by Eric Ginsburg
There are surprisingly few options, as far as beer goes, in west Greensboro.
It wasn’t always so — Red Oak planted its stakes just across from Guilford College, but the brewery uprooted and hopped east long ago. Since then new venues have come and gone, including a martini bar called the Mix that was more informally known as “Cougartown.”
The best remaining choices occupy two ends of the spectrum: the decadence of the craft cocktail list — many of them made with North Carolina spirits — at Mark’s and the more pedestrian Cooper’s Ale House, where the food is better than other sports bars and the beer is usually cheap.
But a few weeks ago, a bottle shop opened in the vicinity, expanding locals’ choices from gas-station selections and the wall at Harris Teeter. And soon, they plan to add drafts and tables, creating a space for west-siders to stick around.
The defining feature at Bottoms Up Beverage is its beer “cave,” a room-sized walk-in cooler that puts its counterpart at Sheetz to shame. Like other bottle shops in the Triad, such as Beer Co. in downtown Greensboro or Stella Brew in Winston-Salem, the option to build a six-pack may be the strongest appeal. The craft selection offers a range of North Carolina options, including less common beers from Lonerider in Raleigh such as the Eve amber ale or Aviator’s Wide Open Red draft ale.
When the draft lines are ready, Cary-based Fortnight Brewing Company will be the first to take over, but in the meantime Bottoms Up carries Fortnight’s solid (albeit lazily named) Blonde Ale in a can.
The family-run operation sits amidst an otherwise forgettable strip of stores at the corner of Guilford College Road and West Market Street, placing it around the corner from Triad Homebrew Supply. And while beer is the bread and butter here, Bottoms Up also sells club soda, tonic water, pint glasses, soda and wine.
In the late, sunny afternoon of March 7, the shop held a beer and wine tasting, with six beers and two Sonoma wines. With Small Potatoes Mobile Kitchen set up in the lot in front, friends and customers trickled in to survey the new store and peruse the selection.
The Uppercut chardonnay and Once Upon a Vine’s “Big Bad Red Blend” on sample were unremarkable — grabbing a bottle of the Line 29 cabernet sauvignon off the shelf would be a better option. But the six beers provided a wider range of choices, from the cheap Mexican staple Bohemia to the silky and fantastic Allagash Black, a Belgian-style stout.
The other beers were hit or miss — the middle-of-the-road Sam Adams Rebel IPA still easily bested the Northern Lights IPA from Charlottesville’s Starr Hill Brewery. Hell’s Belle, a citrusy Belgian beer by Big Boss in Raleigh, is a legitimate choice for a sunny afternoon.
I remember first trying Anchor Steam’s flagship brew years ago on a trip to visit my parents, who at the time didn’t live far from the San Francisco brewery. Craft beer hadn’t truly boomed yet, and I didn’t know what to do with it. Now, I’d argue the Anchor Steam is as straightforward and delicious as basic craft beer gets, and was happy to see it in the lineup.
But besides my nostalgia for Bohemia, cultivated in dingy dives in Guatemala and on sketchy Salvadoran side streets, the only beer I walked away really wanting more of was the Allagash Black, a rich and accessible stout if ever I’ve had one.
Bottoms Up even set up a table with several unusual sodas to taste, but nobody really glanced that direction during my excursion. All attention remained on the tasting options, meals brought in from outside and on the brisk beer cave.
As it should be, now that this side of town finally has a convenient place like this to call its own.
Visit Bottoms Up Beverage at 5715-D W. Market St. (GSO) or find them on Facebook.