Category Archives: United States Brewpubs

BREAKER BREWING COMPANY

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WILKES-BARRE, PENNSYLVANIA

Off the main drag in a red brick edifice formerly housing St. Joseph’s Catholic Monastery, Wilkes-Barre’s BREAKER BREWING COMPANY is the brainchild of day-time engineers Chris Miller and Mark Lehman. Going up the wood ramp to its backdoor entrance during my initial May ’13 visit (and December ’17 followup), I enter the still-developing microbrewery’s spotless sample room and meet the friendly entrepreneurs at the alter-like mahogany bar.

Lehman, a hop-headed Sierra Nevada Pale Ale lover since ’94, began brewing operations out of Miller’s garage in ’09, making small batch brews that kept running out due to local popularity. Nowadays, a clean tan-tiled brew station with 150-gallon tanks, mash tun, and brew kettle overlooking the Wilkes-Barre valley serves as the engine driving this expanding business. Presently, 20-plus local bars carry Breaker’s approachable fare.

Framed pictures of ancient factory workers and barrel-breaking prohibitionists line the wall behind the serving station (made from rectory church pews) while curtained windows, exposed ducts and a blackboard beer list also don the provincial interior. Though only Lunch Pail Ale, I Love Pa., and Potbelly Pumpkin Ale have been bottled for consumption as of this date, Lehman claims he’d like to expand the line. Look for a Double IPA and Barleywine in the near future.

Saddling up to the bar, I begin my two-hour session with assertive flagship offering, Lunch Pail Ale, where sharp India Pale Ale-like fruiting and astringent hop bittering pick up floral-spiced orange-tangerine-lemon tang over its toasted barley spine.

Easy drinkin’ lighter-bodied 5 Whistle Wheat provided bark-dried grain husk to lemony banana-plantain tartness, candied orange lollipop sugaring and raw-honeyed acridity.

Easygoing Golden Blonde Ale plied perfume-hopped coriander, orange peel and lemon zest to a mellow grain malt bill, scattering tangy mandarin orange, navel orange and tangerine undertones below the surface.

Named after Pennsylvania’s indigenous coal, hybridized Anthracite Amber Ale combined ESB-derived earthen peat dewiness and weedy grain must with red ale-like citric spicing and caramelized sugaring, finishing with a rye-dried black tea bittering (and vegetal hint).

Another hybrid, Phoebe Snow White IPA (with its Lackawanna Railroad ad moniker) blended white-peppered Belgian fungi yeast with India Pale Ale-related sweet orange peel zest and lemon-pitted bittering, bringing musty cellar pungency to tertiary dark floral nuances and wispy sage-rosemary herbage.

Lively I Love PA (India Pale Ale) segued floral grapefruit-peeled orange rind piquancy into pelleted reedy hop bittering  and pungent rye-malted grouting.

Before heading out, sampled Old King Cole Stout, a deep-roasted dark ale cajoling hop-toasted dark chocolate, charred tobacco and freeze-dried coffee notes.

A tribute to the local mining businesses that once ran America’s Industrial Revolution, Breaker Brewing should interest any brew hound traveling thru the capacious Keystone State.

On a cold New Years Eve 2016 afternoon sojourn, my wife and I sampled eight goblet samplers (five of which were previously untried India Pale Ales) at the lacquer wood-furnished old convent section. An eclectic menu of artisan pizzas, paninis and salads went well with each carefully flavored elixir.

Botanical pine-needled Mosaic hop tropicalia enveloped clean-watered sensation, Smooph Mosaic, a crisp medium-bodied IPA bringing lemony orange zest and passionfruit to the fore while tangy mango, pineapple, peach, grapefruit and red apple illusions gain strength atop the sugary caramel malt spine.

Bitterer Citra-hopped version, Smooph Citra IPA, guided musky lemon dryness and tangy orange-peeled mango, peach, pineapple, grapefruit and papaya juicing to its crystal-pale malt base.

Dank earthen wood tones deepened the grassy hop astringency of Terra IPA, as orange-peeled yellow grapefruit bittering contrasted candied mango, peach and pineapple sweetness.Wood-dried orange rind and grapefruit pith bittering surfaced above light pale malting for Earthly IPA.

Cascadian-styled Black Diamond IPA let dark-roasted chocolate malting, black licorice remnants and black grape wisps contrast dry-hopped charcoal char.

