The 2015 Beer Issue

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High Point

LIBERTY

SONY DSCHigh Point’s lone brewery — for now — recently started selling kegs to a few bottle shops and bars around the Triad, including Gate City Growlers and 1618 Wine Lounge in Greensboro, Juggheads and City Beverage in Winston-Salem and Brewer’s Kettle in High Point and Kernersville. But they appear on draft intermittently, and it’s easier to grab a pint on site. Located next to High Point University and with a second location in Myrtle Beach, Liberty is also a steakhouse and local institution. The brewery is a one-man show, run by Todd Isbell who also teaches brewing at Rockingham Community College. Soon he’ll put out dry-hopped and sour versions of his recently released farmhouse saison (see below) as well as Amber Waves, a hoppy American ale.

House favorite: Isbell alternates favorites between his dry-hopped Keller beer and his IPA. “I like the Keller because it has the cleanness of my lager and it has a higher hop profile but since it’s just under 5 percent alcohol, you get a really nice flavor profile with lower alcohol, and you can actually drink quite a few of them,” he said.

TCB: Liberty released a limited-run saison in September that wasn’t as spicy as some, making it more sessionable, or accessible to those trying to get into the style. And the flagship beer here is my favorite lager, I believe.

Expert opinion: Derek Meyn, the head brewer at Small Batch who used to work at Natty Greene’s, couldn’t choose his favorite beer at Liberty, saying he really enjoys the Patriot Porter and the IPA.

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Greensboro

PREYER

SONY DSCYou wouldn’t know from walking into the taproom that Preyer Brewing is the newest of the Triad’s breweries, but it is. After it opened this past spring, alongside the new Crafted: the Art of Street Food, Preyer drew in a steady crowd for its Red Shed IPA and wheat beer with real strawberries, among others. Easily the most comfortable brewery in the Triad, the family business feels almost like a mountain retreat center.

For the month of October, Preyer is running different beers through a machine called a Randall, adding candy flavors like Reese’s Cup or Sour Patch Kids to its beers on weekends. Head brewer Calder Preyer is working on a super hoppy, West Coast-style IPA now that will be out in a few weeks, and there’s another on the way: the St. PetersGourd Russian imperial pumpkin stout. The brewery is planning a family-friendly Halloween day party, and around the same time, Preyer will begin filling 32-ounce carryout cans similar to a growler with no refill or required deposit.

House favorite: The latest batch of the Red IPA is Calder Preyer’s favorite. It’s the best they’ve made, he said, after changing up the hops and tweaking the process. Best of all, it’s already on tap.

TCB: I can’t wait to try Preyer’s planned Thai-basil lemon-ginger gose beer. But until then, I’ll be drinking the Red Shed IPA, a bitter beer with more than 8 percent ABV, but mostly I’m eager to see what the future holds for the Triad’s youngest operating brewery.

Expert opinion: Sam Rose at Pig Pounder and John Priest at Gibb’s Hundred agree — Preyer’s Lunsford Robust Porter excels. “It nails the style for a robust porter,” Priest said. Scott Christoffel, over at Natty Greene’s, prefers the rye pale ale here, calling it “really refreshing.”

 

PIG POUNDER

SONY DSCDeveloper and owner Marty Kotis is a self-described perfectionist, and it shows in Pig Pounder. Never before have I smelled a brewery so clean, or seen one so pink. The taproom offers courtesy bags of hot popcorn and will deliver food orders from Kotis’ Burger Warfare and Marshall Free House across the street at no charge. In 2015, Pig Pounder released an experimental Russian Kvass beer with real orange juice — the PigMosa — designed to taste like a mimosa.

Kotis will expand Pig Pounder into the building next door, putting in a small restaurant, retail space, additional brewery production space and a bourbon-barrel tasting room. The type of restaurant hasn’t been determined; it depends what Kotis puts at his downtown beer garden, he said. The expansion may include a rooftop terrace, he said, but will include large garage doors (like Preyer and eventually, Joymongers in town) and will hopefully open in late spring.

House favorite: Head brewer Sam Rose favors the PigMosa, calling it “kind of a perfect summer seasonal.” It’s based on an old Russian homebrew involving old rye bread, water and yeast, he said. “I liked doing a style that was a little out of the ordinary as far as recognition and representation in the US and also a unique beer in terms of how it’s made,” he added.

TCB: The Hoofenweizen hefeweizen. Hefeweiss beers are my go-to session choice (that is, when I’m planning to have several pints), and locally I’d choose this one or the Hefe Vice at Small Batch. Honorable mention goes to the Extra Special Pig, an ESB bitter beer that is one of Pig Pounder’s staples.

