A fine beer may be judged with only one sip...but it's better to be thoroughly sure. - Czech Proverb

Happy International Beer Day!

That’s right, August 1st is International Beer Day! The craft beer scene is growing so quickly in America that sometimes I lose sight that there’s a whole world of beer out there, some of it being made the same way as it was 400 years ago and some of it as new and innovative as anything from the states. Today, take a break from “Made in America” and make time to try one of these great international beers that you can easily find in the Triad.

  1. Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier – made by the oldest continually operated brewery in the world, this yeasty wheat beer with a fruity aroma and notes of banana is perfect for the heat.
  2. Brasserie d’Orval Orval – step outside the norm with this Trappist monk brewed beer that defies expectations. Put through two fermentations, including the funky bug brettanomyces, this is a very complex beer which can change character completely as it warms up.
  3. Hitachino Nest White Ale – a Belgian wit brewed in Japan, this spiced ale features coriander, nutmeg and orange peel.
  4. Ilkley The Mayan – this chocolate chipotle stout from England embodies some of the innovation now occurring among England’s proud brewing tradition. This silky sweet stout is balanced with just a touch of heat.
  5. Samuel Smith Taddy Porter – one of the most traditional English brews from one of the most traditional English brewers, this fantastic porter was considered by Michael Jackson (the beer hunter, not the singer) to be one of the top 5 beers in the world.
  6. Parallel 49 Salty Scot – from our neighbors to the north, this sweet Scottish ale is balanced with a touch of salt and is reminiscent of drinking salted caramels.

Besides these, there’s a huge range of Belgian lambics and krieks (sour, fruity ales) on the shelves around the Triad, if you’re looking for a slightly more expensive but amazing experience. If you’ve not yet delved into sours, sour brown ales and lambics can be a great introduction. Branch out and ask about them at your local bottleshop today!

These are just a few examples of great international beers out there to try and I’ve seen all of the above beers on the shelves at Bestway, Stella Brew, City Beverage, The Brewer’s Kettle and Potent Potables lately.

US Open Beer Championship

U.S. Open Beer Championship – NC Winners

Out of over 3,000 beers & ciders submitted in 81 categories, these NC breweries brought home a medal in the 2014 U.S. Open Beer Championship.

Gold Medals

  • BearWaters Brewing’s Sliding Rock Ale (English Mild Ale)
  • BearWaters Brewing’s Minorcan Porter (Specialty / Anything Goes)
  • Fullsteam Brewery’s El Toro (American Cream Ale)
  • Mother Earth Brewing’s Weeping Willow Wit (Belgian Witbier)
  • Mother Earth Brewing’s Silent Night (Wood/Barrel-Aged Strong Stout)

Silver Medals

  • Lonerider Brewing’s Deadeye Jack (Robust Porter)
  • Lynnwood Brewing’s Kiss my Irish Stout (Classic Irish Dry Stout)
  • Fullsteam Brewery’s Carver (Vegetable beer)
  • Appalachian Mountain Brewery’s Smokey Mountain Schwartz (Specialty / Anything Goes)

Bronze Medals

  • White Street Brewing’s White Street Stout (Foreign Stout)
  • White Street Brewing’s Black Falls (American-Style Black Ale)
  • Lonerider Brewing’s Hangman (Barley Wine)
  • Lonerider Brewing’s Cowboy in Black (American-Style Black Ale)
  • Lonerider Brewing’s Pistols at Dawn (Chocolate / Cocoa Beer)
  • Appalachian Mountain Brewery’s AMB Common (Altbier)
  • Mystery Brewing’s Batch #1 (Barrel Aged Wood / Barrel aged pale beer)

Congratulations to all of them!


Beach Beer

The Beers of Summer

Summer is here. It’s hot, bloody humid, and that grass won’t mow itself. Luckily, there’s a lot of great summer craft beer made in North Carolina, just waiting to cool you down and quench your thirst. Whether you’re at the pool, grilling out, doing yard work, or heading to the beach, I guarantee you’ll find something below that’s light, refreshing and delicious.

Cans (& Bottle)

No longer just for the macro lagers, cans are great for spots like the pool where glass isn’t allowed, and they’re lighter to carry down to the beach. Most of the beers below come in cans for your summer enjoyment, but Duck-Rabbit’s Schwarzbier only comes in bottles, and it’s too good to leave off the list. You can find these beers across the Triad at bottle shops like Stella Brew, City Beverage, Bestway, Potent Potables and The Brewer’s Kettle (K-ville too).

