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Raleigh, N.C., is to craft brew as Memphis is to barbeque. You should go visit.

March 10, 2011 By: grant Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Travelin'

Aviator Wild Hog IPA

Aviator Wild Hog IPA

I’ve just returned from Raleigh, N.C., where I my annual data-nerd conference had gathered. I didn’t know what to expect from the town, other than Eastern Carolina barbeque (for which my request for suggestions went nearly unanswered), and I was certainly not disappointed in that department.

I was pleasantly surprised by the incredible quantity and quality of craft brew within walking distance of Raleigh’s city center.

Allagash Tripel

Allagash Tripel

My visit began just before noon on a Wednesday. That’s fairly early by data-nerd conference standards, and I was on my own for lunch.

I started at The Pit, which got mixed reviews from folks, but it treated me well. Aviator Wild Hog IPA with my vinegary pulled-pork sandwich, sweet potato fries and fried okra? Um, yes please. Care to wash that down with an Allagash Tripel? Don’t mind if I do!

We hit up many fine establishments, including The Raleigh Times Bar, Cherry Bomb Grill and The Big Easy. The Big Easy, while it had some good beer, was super-crowded and the place to be if you want to see good ol’boys confused about both the waterless urinal and the touchless paper-towel dispenser.

Both Raleigh Times Bar and Cherry Bomb Grill had huge and glorious beer menus. It’s a little easier to mingle at the Raleigh Times Bar, where the hippies meet the hipsters. Cherry Bomb Grill is where tattooed ladies serve you a burger called the Hangover that comes with an egg on top and slathered in deliciousness. It may very well have been the messiest thing I’ve ever eaten, and well worth it.

After a coupla days I lost the ability to remember the name of each new beer I drank, but it was not lost on me that the availability of kick-ass craft beer was undeniable.

Every place we hit up had a great balance of North Carolina beers and fantastic selections from Colorado, Maine and all over the goddamn place. That speaks to brew culture. The market for good beer is so evident that it struck me as a bit of a contrast to Memphis, where, sure, we get some great beer (and I’ve definitely been noticing good beer popping up in more places), but we’re home to just one brew pub and one brewery, both owned by the same group. Chuck Skypeck, co-founder of both, has a little something to say about that.

Sisters of the Moon IPA

Sisters of the Moon IPA

Founders Double IPA

Founders Double IPA

One of the restaurants we visited had 23 North Carolina beers available, and those 23 made up less than half the craft brew selections available.

So, Memphians, I highly recommend Raleigh. It’s less than a two-hour direct flight from Memphis and has a helluva lot of beer and good food.

And, the city is also playing host to the World Beer Festival on April 9. The festival is organized by All About Beer magazine, and you can buy tickets online for $40.

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