RALEIGH BREWING COMPANY – ‘Tap the Capital’
The primary consideration in my bottle shop purchases is beer quality, followed closely by exclusivity. No doubt this sentiment is shared with most people reading this piece. Yet when I consider the things that draw me to certain breweries, the list of attractions grows. When I go to a local brewery I do so based on other factors such as the availability of food, events, location, variety of beer styles, the brewery’s story, and even marketing. Let’s be honest – we eat (and drink) first with our eyes, and label artwork has enticed me to buy a number of beers!
Given the rapid rate of new craft breweries opening across the country, Raleigh Brewing Company is well-established in the North Carolina beer scene. Founded in 2010, RBC is the first female owned craft brewery. Kristie Nystedt leads a team that operates a 20-bbl. brew house, and home-brew supply sister company, Atlantic Brew Supply. This ‘neighbrewhood’ is located just west of downtown Raleigh, nestled among NC State University, Meredith College and PNC arena, the home of our NHL Carolina Hurricanes®.
Raleigh Brewing incorporates the city of Raleigh in all aspects of the business. Its colors (red, white and black) are shared by the Hurricanes and the NC State Wolfpack, and cover the taproom and product cans. The 3,000 square foot taproom is decorated with murals of the city, and several corn hole and dart boards, board games are available for those not watching a Wolfpack or Hurricanes away game. Within the taproom is a separate meeting room available for rent by businesses and civic groups. Daily food trucks and a variety of nearby restaurants meet the needs of hungry customers.
Now for the most important aspect of any brewery – the beer! RBC offers six very solid year-round beers, each relating to the capital city in both story and style. The beer names and characteristics each point to the city and its history, and to North Carolina culture. The beer lineup goes from light to dark, and low to high ABV. From ‘City of Blokes’, an ESB at 3.8%, to ‘Hell Yes, Ma’am, a Belgian Golden Ale at 9.2%, there is a style available for everyone. My favorite year-round option is ‘House of Clay’, a Rye IPA combining tropical hop notes with earthy spiciness of rye. Raleigh Brewing excels with its Seasonal lineup as well. Spring is welcomed by ‘The First Squeeze’, a crisp, 6% ABV blood orange hefeweizen. ‘Dear ol’ Dixie’, a crushable hop-forward pale, is one of my go-to summer beers. IPA is my favorite style, and Dixie is my summer girl. Intense citrus and piney hop notes will fool many into adding the ‘India’ to this Pale Ale, yet the relatively low 5.6% ABV allows one to session it. I wish it was a year-round offering, but since it’s a seasonal my anticipation and taste buds get excited as summer finally arrives. Finally, ‘The Miller’s Toll’, a flavorful 9.1% ABV oatmeal stout, helps warm up the colder months. This beer was awarded the bronze medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival, and for good reason. It is a big beer without being heavy on the palate, and very smooth with the addition of flaked oats to the grain bill. Those of us living in the Raleigh area were fortunate to enjoy the bourbon barrel-aged version of this stout, which saw a limited release over the past winter.
This was RBC’s maiden voyage into barrel-aging the beer, and with it they scored a top-shelf, stick-side game winner. FYI – we know our hockey in Raleigh!
Sitting here at Raleigh Brewing with my buddy Matt, both of us enjoying a ‘Beertown Brown’, an English Brown Ale brewed for the winner of their recent homebrew competition; I realize that I’m drawn here because RBC represents Raleigh. Quality, diversity and history are poured through the taps here and it feels like…home.