Stout might represent its brand more succinctly than anything else. The bourbon barrels the beer is aged in, as well as the cocoa nibs and coffee beans (from Raleigh-based Larry’s Coffee) that give the English Breakfast Stout its flavor, are all sourced from North Carolina. Fortnight director of operations Colin Spark describes this stout as “something you’d drink with your feet up by the fire, watching a local college basketball game.” It’s a relaxing slow-drinker, a beer with enough smoothness and drinkability to belie its relatively high ABV.  —MVM

1006 W. Maynard St., Cary

919-342-6604 | fortnightbrewing.com

Funguys Brewing

Smash Bandicoot (4.55% ABV)

The Smash Bandicoot may be aggressively named (and aggressively packaged), but owner Nick Brango says that this session amber is Funguys’ “true flagship” because “it’s accessible to most people.” A biology major, Brango experimented with careful rounds of homebrews before creating the Smash Bandicoot and opening Funguys in April 2018. Smash will hold up to even the snobbiest of amber loyalists: It’s unusually deep-red color could win a beauty contest, and it’s as malty and smooth—with just the right mild floral notes and a sweet, nutty finish—as an amber ale should be. —SE

2408 Paula St., Raleigh

984-200-5311 | funguysbrewing.com

Fullsteam Brewery

Carver (5.5% ABV)

Carver is a Vienna-style sweet potato lager resplendent with winter and North Carolina soil. “One of the most important things we do is use our spending dollars to promote agriculture and business around us in a way that is holistic to the beer economy,” says head brewer Erik Myers. Homegrown grain and sweet potatoes, one of the state’s signature crops, furnish a sweet yet earthy, refreshing lager that glows a rosy gold in the January sun. —BH

726 Rigsbee Ave., Durham

919-682-2337 | fullsteam.ag

Gizmo Brew Works

Fake News (5.8% ABV)

Some people think it’s a jab at President Trump, while others say they’re owning the libs. Head brewer Joe Walton says he didn’t intend to capitalize on a political moment. Fake News, a juicy, low-ABV New England-style IPA, was finishing its first production run amid the 2016 election cycle. The name struck a chord. “If you read the label, it clearly doesn’t take a side,” Walton says. Fake News drinks like an NEIPA should: not too bitter, a tinge of sweetness provided by hints of fruit, refreshing enough to make you reach for a second (which is why breweries have learned to love these guys). —LT

5907 Triangle Drive, Raleigh

919-782-2099 | gizmobrewworks.com

The Glass Jug Beer Lab

Raspberry Pi (4.7% ABV)

In its rotating Pi series of Gose-style sours, The Glass Jug Beer Lab showcases local fruits, herbs, and spices year-round. Co-owner Chris Creech singles out each November’s Cranberry & Cinnamon Pi and the currently available Moscow Mule Pi, with ginger and citrus zest, as perennial crowd-pleasers. We tried the Raspberry Pi, beet-juice pink, tart, and sweet but cut with sea salt, its sourness steepening for a moment before shimmering away. Go on Pi Day (March 14) to try flights with bites of—what else?—pie. —BH

5410 N.C. Highway 55, Suite V, Durham

919-813-0135 | glass-jug.com

Jordan Lake Brewing

Orange Weizen (4.7% ABV)

“If we ever run out of our Orange Weizen, riots ensue,” says Jordan Lake Brewing’s self-described Wearer of Many Hats Cat Pearce. In fact, when the brewery took the top-fermented wheat beer off the menu some years ago—it takes considerable time and effort to hand-zest enough oranges for a brew—regulars showed up in droves, ready and willing to zest as many pieces of fruit as necessary to ensure the Orange Weizen would stay tapped indefinitely. With a beer this light and airy, that goes down this smoothly, and that has a flavor profile this well-rounded, it’s no wonder the Orange Weizen is one of Jordan Lake’s tap staples. —MVM

320 E. Durham Road, Cary

919-694-5096 | jordanlakebrewing.com

Lynnwood Brewing Concern

Hop on Top (7% ABV)

Hop On Top was the first IPA brewed at Lynnwood Brewing Concern, and the no-frills favorite is always on tap. That there isn’t anything terribly special about Hop On Top is what makes it special. It’s consistent, robust, and a great beer-drinker’s beer—a typical IPA, except there’s nothing typical about it. Hop On Top combines an active, hoppy mouthfeel and aroma with a smooth finish and little-to-no aftertaste. —MVM 