Detonator Series – West Coast ESB combined brisk IPA fruiting and hardwood lacquering with dewy peat malts, leaving tangy clementine, navel orange and tangerine in its wake.

For dessert, two stylishly deviant ales sufficed.

Sugared hazelnut glazed Banana Hazelnut Ale while rotted banana sweetness and sharp hop spicing picked up rich S’mores and Kahlua undertones as well as bubblegum hints.

Before heading out, we enjoyed Patchtown Chocolate Mint Porter, a Dutch cocoa and mint-infused porter with mint-leafed black milk chocolate milking picking up Christmastime nutmeg-ginger-wintergreen spicing for its Junior Mint/ creme de menthe finish.

www.breakerbrewingcompany.com

 

JERSEY GIRL BREWING COMPANY

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MOUNT OLIVE, NEW JERSEY

A large JERSEY GIRL BREWING COMPANY banner welcomes folks to the aluminum-topped white Industrial complex housing this large Mount Olive-based 30-barrel brewpub since April ’16. Owned by homebrewer Michael Bigger and beer enthusiast Charles Aaron, Jersey Girl started out big so expansion would not be necessary.

Taking in multi-faceted head brewer, Jodi Andrews-Stoudt, a nearby Allentown native, the busy team enjoys crafting reliably “good, spot-on” versions of a wide array of styles.

Aaron explains, “What started out as having one too much to drink one night got us deciding to start a brewery. Chuck loved the idea. We made the rounds to Jersey breweries such as Forgotten Boardwalk and Carton. One of my favorites was Kane Brewing. I love Michael Kane’s India Pale Ales and Sunday Brunch Imperial Porter. They all said if they were to do it again, they’d all start out bigger. So we did.”

At the laminated wood bar in the Tasting Room early Saturday afternoon, I grab a stool alongside my wife to try ten well-rounded offerings on my November ’16 birthday.

Perhaps the finest, award-winning King Gambrinus Tripel (named after the patron saint of Belgian brewing) maintained a mild crystalline-watered tone as lemony banana-clove-coriander sweetness picked up soft white-peppered herbal hop resin. Lemon meringue, key lime pie, chamomile and hibiscus undertones added depth.

Nearly as fabulous, fruitful Scotch Wee Heavy utilized viscous Wyeast yeast to bring its dry Scotch warmth and dewy moss dampness to juicy red cherry, orange, nectarine, cantaloupe and honeydew sweetness above earthen hop resin.

Sharp piney fruiting ignited New England-styled Rake Breaker IPA, a tropical delight gathering lemony orange, tangerine and clementine succulence for its spicy oat-sugared spine and dryly bitter wood tones.

Approachable Sun-Kissed Citra gave its expressive Citra-hopped briskness a dank hop-dried pine needling to contrast the candy-coated orange, tangerine and lemon tang. Crisply clean Blonde Ale sufficed as its candied citrus tang relegated the bready pale malt spine. Peachy apricot and tangy orange inundated wood-dried, soft-toned Pale Ale.

A large hard-candied tangerine contingent surfaced for dry-hopped IPA (featuring Mandarina Bavaria), a sharp medium body contrasting sweet citrus vigor with moderate pine oiling.

Marzen-styled Golden Lager spread sweet n’ sour lemon-rotted orange tartness across leafy hop earthiness and pale malt breading.

Dark-roasted nuttiness and caramelized black chocolate malts secured Nut Brown Ale, a traditional English ale combining peanut-shelled walnut overtones with less prominent hazelnut coffee notions.

For dessert, mocha-bound Chocolate Coffee Porter brought mild black chocolate creaming to its dry-roasted walnut char contrasting the lightly sweet hazelnut glaze.

www.jerseygirlbrewing.com

CZIG MEISTER BREWING COMPANY

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HACKETTSTOWN, NEW JERSEY

Within walking distance of Hackettstown’s Centenary College on a rolling hillside in an antiquated red brick repair shop, CZIG MEISTER BREWING COMPANY’s Old World-styled tasting room, patio-benched biergarten and 15-barrel brew system filled up quickly during my Saturday afternoon November ’16 perusal.

Led by biochemistry-majored homebrewing enthusiast Matthew Czigler, this family-run pub succinctly re-creates “traditional old world classic standards,” emulating European styles with ambition, passion and creativity.

