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View from the Hill

Hops for joy: April is N.C. beer month

Beer tasting at Green Man Brewery in Asheville, N.C. / contributed by Green Man Brewery

While every month might as well be de facto beer month, April is the beverage’s official month and from Asheville to Chapel Hill, breweries are celebrating. Catch up with some of North Carolina’s craft breweries below to see what they’re up to this month and what makes them unique.

Highland Brewery, Asheville

The Daily Tar Heel staff writer Eric Schwartz talked to Jennifer McLucas, marketing director for Highland Brewery. Schwartz is a budding beer enthusiast and encourages readers to use the word "hops" un-ironically in conversation as often as possible (he also encourages you to drink responsibly! And legally!). 

How they are celebrating beer month:

  • Released a new year-round pilsner
  • Releasing a new seasonal beer, Early’s Hoppy Wheat, on Friday
  • Hosting Carolina Mountain Cheesefest on April 24
  • Musical appearances at the brewery throughout April

DTH: Asheville is home to the most breweries per capita of any city in the U.S. Is there a sense of community among them?

JM: It’s really a fun scene. There’s a lot of people doing some really creative things with beer and it’s a fairly collaborative environment as well. It’s pretty easy to walk into a brewery on any given day and find someone else from another brewery havin’ a brew. And it’s not that they’re keeping tabs on what other breweries are doing, there’s just a lot of interesting beer here and we work really well together.

DTH: What do you do to be environmentally sustainable?

JM: On days like today, which is nice and bright and sunny, our entire brewing operations are powered by the sun-solar energy. We worked really hard to bring our gallons of water per barrel of beer down — when we started off we were at seven, and we are now about down to two to 2.5 gallons of water per barrel of beer, in terms of water saved during production.

We recently did a prescribed burn to reinvigorate the woodlands around the brewery — that’s really good from a habitat perspective, from an ecology perspective. We also monitor the creeks on our property… We really put a lot of time and energy into making sure we are good stewards of our environment around the brewery too.

DTH: What is your favorite part about what you do?

JM: Oh, I tell people I have the best marketing job in Asheville! I love being part of something that creates an experience for people — sorry, I just walked into Whole Foods — I don’t really know how to describe it if I’m going to be honest. I get some tough questions… but we have a great story to tell and I love being able to do that.

DTH: What are you drinking these days?

JM: I love our Highland IPA, but I’ll tell ya' this, our Highland Pilsner that we released this Friday — it is so good. Pilsners have a tendency to be kind of sulfury, (the Highland Pilsner) is really low on that and I can’t get enough of it. I will drink it all summer long. But, put a sour in front of me and I will be the happiest person in the world.

Foothills Brewery, Winston-Salem

Schwartz talked to Ray Goodrich, "marketing guy" for Foothills Brewery and former marine mammal trainer at Sea World. Probably a good choice Goodrich, beer is an easier sell than Seaworld right now

How they are celebrating beer month:

  • Created the #NCBeerMonthChallenge, asking every brewery in the state to do something that benefits their local water resources during the month of April
  • Chartered the “HopSwap” initiative, connecting with five breweries from across the state to swap a keg in order to help showcase smaller craft breweries
  • Participating in Hickory Hops on Saturday
  • Participating in Brewgaloo, a Raleigh-based beer festival, on April 23

DTH: How do you strive for sustainability?

RG: We are very sustainable with our raw materials. For example, our grain goes to local cattle farmers here in Forsyth County. Ironically we have one guy that we buy our beef from for the pub, so we’re coming full circle.

We’re pretty much in lockstep with our local river keeper year-round. Donating a lot of services, a lot of our time. We presented a check to him this week… We got some water trivia we’re doing at our pub downtown in Winston-Salem.

Water is 93 percent of every keg, bottle, pint of beer in the world, so it's obviously a very important resource to our industry and we felt like we should do something to call attention to that during N.C. beer month with the N.C. beer month challenge.

DTH: What is the best part of your job?

RG: Its beer, that’s easy! The people in craft beer are the closest thing I’ve ever had to family in a professional environment. It’s really amazing how passionate yet down to earth everybody is in craft beer.

I worked for FOX Sports for 15 years. I can’t imagine walking into ESPN studios and going ‘Hey, can I look around, can you show me around a little bit?’ We can walk into any brewery in the country and say, 'Hey, we’re from Foothills in Winston-Salem,' and they’ll be like ‘Oh, hey come on back, here, have a beer.’ It’s amazing — I call it “coopetition.” There’s always competition, but everybody in this business cooperates, it’s amazing.

DTH: How do you foster a sense of community?

RG: Its something that doesn’t just, sort of happen- you have to be able to sustain that and to sustain it you also have to be aware of it… That’s why we’re doing HopSwap. Its saying, ‘hey you know what, we’re going to carry the banner of the brotherhood of this industry. We’re going to put our money where our mouth is, and show people, hey you know what, we really support smaller breweries and want them to succeed.’