1053 E. Whitaker Mill Road, Raleigh

919-424-7533 | lynnwoodgrill.com

Little City Brewing + Provisions

Mosaic Reprise (4.7% ABV)

When Darryl Wells inherited a slate of recipes from Little City’s previous brewer, he was determined to make the Mosaic Reprise session IPA his own. By adding malts to give it more body and a less aggressive feel, Wells’s iteration of the Mosaic Reprise has become an award-winning beer. It’s also one of Little City’s most popular selections. With just enough hoppiness to provide an exciting mouthfeel without a mouthy aftertaste, the Mosaic Reprise is equally at home in a flight and in a pint. —MVM

400 W. North St., Raleigh

919-502-7155 | littlecitybrewing.com

Lonerider Brewing Company

Sweet Josie (6.1% ABV)

Sweet Josie’s seductive glare is a familiar face behind the frosty glass of plenty a gas station, but she started as one of Lonerider’s original homebrews. Now produced at a massive scale, this locally ubiquitous brown ale routinely snags awards due to her versatile nature: dark but not as heavy as you’d expect, with hints of coffee and chocolate, the sweetness lingering in your mouth. It’s at once easy-drinking and thoughtfully made. —LT 

8816 Gulf Court, #100, Raleigh

919-442-8004 | loneriderbeer.com

The Mason Jar Lager Company

Happy Place (4.5% ABV)

Mason Jar only brews lagers, which brewer Dave Haydysch says is a very difficult style to tackle because “there’s nowhere to hide.” The first one Mason Jar made was Happy Place, which Haydysch describes as “approachable, very light, crisp, refreshing, with a little malty, biscuity backbone to it”—designed to accompany your favorite activity. It’s a clean, clear brew that nails the landing between malty sweetness and hoppy bitterness. —CF

341 Broad St., #151, Fuquay-Varina

919-557-5303 | masonjarlagerco.com

Mordecai Beverage Co. 

Toasted Coconut IPA (7.3% ABV)

When Mordecai owner and head brewer Andrew Christenbury crafted his brewery’s beloved Toasted Coconut IPA in 2013, he was aiming for a tropical IPA that was both easy-drinking and different. What he emerged with was a smooth and delicious IPA with a hint of coconut that is tastefully executed and hardly overwhelming. By achieving a near-perfect balance of the bitterness of a typical IPA with the more experimental fruitiness of a brew imbued with coconut, Mordecai’s Toasted Coconut IPA is just enough outside the ordinary. —MVM

2425 Crabtree Blvd., Raleigh

919-831-9125 | mordecaibev.co

Neuse River Brewing & Brasserie

Bobbi Brune Smoked Belgian Brown Ale (6% ABV)

Neuse River owner Ryan Kolarov created the Bobbi Brune in his parents’ garage years before he ever thought to open a brewery. As Kolarov describes it, the ale is something “nobody would enter into a competition,” yet it’s become a staple of Neuse River’s business. Smooth enough to enjoy with a meal, yet complex enough to write about, the Bobbi Brune offers notes of cherrywood smoked malt atop of a robust Belgian brown that drinks smooth and light enough (both in taste and finish) to enjoy all afternoon. —MVM

518 Pershing Road, Raleigh

984-232-8479 | neuseriverbrewing.com

Nickelpoint Brewing Company

Vienna Lager (5.1%)

Nickelpoint bartender Matthew Evans suggested the Vienna Lager, and it’s easy to see why: The popular, award-winning lager is malt-forward with caramel notes and a lingering biscuity aftertaste. Aromatic beers are the name of the game in this tucked-away Five Points neighborhood brewery: After sampling a couple of its European-style ales, you’ll feel like you’ve eaten a full meal. —SE

506 Pershing Road, Raleigh

919-916-5961 | nickelpointbrewing.com

Oak City Brewing Company

Rise and Unwind (5.5% ABV)