In a capacious space with exposed black pipes, wood-barreled tables and overhead garage door, Czig Meister’s  tasting room features a dozen community tables plus a leathery living room setup. The salvaged wood bar top with bolted foot rail piping sits above a red brick base. Grabbing a stool at the bar, I quaff eight diverse brews over a memorable two-hour session. Since opening in early ’16, Czigler has hand crafted dozens of sudsy elixirs in a short time frame – many of which are experimental limited edition models.

Up first, corn liquor-smitten Hefeweizen belied its banana-clove stylishness with putrid orange-soured lemon tartness. Next, mossy mainstream seasonal, Octoberfest, brought fall foliage to wavered citric spicing and mildly sugared pale malting.

Approachable rye-dried Pumper Dunkelweizen retained overripe banana and juicy citrus tones. Citric herbal delight, Belgian Dubbelbock, crossed white-peppered Belgian yeast and spry lemon spritz with German doppelbock-inspired raisin, plum and prune overtones in a winning manner. Candi-sugared Belgian Quad was equally compelling, draping dried fruited plum, date and fig tones atop light hop-spiced caramel malting.

Refreshingly crisp amber-hazed medium body, Summer IPA- Citra, received a dry wood lacquering to protect lemony yellow grapefruit, tangerine and Navel orange illusions above creamy crystal malting.

Convincingly fruitful Barleywine conveyed candied banana, cherry, fig and red grape tones over caramel malt sugaring in a smooth manner.

Before hitting the road, black chocolate-smoked Milk Stout developed a polite dark-roasted coffee nuttiness over time.  

www.czigmeisterbrewing.com

 

MAN SKIRT BREWING

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HACKETTSTOWN, NEW JERSEY

Inside a pristine red-bricked Peoples National Bank on the corner of Main Street in the sleepy Western Jersey village of Hackettstown, MAN SKIRT BREWING became the area’s first new brewpub (since innovative hillside mainstay Long Valley) in October, 2015. As of my November ’16 one-hour jaunt, entrepreneurial brewing owner, Joe Fisher, manned a small stainless-steeled 7-barrel system that countered the custom penny-laminated tasting room bar set up alongside a few walnut tables.

Unlike its bigger-sized competition at Jersey Girl and Czig Meister, Man Skirt relies on a smaller amount of hand-crafted tap brews. But each of the five offerings available this Sunday afternoon were right on the money and wholly worthwhile.

For starters, dainty moderation, Gold Bar Blonde, retained spicy orange fruiting and sour lemon dryness above crisp barley malts, capturing the natural essence of Cascade-Centennial hops.

Peaty dry-bodied Better Than Pants Best Bitter, a lean English pub ale, brought mossy earthen dew to oily hop resin, biscuity wheat malts and gentle nuttiness.

Also leaning on the Brit side, Hop Jostler Fresh Hop IPA caressed caramelized Maris Otter sugaring with dewy mineral graining and dankly citric hop resin.

Sugared fig battled back sour plum over banana-breaded caramel malts for cherished medium-bodied delight, Badunkeldonk Dunkelweizen.

An earthen-grained coffee and chocolate roast permeated lightly creamed, black-malted dark ale, The Great Porter.

The brewing floodgates have opened for New Jersey’s rustic northwest region and no matter what size or shape they may come in, each has its own distinct suds, charm and rural splendor.

manskirtbrewing.com

 

TWO RIVERS BREWING COMPANY

  Two Rivers Brewing Company

EASTON, PENNSYLVANIA

Inside a converted hotel on a busy downtown street corner, TWO RIVERS BREWING COMPANY resembles a dimly-lit 1920′s speakeasy with its rustic red brick exterior, copper-embossed tile ceiling, dark wood veneer, old Classical columns, dramatic mirrored bar mural and ancient Telecom phone system. Open during 2012 by long-time married friends Judy and Brad Nelson and Kathy and Troy Reynard, Two Rivers delights in crafting a well-rounded batch of mostly limited edition fare.

A low-ceiling 20-seat bar (with two TV’s) services ten tables plus a few private upstairs rooms. My wife and I get seated upstairs for sinner in the maroon-walled room with single-pane windows and stark drapes. An ever-changing food menu includes several culinary delights such as the incredible pecan-seared walleye, delectable peach, beets and goat cheese salad, jalapeno hush puppies with molasses and cinnamon butter and a host of fabulous appetizers.