Carolina Brewery, Chapel Hill/Pittsboro

Schwartz talked to Jesika Rubin, spokesperson for Carolina Brewery, a.k.a. the place you tried to watch the NCAA National Championship title game, but couldn't find a seat at. 

How they are celebrating beer month:

  • On Thursday, they will release new India Pale Ale Lager, the Rattlesnake Tamer IPL, in conjunction with the botanical garden’s 50 year anniversary
  • They also updated their food menu on Monday

DTH: What is your style?

JR: We’re leaning more towards a lot of our pale ales, like a lot of places… We’re doing more in cans. We did just recently release our Pamlico Pale Ale in cans. As a nation and beer culture, cans have become more accepted in the last five to 10 years for craft beers, so it's been nice to capitalize on that and not have people scared of beer in cans. Since there’s a lot of craft brews these days, we still want to stand out and be different and also ensure high quality, so moving to the cans from the growlers helps us do that.

DTH: What is the craft brew scene like in the area?

JR: As the newer places have popped up in the last few years, we try to get in contact with them. I know the brewers —they go to the same festivals, talk about the same stuff. We did do an Orange County collaboration Pale Ale — basically we all made a similar beer, similar ingredients, same hops, same malt and just did our version of it. We try to stay competitive but friendly.

DTH: What is your favorite part of the job?

JR: Our beer, it's excellent. We try to have a pretty fun atmosphere. We offer free tours at our Pittsboro location, and at our Chapel Hill location, you can see our brewing process. If you come by on a weekday, there’s a good chance you’ll see our brewer actually back here making the beer — so you can sit and eat a sandwich and watch our beer get made.

DTH: What is your drink of choice?

JR: I am pretty excited about the IPL. It’s fun when we have a new beer. The reoccurring seasonal beers are nice. We’ll have our wheat beer coming back for the summer.

Green Man Brewery, Asheville

Schwartz talked to Elise Carlson, the director of public relations and marketing and self-proclaimed "baroness of barrels and scheduler of insanity," something most college students should be able to identify with. 

How they are celebrating beer month:

  • Re-releasing The Rainmaker Double IPA in a new style next week
  • A bottle release for a barrel-aged sour ale called Snozzbery, available on-location on May 1
  • A tasting at Chatham Marketplace market in Pittsboro on April 21
  • Participating in Brewgaloo on April 23

DTH: What’s your vibe like?

EC: The vibe of Green Man is multi-faceted. We have been brewing beer for almost 20 years and our original focus was on traditional English-style ales... We just opened our new tasting room and production hall, called the Greenmansion, which is located on the same block in the South Slope as our original facilities. Our original tasting room is open as well, and the two tasting rooms have different vibes that are tied together with the Green Man theme (reflected) in the artwork and design of both.

Our brand-new tasting room has a top floor patio with mountain views. We have a lot of fun and a sense of humor at Green Man, and we are dog and kid friendly.

DTH: What's the best part of your job?

EC: The best part of my job is seeing the enthusiasm that our fans have... Having folks who are so pumped to see us at festivals and who get so excited when they can start finding our beer in the town they live lets us know we are doing something right.

DTH: What's your go-to drink?

EC: Right now my go-to drink is our Wayfarer IPA. It's a citrus-forward American IPA and this year we put it in a can for the first time.

DTH: Anything else?

EC: We offer free brewery tours every weekend… It's a really fun way to learn more about our history, brewing process, and see parts of the brewery that you would not be able to normally. Plus, they include two samples of beer!

NoDa Brewing Company, Charlotte

Schwartz talked to Jenn Harrison, NoDa's "office maestro" and a co-author of the NoDa blog. Harrison is an avid beer lover and true North Carolinian.

How they are celebrating beer month:

  • Released an oyster stout, Mother Shucker, in collaboration with Front Street Brewery in Wilmington
  • Released Girls Gose Wild in collaboration with Legion Brewing, with some of the proceeds going to the Pink Boots Society
  • Released a Scottish ale on Tuesday
  • Hosting Ales for Autism on Saturday
  • Hosting Pints for Paws on April 21

DTH: How would you describe NoDa’s vibe?

JH: Great for beer lovers — and dogs — of all ages. (Both of our locations) have creative vibes — hand painted murals and local art, as well as TVs for watching sports. There are regularly food trucks, plus live music on Friday nights at North End.

DTH: Any specialty brews, ingredients or styles?

JH: Our most popular beer is Hop Drop n’ Roll, but we don't focus on just one style. We brew all types of beers and also brew a special small batch, just for the taprooms, each week as part of our NoDable series... We haven't repeated a NoDable in 4 and a half years! There's a YouTube video for each NoDable, which almost always features head brewer Chad (Henderson) talking about the beer.

DTH: What’s your go-to drink?

JH: I love our seasonals — Hop Cakes, Nodajito, Gordgeous, Hoppy Holidays — but never tire of one of our originals, Coco Loco. It's a chocolate and coconut robust porter… In the summer it's great mixed with Nodajito, and kind of tastes like a Girl Scout Thin Mint.


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