If a breakfast beer really exists, this is it. On first whiff, your nose detects a rich, earthy cold brew as the pitch-black liquid fills the glass. On first taste, even with the alcohol tingle, your tongue still leans toward coffee, with just a hint of oatmeal for sweetness. “We dose [it] with a healthy amount of Oak City Coffee Roasters to give it the coffee kick,” says owner Matt Keeler. —LT

616 N. First Ave., Knightdale

919-373-8487 | oakcitybrewingcompany.com

Oaklyn Springs Brewery

Any Victory Will Do (6.4% ABV)

Brewer Daniel Barker’s New England IPA began as a recipe that changed its hop profile in each batch, but his regulars kept clamoring for a return of the first recipe. He gave them what they wanted, and now it’s the one Oaklyn is known for. Any Victory fills the glass with a golden haze. There’s a less-noticeable taste of the tropics than with other New England IPAs, but it isn’t lacking because of that. The smooth, moderately bitter brew is worthy of its crowd appeal. —CF

2912 N. Main St., #100, Fuquay-Varina

919-762-0049 | oaklynsprings.com

Ponysaurus Brewing Company

Pilsner (5.1% ABV)

You can brew a pilsner in two weeks, but Ponysaurus’s takes at least two months. “We judge ourselves on our Pilsner,” says head brewer Rob Meehan. “It’s such a blank slate, and if it isn’t right, people know.” His is both spot-on and original: clear, crisp, and clean, with bready and herby undertones. In each sip, a pleasing bitter bite opens into floral softness. This is a drink-all-day classic when you want satisfaction, not adventure. —BH

219 Hood St., Durham

844-369-7669 | ponysaurusbrewing.com

Pursuit Ales

Toe the Line (4.2%)

Recall what we said earlier about Bond Brothers/Ancillary* brewmaster Whit Baker’s beer mind? Here comes his third project, a brand made inside Bond Brothers but sold under a different label, targeted to “those with an active lifestyle.” These are light, low-calorie, low-gluten beers, meant for consumption after a run or climb or long-distance cycle. Toe the Line, brewed for runners, clocks in at 100 calories per 12 ounces (by comparison, the beer-flavored water known as Michelob Ultra has 95 calories) has refreshing, beachy notes of salt and lime. Some advice: Drink this after exercising, not after sampling half of Bond Brothers’ taps. —JCB


R&D Brewing

Seven Saturdays (6.2% ABV)

The citrus is front-and-center—the grapefruit particularly dominant—but there are also distinct notes of pineapple and guava and, for the very discerning, a bit of onion. A best-seller for R&D, this IPA stands out with a luminescent gold glow. For those who don’t gravitate toward especially bitter beers, the hop-heavy finish might linger for a moment longer than you’d like. But for those who enjoy a bright blend of citrus and bitter, this could make for an ideal summertime beer. —SE


Raleigh Brewing Company

Hell Yes Ma’am (9.2%)

At 9.2 percent ABV but as smooth as a Bud Light, RBC’s signature Belgian strong golden ale could be a dangerous concoction. Could be, that is, if the overwhelming bitterness didn’t overwhelm the slightly fruity kick and thoroughly discourage overindulgence. —LT

3709 Neil St., Raleigh

919-400-9086 | raleighbrewing.com

Starpoint Brewing

Surfin’ Buddha (6.5%)

Starpoint built its rep on small-batch IPAs of all varieties. This year-round beer, available in cans and on draft, is a classic interpretation of a West Coast IPA. Slightly cloudy amber in the glass, with visible effervescence that is less obvious on the palate. Similarly, the aromas of pine, melon, citrus, and apricot are less assertive in the flavor. Lots of hop character, but little overt bitterness, and nice, round caramel malts. It wears its strength gracefully. —JJ

2501 University Drive, Durham

984-219-7538 | beerstudy.com

Steel String Brewery 

Big Mon IPA (6.3% ABV)

As Steel String’s flagship brew, Big Mon is one of the few offered year-round. A West Coast IPA, its citrusy hop-forward flavor stays true to the style. The sweetness isn’t overwhelming, and the fruit isn’t bold enough to be juicy, but a subtle peach flavor comes through mid-sip. It’s hearty enough to drink in winter, but not so bitter that it wouldn’t be refreshing in warmer weather. —CB

106 S. Greensboro St., Carrboro

919-240-7215 | steelstringbrewery.com

Southern Peak Brewery

One Mile Round (5.9% ABV)