There are ten elixirs readied for my gullet this cold Saturday evening in November ’16. First up, tangy citrus briskness and pasty caramel malts sweetened moderate-bodied Pre-Prohibition Lager. Next, dry Hallertau hops and tropical Mosaic hops befit Main Street Mosaic Pilsner, a crisp light body with polite grapefruit, lemon and berry illusions.

Easton Farmers Market Festbier tossed autumnal leafy hop crisping at orange-oiled opulence and mild herbal nuances. Pumpkin pie-spiced Seven Spirits Pumpkin Ale picked up light cinnamon-nutmeg-clove-allspice seasoning above sorghum-syruped lemon-soured pale malts.

Spritzy lemon sourness picked up salty coriander-clove spicing, mild banana sweetness and earthen barnyard funk for Five Acre Saison. Lilting lemon-limed souring gained resinous Cascade-hopped tropicalia and white-peppered herbage to propel oats-dried hybrid Aaron’s Bugle Farmhouse IPA. Lemony banana and clove fronted Pine Street Belgian Blonde, sprinkling white-peppered goodness atop candied sugar spicing while leaving a frisky carbolic spritz.

Meanwhile, fruitful Gallows Hill Red IPA allowed tangy grapefruit, orange, tangerine and peach spicing to caress its toasted caramel spine.

For dessert, dark chocolate and coffee tones decorated the ashen nuttiness and light caramel malting of Bankers Brown Ale.

As an extraordinary nightcap, Easton Assassinator Doppelbock (named after local boxing legend, Larry Holmes) brought ripe raisin-prune-plum overtones to chewy toffee malting.

www.tworiversbrewing.com

WEYERBACHER BREWING COMPANY

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EASTON, PENNSYLVANIA

Established in 1995, Easton’s increasingly popular WEYERBACHER BREWING COMPANY has become one of Pennsylvania’s largest and prestigious microbreweries, competing against long-time stalwarts such as Troegs, Victory and Yards. Under the guidance of master brewer, Dan Weirback (pictured above), Weyerbacher has produced some of the best malt-heavy brews on the East Coast.

Specializing in richly complex flagship offerings given hilariously ludicrous monikers (Merry Monks Tripel, Old Heathen Imperial Stout and Blithering Idiot Barleywine), this expansive brewing facility concentrates strictly on its uncompromising beer. I’d already tried over fifty different Weyerbacher beers before visiting the brewery on my initial Sunday at noon November ’16 jaunt.

Inside a large tan brick warehouse, Weyerbacher’s unassuming exterior and no-frills atmosphere contrast against the ultra-sophisticated full-bodied elixirs that dominate the Tap Room Menu. Some of my absolute faves (all reviewed in Beer Index) include Heresy, a dry chocolate-y stout with tannic grape-soured cherry tartness; Blasphemy, a cherry kirsch-like quad with brown-sugared molasses saaping and ripe dried fruiting; and Insanity, a caramelized barleywine with endless cognac warmth.

I grab a seat at the U-shaped 30-seat bar and order some samplers emanating from the thirty 6-barrel tanks in the large rear brew room. Six barreled tables provide further seating. The space may be raw, but the colorful chalk-boarded beer insignias, fascinating tap handles, inspiring refrigerated bottle selection and cathedral high ceilings need no extra highlighting. And today’s NFL game keeps the sports fans involved.

Taking in the autumn weather, I begin with Festbier, a traditional German marzen exposing a leafy hop earthiness and peaty malt dewiness offset by light clementine, tangerine and navel orange illusions. Dark-roasted black chocolate malts picked up nut-charred coffee dryness to contrast sugared molasses notions for Easton Brown & Down.

Next, vinous white wining consumed oak-dried Brunicorn, a raspberry-flavored Pinot Noir-barreled sour ale with blush rosé, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay notions amidst green apple tartness overridden by eye-squinting vinaigrette piquancy. A collaboration with nearby Two Rivers Brewing, tannic French oak-barreled Sixth Street Sour brought bittersweet cherry and raspberry fruiting to black-malted coffee tones, sticky anise whims and nutty respites. 

