by Eric Ginsburg

The stretch of stores in Winston-Salem’s Ardmore neighborhood may be relatively short, but it contains everything a beer lover could want.

There’s Carlisle’s Pub, a small dive that boasts a little patio in front, and the Homebrewer’s Clubhouse, a business with an informative and fantastic name. And then there’s the crown jewel, almost directly across Hawthorne Street: Stella Brew.

The bottle shop would be overwhelming for folks unfamiliar with craft beer, but options are categorized by brewery in a set of coolers and by country on the opposite wall. There’s a vast array of options, enough that a beer beginner should come looking for a specific kind of beer or a particular brewery to narrow the search.

A good place to start may be the seasonal choices, which include the solid Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, Calif. or Southern Tier’s Xmas Seasonal. Beyond the basics, Stella Brew carries an assortment of harder-to-find beers from well-known producers such as Great Lakes Blackout Stout.

There are a number of great North Carolina breweries on display, including Aviator and Red Oak’s gentle Hummin’ Bird Helles, or Old Hickory’s rare Lindley Park Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout (a slick-tasting beer which is named for the Greensboro neighborhood).

One of the best things about Stella Brew, which definitely isn’t true of all bottle shops, is that customers can build their own six-pack or buy individual beers, and each one comes with a price tag to eliminate guessing. Good thing, because there’s quite a range in cost.

On a recent trip, I dropped about $18 for a mixed six-pack that included a Kenyan beer called Tusker, Carolina Brewery’s Santa’s Secret Holiday Spiced Ale and Charlotte-based NoDa Brewing’s Cavu Blonde Ale among others, a welcome chance to experience new brews. It’s more than I’d typically spend, but I reminded myself it’s still generally less than a bar and these are high-caliber drinks.

This beer mecca also sells supplies for disc golf, a slightly bizarre move considering there don’t appear to be any public courses in Winston-Salem though there are two outside city limits, as well as hand-rolled Honduran cigars and T-shirts for the business, neighborhood and city.

But more importantly, Stella Brew has eight beers available on draft and two sizes of growlers — though folks can’t consume on the premises. There’s quite the range of choices, including Troeg’s Mad Elf Ale which is 11 percent ABV, the Appalachian Mountain Brewery Longleaf IPA, Haw River Rustic Grisette Ale Saison and the Duck Rabbit Scotch-Style Ale. Plus, they have CO2 pressurizers that seal 32- or 64-ounce growlers so they’ll last longer.

Stella Brew offers a bunch of wine too, and even sake and mead, but a steady stream of patrons on Sunday afternoon were all drawn to the two long walls of beer, scoping their options as the likes of Fleet Foxes and ELO blared from the speakers.

Visit Stella Brew at 1305 S. Hawthorne Avenue (W-S) or call 336.725.9300.

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