While One Mile Round is a nod to German history, it doesn’t conform to the 16th-century German beer-purity laws that allowed for nothing other than barley, hops, and water. (The beer is a Kottbusser, which originated in the city of Cottbus, which had a permit to sell the beer within a one-mile radius, hence the name.) The pale wheat ale, which features subversive ingredients like local honey and molasses, may be rogue, but the unusual use of honey (sourced from local beekeepers) is careful and showcases Southern Peak’s attention to detail. The resulting brew is clever and crisp and starry-sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. It’s also very refreshing. —SE

950 Windy Road, #100, Apex

919-623-0827 | southernpeakbrewery.com

Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery 

Old Well White (6% ABV)

Established in 1996, Top of the Hill is one of the oldest working breweries in the state. Its flagship Old Well White is a wheat beer that’ll ruin your opinion of Blue Moon forever. The sweet orange flavor is balanced by sour notes and a slight bitterness that comes through at the very end. Beer enthusiasts might pick up on herbal, floral coriander a few sips in, but there’s no need to overthink this sweet wheat. —CB

100 E. Franklin St., #300, Chapel Hill

919-929-8676 | thetopofthehill.com

Trophy Brewing & Taproom

Mort’s Trophy Lager (4.8%)

You’ll have to wait for a pint of Mort’s, Trophy’s newest core beer. The secret is in the foam, which globs atop the lager like a mound of whipped cream through a slow-pour technique that takes about five minutes. When your Mort’s finally slides across the bar, it feels almost like a milkshake, and it’s nearly impossible to sip without giving yourself a foam-mustache. The foam traps the carbonation in the beer, which is nearly bubble-less in the glass, and is designed to keep the beer equally carbonated from first sip to last. Even the foam retains the lager’s crisp flavor, a lightness that seems to demand a patio in the summer sun. —LT

656 Maywood Ave., Raleigh

919-803-1333 | trophybrewing.com

Vecino Brewing Co. 

Proven Hopped Kettle Sour (3.6% ABV)

If you’re new to sours, Proven might not be the place to start. The sourness is overwhelming at first, like half a lemon has been squeezed into a light but hop-forward pale ale. A few sips in, though, the initial shock wears off, and the low-ABV beer takes on a refreshing quality that likely makes it a favorite among the brewery’s weekly run-club crowd. —CB

300 E. Main St., Suite C, Carrboro

919-537-9591 | vecinobrewing.com

Vicious Fishes

Here Be Dragons (6.2% ABV)

This tropical-fruit-infused New England IPA is the company’s foundational brew, and its iterations through the years—from small volume homebrew to the current easy-drinking form available at multiple locations—mirror the evolution of Vicious Fishes. An aromatic brew that uses four different hops—Galaxy, Citra, Simcoe, Liberty—and an assortment of fruits, Here Be Dragons is pitch-perfect, avoiding bitterness or the sensation of overpowering sweetness. The only challenging part is stopping at one. —CF

132 S. Fuquay Ave., Fuquay-Varina

919-762-7876 | viciousfishes.com

White Street Brewing Company

Hoptimist (7.5% ABV)

We didn’t connect with White Street, so we sampled the beer we’ve seen most often around the area: the Hoptimist, an American IPA that blends Amarillo and Citra hops. From a bottle, it pours copper with a thick head and nose of pine. It drinks lighter than its ABV suggests, but the hops’ grapefruit and mango notes aren’t as strong as the name would have you expect—except at the finish, which is a little bitter. —JCB 

218 White St., Wake Forest

919-647-9439 | whitestreetbrewing.com

Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

Oldfield (6% ABV)

When colonizers in North Carolina and other Southern states first started clear-cutting forests, they noticed one particularly fragrant species of pine, the tongue-twisting “loblolly,” was always the first to reappear. So when Wye Hill brewer and amateur forager Gregg Winget realized a loblolly was growing in his backyard, he couldn’t help himself. He lobbed off its branches and layered them in the bottom of his fermenter. Out emerged Oldfield, an American pale ale with notes of pine and citrus. It’s a balanced beer, not overly bitter, and leaves behind a refreshing aftertaste.  —LT

201 S. Boylan Ave., Raleigh

984-200-1189 | wyehill.com

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