The Right Mix

by Jessie Ammons

photograph by Elizabeth Galecke

“It’s a lot to take in, I know. We have a ton to offer on tap,” says Heather Ward, co-owner of Red Line Beer and Wine. Behind her, a ceiling-to-bartop chalkboard lists 24 current draft beer offerings (plus more scribbled in the margins), half of them local. That’s a lot for a cozy spot off of Hillsborough Street. “It’s an odd amount for a craft bottle shop, but for us it made sense. There are so many to choose from – why not just have so many to choose from?”

Alongside the dozens of taps are a robust wine selection, and plenty more brews in cans and bottles. To make the most of their offerings, Ward and co-owner Alex Selwaeh like to shake things up. “We do mixology beer,” Ward says, as Selwaeh begins pouring samples. He likes to combine certain hop flavor profiles in IPAs: “If something is very bitter, I mix it to balance it out,” he explains.

The duo also likes to get creative. One memorable concoction came together last summer, when Red Line had on draft a hoppy brew loaded with the heat of habanero peppers called Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA. Ward decided to cut some of the spice by topping it with a canned pineapple ale. “It might sound strange at first, but think about when you top spicy marinated meat with grilled pineapple. That fruity complement to the spice, this is a beer version.” It was such a hit that the shop now carries the Habanero Sculpin in bottles year-round so they can offer the “piñanero.”

This month, inspired by the Irish Guinness-based black-and-tan, Ward and Selwaeh devised their own version, combining caramely Devils Backbone Vienna lager with a topper of Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee imperial stout. It’s malty and nutty and vanilla-y, and not unlike drinking a beery milkshake. “We do like to experiment,” Ward says.

For those who want to experiment at home, Red Line delivers to the entire greater Triangle area. “People still don’t believe it,” Ward says, grinning. “There’s no catch. We wanted to bring delivery to this area.” You can order bottles of wine, growlers of beer, and mix-and-match six-packs; Ward and Selwaeh will create a surprise six-pack for you, too, and there are also cigars and snacks.

Since Red Line’s opening last April, delivery orders have steadily increased. Ward says there’s a symbiotic relationship between the store and delivery: Regulars often order at home for events, and new customers will come in after googling for an alcohol delivery service in Raleigh. “We have an amazing neighborhood behind us,” Ward says. “We have a really well-balanced clientele: grad students, older college kids, professionals, professors, members of the church across the street, people from the neighborhood. We’re dog friendly, we have games. They all know each other by now.”

Red Line Black-and-Tan

– Devils Backbone Vienna lager
– Southern Tier Creme Brulee
imperial stout

Fill a pint glass halfway with lager, pouring it vigorously so that a slight head forms. Using a black and tan spoon (or tablespoon), pour stout over spoon slowly, with the goal of keeping the beers separated in glass.


– Ballast Point Habanero
– Sculpin india pale ale
– Rivertowne Hala Kahiki pineapple ale

Fill a pint glass halfway with Habanero Sculpin. Top with Hala Kahiki to taste, or until glass is full.