Summer Beer Labels

Mother Earth Park Day – Bohemian Style Pilsner (4.8%)

Just about every mass-produced American lager claims to be a pilsner, but try one of these canned beauties side-by-side with a Budweiser and you’ll see the difference quickly. The Bohemian region of the Czech Republic was the birthplace of pilsners, getting their name from the city of Pilsen, and this brew from Mother Earth stays true to those roots. German Tettnang hops give this straw-colored lager an earthiness with floral notes and a slightly spicy finish. Park Day has already been recognized as a top-flight pilsner,  winning a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Fest in 2013. Pilsners go great with just about any food, but you won’t go wrong with some grilled brats! Parboil them in some Park Day and a sliced onion first to make them really stand out.

Howard Action Man – Vienna Lager (5.1%)

Want an easy drinking beer with a bit more malt backbone? Vienna lagers are creamy, lightly toasted copper-colored brews, featuring just a hint of earthy hops to accentuate the slightly sweet, toasty malt notes, and Howard Brewing’s canned Action Man is a great example. This is a great beer to watch the sun go down or some fireworks go up with, but it can also quench your thirst in the middle of the hottest day. Another versatile beer for pairing, it’s crisp enough to go with just about anything, but take a lesson from our neighbors to the South (Dos Equis Amber is a vienna lager), and pair it with some spicy chicken or pork tacos.

Duck-Rabbit Schwarzbier – Schwarzbier (5.8%)

Just because it’s hot out doesn’t mean you can’t have a nice dark beer. Schwarzbier (literally “black beer”) is lagered, so it’s light, crisp and clean, but features roasty caramel and coffee flavors. Duck-Rabbit’s leans more towards caramel, lending it an almost Coca-Cola flavor. In fact, mixing schwarzbier’s half-and-half with cola is a thing many people do, and there have even been beers produced in Germany to replicate this mixture, commonly referred to as a “dunkels radler”. This dark lager is the perfect pairing for a grilled steak and some fresh summer vegetables.

NoDa CAVU – Golden Ale (4.6%)

The newest canned offering from NoDa, CAVU (Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited) is an aviation term used to describe clear skies or ideal conditions, and this is the perfect beer for those ideal summer conditions. Slightly fruity, with just enough citrusy hops to balance the sweetness, this is a great thirst quenching replacement for heavier pale ales or IPAs. NoDa does not distribute to the Triad yet, but many of the bottle shops drive down to get cases on a regular basis. Pair this with some grilled pork chops and apples, and enjoy.

Fullsteam Cack-a-Lacky – Ginger Pale Ale (5.0%)

The can says Hoppy and Zippy, and that’s exactly what this refreshing pale ale is. Fullsteam just started canning these earlier this year, so this will be your first summer to experience this beer by the pool. Plenty of ginger comes through, giving a spicy bite to the finish and complimenting the citrusy hops. The hops in this one won’t overwhelm you, they are only there to give some balance to the slightly sweet ginger and minimal malt body.  Grab a six pack of these and head to the lake, or throw some Jamaican jerk chicken on the grill and drink up.

Anderson Valley The Kimmie, The Yink and the Holy Gose – Gose (4.2%)

Since no NC breweries have canned or bottled a gose yet, I had to go with this widely available gem from Anderson Valley Brewing. Up until a few years ago, gose was almost extinct, but it has returned in a big way. This German sour wheat style with coriander and salt added is refreshingly tart, while the hint of salt keeps you coming back for more. Try one with an apple and arugula summer salad for a healthy and delicious summer option. This beer is also great at the beach, although if you’re headed to South Carolina this summer, you should keep an eye open for cans of the phenomenal Westbrook Gose, which is a more intense, lip-puckering version.

Draft & Growlers

Some great NC summer beers just aren’t available except on draft, although with the plethora of growler stations popping up around the Triad, you can get all of them in 64 or 32oz growlers.

Wicked Weed Coolcumber – Golden Ale (6%)

Cucumber, basil and juniper berries? Made as a tribute to the Hendrick’s gin cooler? Tasty and refreshing? Yes, yes and yes! This summer seasonal by Wicked Weed has been popping up on draft on a regular basis around the Triad.