Expert opinion: John Priest of Gibb’s Hundred prefers Pig Pounder’s barrel-aged Snout Stout, a spin on the brewery’s year-round milk stout beer, calling it “very good.” Calder Preyer of —well duh — Preyer Brewing enjoys the Plain Pig, an ordinary bitter beer, also known as a classic English pub ale.

 

GIBB’S HUNDRED

SONY DSCHappy first birthday! Gibb’s Hundred turns one year old this month, and there’s plenty to celebrate. Let’s start with the fact that Gibb’s Hundred just won gold at the Great American Beer Festival — one of only two breweries in the state to do so — for its magnificent ESB. Gibb’s toasts its anniversary this Saturday with a party and two new beers: Squaring the Circle barleywine made especially for the occasion, and Last Leaf Brown Ale, another newbie.

The brewery in the South End of downtown Greensboro plans to can or bottle two or three of its beers in 2016, including its pale ale and possibly the ESB and Berliner Weisse.

House favorite: Priest’s gold medal isn’t his favorite — that would be his sour Whirligig Imperial Berliner Weisse. “It’s just a really tart, citrusy, bright, easy-drinking beer that’s really refreshing to me,” he said. “I love basically having a mixed fermentation.” Gibb’s just knocked out a small first batch and put a much bigger one on tap last week. Priest hopes it becomes one of the brewery’s core-brand beers.

TCB: Gibb’s consistently releases excellent beers, though my favorite in 2015 is probably the Date Night, a Belgian strong dark ale that I really wish was still on tap. Gibb’s consistently impresses, especially with the Whirligig Imperial Berliner Weisse, a decision I swear I wrote before hearing Priest’s opinion. Oh, and the Waterloo Wheat Belgian Tripel.

Expert opinion: Head brewers were all over the map on Gibb’s, suggesting a prevailing high quality. TL Adkisson at Foothills is impressed by the Guilty Party ESB, especially considering the brewery’s age, and when Dave McClure of Hoots sees it, he gets it. Todd Isbell at Liberty prefers the Blind Man’s Holiday pale ale (as does Calder Preyer) and Medley of Moods American pale wheat, while Scott Christoffel at Natty’s and Sam Rose at Pig Pounder each made a unique choice.

 

NATTY GREENE’S

SONY DSCTo say 2015 was a big year for Greensboro’s longest-standing brewery would be an understatement. Natty Greene’s publicly considered relocating to somewhere like Charlotte, and a decision still hasn’t been reached for the new, larger brewing facility. Natty’s closed its Raleigh brewpub and restaurant this year as part of its consolidation plans, and announced its Guilford Golden will no longer be a core beer, to be replaced by the Mt. Mitchell IPA.

But Natty Greene’s isn’t shrinking — quite the opposite. A $700,000 expansion adding tanks and other enhancements this year bought Natty’s some time to make the jump to a new venue and helped efficiency, head brewer Scott Christoffel said. Locals who still think of Natty Greene’s as a couple of beers and a downtown restaurant are embarrassingly out of the loop, as frequent interesting releases at the Bunker by the Greensboro Coliseum demonstrated the brewery’s versatility and relevance this year.

Natty’s will release its seasonal holiday beer, the Red Nose winter ale with ginger, sweet orange peel and cinnamon, this week.

House favorite: “I really like our Belgian-style Lambic Gueuze called Hitchpost,” Christoffel said. “It’s aged at least 18 months.” He also loves the new Mt. Mitchell IPA, which Natty Greene’s worked on for about two years already, because it’s a “beautiful IPA” that “breaks the mold a little bit” and uses 100 percent Eureka hops from Germany.

TCB: The Jackfruit Sour. A bright, tart beer that looked like a mimosa, made with jackfruit from Super G Mart in town. Honorable mention goes to the Cerveza del Sur, Natty’s Southern Pale with added cilantro, jalapeño, lime and taco seasoning. Not your mama’s Natty Greene’s. Unfortunately I haven’t tried the Hitchpost yet.

Expert opinion: Derek Meyn, who’s at Small Batch, loves the company’s Full Moon Strong Ale, which he said is basically an IPA. He should know — he used to work there. Meanwhile, John Priest of Gibb’s Hundred cast his ballot for anything in Natty Greene’s sour profile, and Calder Preyer recommends the new Thicket red IPA.

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Next page: the Class of 2016 — five forthcoming breweries