Local craft beers

by Charles Upchurch

Quoth the T-shirt: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

Nice thought, even if Ben Franklin didn’t actually say it. Neither can we be certain that Thomas Jefferson actually said, “Beer, if drunk with moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health.” But doesn’t it?

Better to harken back to that Great American, Hunter S. Thompson, who espoused, ”Good men drink good beer.” To that we would add: good women, too.

Rather than enumerate the obvious benefits of beer – enjoyed with Jeffersonian moderation, of course – let’s take a moment to appreciate how lucky we are that here in Raleigh, we’ve got award-winning local brewers who are passionately devoted to making us happy indeed. And that this fall, their seasonal releases give good people even more opportunities to drink good beer.

Here’s your rundown of local autumn and winter beers worth trying:

For 16 straight years, Carolina Brewing Company in Holly Springs, the granddaddy of local brewers, has produced Carolina Oktoberfest, a classic Bavarian lager balanced with caramel and malt flavors and noble hop aromas. At 5.7 percent alcohol by volume (abv), a subtle warming sensation is characteristic of this ubiquitous annual arrival, available in bottles and draft just about everywhere.

Raleigh’s Big Boss Brewing Company serves up a slice of auburn-hued nostalgia with Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale. Since 2008, this has been the best-selling seasonal beer for the gang at Big Boss. It’s not overly spiced, but you’ll note cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, clove and vanilla. Oh, and pumpkin. Autumn in a bottle is 5.5 percent abv. Just like Mom used to make. Available at retail, on draft at the Big Boss tap room and other fine saloons.

The firebrands at Lonerider, headquartered in west Raleigh, have released Mad Doc Weizenbock, a high gravity (strong in alcohol) wheat beer at 7.5 percent abv, available on tap through December. Banana and clove notes punctuate the recipe of dark malts, rye, and noble German hops.  October also marks the arrival of Pistols at Dawn, a rich, dark velvet stout brewed with roasted malts, oats and locally produced chocolate and coffee. Offered in 22-ounce bottles. More evidence why Lonerider, in little more than three and a half years, has become one of the fastest-growing craft brewers in North Carolina.

Holed up in the same neck of the woods is Roth Brewing Company. The crew that brought you Sex Viking keeps it dark and deep for fall and winter with Forgotten Hollow Cinnamon Porter. This robust, 6 percent abv porter, released in 22-ounce bottles, is reminiscent of Mexican cocoa with dark, chocolaty malt tones brewed with cinnamon to heighten the anticipation of the holiday season. The brewery taproom on Triangle Drive, open at 4 p.m. every day except Sunday, is a great way to find out firsthand just how much fun these guys are having.

And speaking of fun, let’s not overlook Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing Company, producing terrific craft beers just off Glenwood South in Powerhouse Square. Check out Red Nose Winter Ale, a festive, full-flavored release at 6.8 percent abv with a rich, dark malt body, torqued with magnum hops and spiced with cinnamon, fresh ginger and orange peel.

Next, follow the tracks to Boylan Bridge Brewpub and jump on a Trainspotter Scottish Ale. Vaguely sweet with light hops, this brown ale also has the smoky tang of roasted barley and at 7 percent abv, a lovely, warm finish. The pub is also featuring Polar Bear Winter Warmer, an American strong ale with big malt, bittering and flavoring hops for balance and a lustrous amber color.  Toasty, relaxed and welcoming at 7 percent abv.

And finally, from Aviator Brewing Company in Fuquay-Varina, comes OktoberBeast. Don’t let the devilish image on the label keep you from discovering the heaven-sent contents within. This is Aviator’s version of a Marzen-style beer, a high gravity beer typically brewed in March and aged cold over the summer for release in the fall. The Beast, brewed with a higher hopping rate than most autumn seasonals, pours a delightful copper-orange, delivering toffee, bright fruit and a crisp, citrusy character. Available on site at the Aviator tap room or in 22-ounce bottles at an attention-getting 7.8 percent abv. Maybe that explains the horns.

As autumn leaves burnish ever deeper, keep the old spirit cheered. Be good and enjoy a fine seasonal beer with a local footprint. You’ll be in esteemed company.

» Carolina Brewing Company  www.carolinabrew.com

140 Thomas Mill Road  Holly Springs, NC 27540  (919) 557-2337

» Big Boss Brewing Company  www.bigbossbrewing.com

1249-A Wicker Drive Raleigh, NC 27604   919-834-0045


» Lonerider  www.loneriderbeer.com

8816 Gulf Court #100  Raleigh, NC 27617  (919) 442-8004

» Roth Brewing Company  www.rothbrewing.com

5907 Triangle Dr  Raleigh, NC 27617  (919) 782-2099

» Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing Company  www.nattygreenes.com

505 West Jones Street  Raleigh, NC 27603  (919) 232-2477

» Boylan Bridge Brewpub  www.boylanbridge.com

201 South Boylan Avenue  Raleigh, NC 27603  (919) 803-8927

» Aviator Brewing Company  www.aviatorbrew.com

209 Technology Lane  Fuquay-Varina, NC 27526  (919) 567-2337