Fullsteam Summer Basil – Saison (5.5%)

Fullsteam has been bottling their Summer Basil in 22oz bottles since last year, but they’re still rare to see in the Triad. Much more likely that you’ll find this beer on a growler station or on draft. Farmhouse or saison ales were traditionally brewed during the winter to be enjoyed during the summer months. You can expect bready yeast notes, with a cooling basil presence that is noticeable but not overwhelming.

Pig Pounder Boar Bitter – English Bitter (3.8%)

You’ll have to get to Greensboro for this one (unless you’re in Reidsville), as it’s only on draft at their tap room, the Marshall Free House and Darryl’s, or The Celtic Fringe in Reidsville. A traditional British brew, this sessionable ale packs a lot of flavor for only 3.8% ABV, with lots of malty biscuit and caramel flavors balanced with earthy English hops. You can also grab it in 64oz and 32oz  growlers from the tap room.


I hope you’ll give these beers a try if you’ve not already, and let me know about it at @nctriadbeer on Twitter! If you’re a jaded craft beer veteran who has already tried all of these great beers, you could alternatively try the even rarer summer beers listed here.

Foothills Dinner at Wolfgang Pucks

Foothills Beer Dinner at the Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar

Earlier this month, I was invited to the Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar in Greensboro for their beer dinner with Foothills Brewing. I’d not heard of the Pizza Bar until this NC Beer Month event popped up, but I learned that they have been doing various pairing dinners with beer, wine and liquors for the past 5 or 6 months.

The Menu

The Menu

The dinner was held on their outside patio, which was perfect in the cool spring evening, and there were about 20 guests around a single, long table. My girlfriend and I sat between two doctors and an off-duty WPPB bartender with his date, along with a couple of his regulars. Foothills’ rep Dave was on hand to talk about the four beers we would be sampling and the Bar’s sous chef Andy came out between courses to talk about each dish.

My lovely date with her quail.

My lovely date with her quail.

First course was a quinoa and strawberry stuffed quail, with watercress, frisee and a rhubarb vinaigrette, paired with a Carolina Strawberry Ale. I had actually never had the Strawberry Ale because I’d assumed that it was a sweet, alcopop-type beer, but in fact it’s a pretty standard golden ale with just a hint of tart strawberry. It was refreshing and paired nicely with the quail with it’s nice crisp skin, the bitter greens and the vinaigrette. A very nice appetizer and start to our meal.

Next up was a spec and white asparagus pizza, with aged gouda and garlic cream, paired with a Torch Pilsner. Spec is a type of prosciutto, and the salty meat went well with the tangy cheese. The real highlight, however, was the crust! A wonderful blend of crispness and chewiness, the edges were just slightly burnt in spots, lending some char to the yeasty bread. The Pilsner did a good job of highlighting the crust, with it’s crisp finish over a touch of it’s own yeasty bread notes and of course the characteristic Saaz hop spiciness.

Third course was a pepperoncini dusted grilled shrimp over garganelli pasta, pancetta, tomatoes and olives, paired with a Hoppyum IPA. Since I’m allergic to shellfish, they prepared mine with grilled black bass instead. The Hoppyum was a great counterpoint to the rich creaminess of the pasta, which was very good. I thought the bass was a little heavy for the dish, but my girlfriend had no such problems with the shrimp, which she said were “delicious.”

We finished with an espresso pot de crème, with chocolate and toffee bark, hazelnut crème anglaise and chocolate covered espresso beans, paired with a People’s Porter. What a way to finish! The pot de creme was incredibly dense and rich, and was lovely mixed with the anglaise. Sips of the coffee, chocolate and toffee notes of the beer swirled together with the flavors of the pot de creme for a very nice dessert experience. The chocolate and toffee bark was especially delicious, just a little chewy and rich, without being overly sweet.

We ended up talking until nearly 11 with some of the other guests, enjoying the cool night air and the plentiful drinks.

What's in there?

What’s in there?

The only criticism I have with the dinner was that alternating beers were served in brown glasses, which takes away the visual aspects of enjoying a beer. For example, they started with the Strawberry Blonde in a brown glass. Since I’d never had it before, I still don’t know what it looks like, how golden it is, or whether it has any pink tinges from the strawberries. Just as presentation of your food is important, presentation of the beer being paired with it is equally important, and I’d like to have seen some clear tulips in use instead.

The Pizza Bar also has a full bar and 8 draft lines, which were all NC beers except for a lone Magic Hat #9. They have several more upcoming dinners, and on June 19th, they’ll be hosting a Mystery Brewing dinner. Mystery is also brewing a special house beer for them to have exclusively on tap! Besides the beer dinner, they also have events coming up featuring Sauza tequila and North Carolina wines. Call them at 336-854-0301 for more details.

