The afternoon began at approximately 3:45pm as we pulled into an industrial area of the city of Raleigh, NC. My cohorts for the afternoon were my brother and father, both of them named Richard. It was a two-pronged mission – get to know Raleigh beer, and get my family to jump on board the craft beer train.
The guys were skeptical as I directed them to pull into the grim surroundings – things were not looking promising to their eyes, but I knew better. I had borne witness to fantastic places like Big Storm in Boynton Beach, FL and Cantillon in Brussells. We pulled in, went inside, and? I was right.
Big Boss Brewing is an awesome place – somewhere between pub and dive bar. Painted with thick dark paint and furnished with wooden tables and chairs and leather couches, the place has lots of little nooks for chilled out privacy, and classic games like darts, ping pong, and pool. My dad had found a heaven he didn’t know existed. He also didn’t know flights existed, so I insisted that that was what we were going to have.
We tried the Bad Penny brown ale, the Kolsch (name), the Tavern Ale, and their Belgian White. Bad Penny was easily my favorite, and Richard Sr’s was the Tavern. The White was also very nice – hitting the style nicely but a bit more subdued in flavor than most.
The Kolsch, on the other hand, neither of us cared for, but I will say that when drinking so many richly flavored beers, it’s hard to love the more subtle flavors of a lager. That was okay – Richard Jr was only too happy to take care of the Kolsch for us. On the other hand, the Bad Penny was fantastic – toasty, but light in the mouth and refreshing.
Okay, Dad didn’t want to leave, but this was a pub crawl. It was time to move on.
Next up was Crank Arm Brewing Company, a really cool, kind of hipstery, bicycle themed micro-brewery. The staff there were super well-informed, and were all too happy to give me suggestions. She also excited told me the history of how Crank Arm was originally just a rickshaw business, that had successfully funded the creation of the brewery through Kickstarter! This go round the Richards both went with their flagship Rickshaw, a Rye IPA. (I believe they were titillated by the 7.2% ABV, but they maintain this was not the case). I, on the other hand, go with another flight, because she tells me it’s five two ounce pours. Okay, I can handle that. But what arrives I do believe was five four ounce pours, and I have to share some of that out, as I am but a small person. Cooler even than the beers themselves was the device that held them!
The beers were all nice. there was a Belgian White with hardcore Citra hops. The only problem with that one is the hops completely overpower any other flavor. Maybe it doesn’t for those that are big into that flavor zone, but I’m not, so yeah. My favorite was the German Hefebiken (get that?), a bit lighter than normal, both in mouthfeel and in the esters that usually accompany the style. Granted, Hefeweizen beers are some of my favorites.
The most experimental of the three breweries had to be Trophy Brewing. The manager, Shane, was kind enough to show me and my cohorts the small brewery they’ve got in the back. It was a small room filled with steel – rocking out two mash tuns, three five barrel fermenters, two three barrel, a brightening tank, and plenty of shiny kegs. If they keep growing they are going to need to expand somehow soon! The guys were pretty thrilled to see a brewery for the first time – maybe now my dad will brew that kit I sent him last year.
Trophy had four beers of their own on tap, of which we tried three – the Night at the Museum, the Participant, and the Teacher’s Pet. Night at the Museum is purportedly a Belgian amber ale – but it had an opacity level that I don’t think my vast beer memory can match. It was tasty, and had the right fruity notes, but this was murky and brown, not unlike mud. I’m guessing this had something to do with extreme malt levels. Luckily it wasn’t as heavy in mouthfeel as it looked. The Teacher’s Pet was nice, a pretty standard American ale, not my favorite style but it hit the mark.
Now, the Berliner Weisse tasted was so sour it reminded me of gueuze – I would be interested to know if they open fermented this or if they used lactic acid. They did do something very intriguing to compensate, however, for those less into sours – they served the beer with a shot on the side of a lovely blueberry reduction, for the drinker to pour as much or as little as they liked. I determined that the beer needed the whole shot, and then it became delicious. Not that I only like sweet beers, mind. This concept could open up a lot of play! What else can we throw in our beer and which beers shall we do it to?!
Besides these crazy beers, the place also has a pretty awesome pizza selection – I wanted the Local Celebrity – with asparagus, country ham, and local mushrooms, but my less adventurous cohorts pushed for the Most Loyal, which was very good – with pesto, tomato, honey and roasted chicken. Surprisingly, yes, those things go together very well! And one large pizza was more than enough for three people’s dinner – so great value too!
All in all, Raleigh seems to have an Amazing beer scene. This is only three breweries out of EIGHTEEN! I would have loved especially to have checked out Raleigh Brewing, which several people thought might be a great place for A Brief History of Beer, and Bombshell Brewing – North Carolina’s first 100% female owned brewery in Holly Springs!
Oh well, I’m coming back next month, Raleigh, I’ll just have to drink some more of your beer in November – for my birthday/Thanksgiving minstrations! Until then, CHEERS!
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