The Brewer's Kettle - Fine ales and lagers

Kernersville’s Newest Beer Spot, The Brewer’s Kettle

Coolers & Racks at TBKK

Coolers & Racks at TBKK

The newest location of The Brewer’s Kettle is now open in Kernersville, making it the first dedicated beer bottleshop and taproom in town. They’re only “softly” opened right now, so expect a few changes before their official Grand Opening, as they’re still moving in some racks and finishing up the interior. They’ll also be moving in a cigar humidor, curated by The Pint & Pipe out of Greensboro. Bottle selection will be roughly the same as the original location in High Point, with six coolers of cold beer and plenty of shelving for 6-packs as well as singles for mixing and matching your own 6-pack. Be sure to check out their frequent mixer card, which lets you earn 25% off a mix-6 pack after purchasing several.

Draft & Wine chalkboard at TBKK

Draft & Wine chalkboard at TBKK

Wine selection will closely follow what the High Point location carries, featuring wines chosen by TBK’s founder, David Armstrong. David is currently studying for his Certified Specialist of Wine certification.

Beer is also available on draft, along with wines by the glass. When I visited, they had eleven taps open and twelve wines, but it looked as if they had room for at least a couple taps on the coolers.

Beyond the selection, the inside looks fantastic, with dark hardwood floors and warm yellow and wine-red walls. The highlight is the beautiful long bar, topped with wooden parquet. The place looked great on a sunny Saturday afternoon, although the light played hell with my cell phone camera. Trust me that the pictures do not do the place justice, and this’ll teach me to leave the house without a real camera.

Picnic and patio area outside TBKK

Picnic and patio area outside TBKK

Outside, there are plenty of picnic tables for enjoying the spring weather, as well as a covered patio. I can see this being a popular place to grab a beer or a glass of wine with some friends after work. Picnics are always better with beer.

Currently, the tentative Grand Opening weekend will be April 19th. They are still working on clearing up and graveling the next door lot, where they hope to bring in several food trucks for the opening. In the meantime, you can go enjoy some craft beer right now, and take some home with you!

Monday-Thursday: 11 AM – 7 PM
Friday-Saturday: 11 AM – 9 PM
Sunday: Closed


308 E Mountain St, Kernersville NC 27284
Get Directions

Last cleaned info for every line.

Cleanliness and Communication

Last cleaned info for every line.

Last cleaned date for every draft line!

Having a beer at Potent Potables‘ Thirsty Thursday, I noticed a new piece of information on their draft chalkboard: Line Cleaned, with a listing of the last date each of the tap lines were cleaned. Potent’s owner, Steve Kim, said that he started putting the information up a little over a month ago and that he hopes to clean the lines every time he switches a keg.

Why is this noteworthy? Well, one of the biggest contributors to off flavors in draft beer are dirty lines, so one of the most important things a brewery, bar or retailer can do to ensure they are pouring you a proper draft is to keep their lines clean. Most craft beer places should be cleaning their lines at least a couple times a month, and if you ask, they should be able to tell you when they were last cleaned. If your bar can’t or won’t tell you, then you may want to find a new bar.

What I love about Steve’s idea is that it puts this information right out there in the open, and it holds him accountable to cleaning on a regular basis, since no one wants to see a Last Cleaned date a month or two in the past. It lets the customer know that the beer they’re getting was delivered cleanly and correctly, and it gives the bartender an opportunity to educate drinkers that may not know about the importance of a clean line.

Please take note, Triad beer sellers and servers. I hope information like this is soon up on all craft beer draft lists, because isn’t it just as important as style, ABV%, and IBUs?

Exploring the Foothills

Fonta Flora Holden Rye IPA

Pint of Fonta Flora’s Holden Rye IPA

This past Saturday, a good friend of mine and I took a little tour around the NC Foothills to our west, hitting up Fonta Flora & Catawba Valley Brewing in Morganton, Howard Brewing in Lenoir, and Olde Hickory in Hickory. We also ate at Root & Vine, a local Morganton restaurant that was very good, and had what might be the best potato salad I’ve ever tasted!

The area is great for a day trip – the breweries are spread out enough that you’re not in danger of over-indulging (if you’re smart), but close enough that you don’t feel like you’re driving all the time. Based on my experience, next time I’d just do Fonta Flora, Howard and then Olde Hickory, since Catawba Valley doesn’t have a lot of brewery-only drafts. Each town is about a half-hour away from the next, so even with a late lunch (around 1:30 pm) and then visiting all 4 breweries, we were back and finished with dinner at OH by around 8:30 pm.

Since Howard Brewing doesn’t open their taproom until 5 pm, you almost have to get a late start or plan on spending a long time at Fonta Flora and/or Catawba Valley. The good news is that Fonta has a comfortable taproom and beers well worth spending your time savoring.

Fonta Flora is one of the newest of the breweries in the Foothills, and I was extremely impressed with their lineup. They are doing a lot of unique styles for NC and most of them work really well.

A huge range of colors from Fonta Flora's flight!

A huge range of colors from Fonta Flora’s flight!

Appalachain Patersbier – a belgian session ale, clocking in at 4% and just released the Friday before I visited. It was very drinkable, with just a hint of banana and some sulfurous notes, and ended up being one of my favorites.

Local Kiwi – it tasted just like kiwi on the front-end, but the fruitiness and the hops clashed for me on the finish, leaving a artificial fruit flavor that reminded me of Juicy Fruit gum. Might just be my taste buds. It could be very good if the finish was not as noticeable, because that first taste of fresh kiwi is amazing.

Urban Monk – their “almost” imperial stout. Even at 9.3%, it does manage to hover on the line between a stout and a imperial stout. Lots of chocolate and roast with some coffee notes, but not as thick and heavy as a typical imperial, it finished with a lot of hoppy roastiness. I really liked it, but I think there was a bit too much of a “burnt” finish to make it really great.

Beets, Rhymes and Life – a beet saison which is a startling shade of purple/red. Lots of earthy character from the beets, you can very clearly taste them. I did not get any pepper notes from the saison yeast, only a very faint hint of banana, which was disappointing. I think a good dose of pepper could have really made this something special. As it was, I went back and forth on liking it. The color tricked my brain into expecting something sour, and then there’s nothing but very earthy beets!

Hop Beard IPA – a solid IPA with lots of lemony zing to it and a nice finish. One of the better NC IPAs, I think.

Holden Rye IPA – I love rye IPAs, so I was a little disappointed in this one. Still solid, but I was hoping for more. Lots of spiciness, but a little dominating and one-dimensional.

I’ve had most of Catawba Valley’s beers, since they’ve been around since 1999 and distribute fairly widely now, and as mentioned they don’t have many brewery-only releases. The only thing on tap at the brewery that I’ve not seen in distribution was a single hop series IPA, which I tried and found uninspiring. Only worth stopping in because I’d never been to the taproom before, but I’d skip this one in the future in favor of more time at Fonta Flora. Their regular lineup is fine, but the taproom doesn’t offer much beyond that. They do have some pool tables, a fairly large stage for music, and had basketball projected on a huge screen while we were there.

Howard Brewing is relatively new, and they must have some big plans, because they’ve got pretty large brewhouse for a new operation. They have 2 levels, although the upstairs looks mostly unfinished so far. The tap room is a pretty cozy space in the basement, with large windows looking in on the brewery itself. Upstairs also has huge windows overlooking the brewery and I could see a very cool space developing upstairs in the next few years. I’d had a few of their beers, since they jumped into distribution from the outset, but I’d only tried 2 of the 7 brews on tap. They also had a guest tap, which was an Olde Hickory beer on Saturday.

Nice flight board at Howard Brewing.

Action Man – their Vienna Lager, which they can and distribute. Extremely good Vienna style and even better fresh, I’ll be drinking a lot of it this spring I think.

Weekender Pilsner – a very neutral pilsner, this is definitely a hot-day pounder. Inoffensive is how I’d describe it.

Porter – a pretty standard roasty porter, with a fair amount of caramel to it. A good example of the style.

Lake Fever Black IPA – another very good example of the style. Like a lot of their stuff, it wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was above average.

Single Hop IPA – single hops are interesting to see how an individual hop tastes, but I’ve yet to have one that stood out to me. I don’t even remember which hop they used. My pallet was pretty much gone by this time anyway.

After Howard, we drove back to Olde Hickory for dinner and a glass of their Irish Walker barley wine, which is fantastic and was a great way to end the day (along with the huge plate of wings). In all, I’d highly recommend going and checking out our neighbors to the west one weekend, it’s a lovely trip!