Delightful Belgian blonde ale, Mellow Monks, proved to be a sessionable Merry Monk as dry white-peppered hops casually cavorted with sweet banana-clove propensities, subsidiary apple-pear fruiting and herbal lemongrass-chamomile notions. Complex dark saison, Jester’s Choice, enhanced its stylish orange-peeled lemon zest and earthen herbal minerality with a maltier-than-expected wild rice and toasted buckwheat influence (plus latent brandy wining).

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Fabulous and far-reaching Imperial Pumpkin Ale invigorated its pumpkin pie spicing with sweet cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and clove spicing as well as tertiary whiskey, raisin and anise notions.

On the dark side, worthy limited edition Sunday Mole Stout used the foundation of Weyerbacher Sunday Morning Imperial Stout for its capacious dark coffee-chocolate expressiveness, adding peppery heat to subtle mocha-spiced bruised black cherry, bourbon, cinnamon and powdered cocoa undertones.

Nitro-only Sunday Mole Stout Pilot Batch #2 swimmingly coalesced black coffee, dark cocoa, cinnamon and chocolate illusions atop light ancho, pasilla, mulato and chipotle peppering.

Feeling like a nitro with its smoothly watered resolve, dry-bodied Oyster Stout serenaded its briny sea-salted black malting with boggy peat moss.

www.weyerbacher.com

DU VIG BREWING COMPANY

 

BRANFORD, CONNECTICUT

In a gray industrial mall just north of New Haven in the coastal town of Branford, DU VIG BREWING COMPANY opened for business during 2014. As the story goes, homebrewing neighborhood buddies Kim and Dan Vigliotti decided to hook up with Scott and Darcy Dugas to create a friendly local microbrewery featuring approachable fare that “remain true to style.”

Working with a small 6-barrel system with a hanging TV separating the rear brewing area from the cozy tap room, Du Vig’s sessionable suds reinforce the front-walled motto, Deconstructing Beer.

During my quick October ’16 stopover on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I pick up a few growlers and sample five lively offerings.

Pleasantly off-dry Cream Ale brought sugar-spiced pilsner malting and lemon-limed grassy hops to light earthen graining.

Lactic lemon-seeded sourness gains a bitterly salted coriander edge above its wispy white wheat bed for the soft-tongued Berliner Wiesse.

Stylishly heady Leetes Island Amber Ale balanced citric Cascade-Centennial-Chinook hop pining with peaty mineral grains and toasted caramel malts.

Barley-roasted nuttiness inundated chocolate-malted English Brown Ale, a fine moderation with ample peanut-shelled walnut illusions picking up gentle lemon-soured green raisin, apple and plum notions.

Best bet: illuminating American Pale Ale maintained a crisply clean carbolic mouthfeel as its sunny yellow grapefruit tang and brisk orange rind bittering spread across the oats-dried wheat husk and bark-like wood astringency.

www.duvig.com

ASSAWOMAN BAY BREW PUB & RESTAURANT

OCEAN CITY, MARYLAND

Right on Ocean City’s bustling bayfront in a large multifaceted complex, ASSAWOMAN BREW PUB & RESTAURANT features a cement-floored pub area, sizable restaurant space, second floor banquet room, kitschy tiki bar, windowed brew tank station and patio dining section. Within walking distance of the Civic Center, the yellow-hued frontage and red lettering hail from the days Shallow Water Pub & Restaurant existed.

Open for biz since 2015, my wife and I grabbed a seat at the sidewinding wood lacquered bar (with cool brewing coasters and stickers) for our late afternoon snack time, June ’16. Equipped with 36 tap handles (dedicated to its own brews plus several fine craft beers), plentiful wood furnishings and Edison lighting, the red-bricked barroom centers Assawoman Bay’s interior.

Classic reggae music plays in the background as I sample seven stylish elixirs. We move outside when the enjoyable Texas Toothpicks (beer-battered jalapeno and onions with sriracha mayo) arrive and the place fills up with the Monday dinner crowd.

For starters, Assawoman Bay’s initial release, Bayside Blonde, took a walk on the wild side with its minty cucumber adjunct adding a sage-like tease to the tropical mango-guava tang, candi-sugared yellow fruiting and lemon-soured pineapple juicing overriding mild diacetyl buttering.

Beechwood-smoked peat malts imbibed For Peat Sake Scottish Ale, a mildly nutty mocha-spiced moderation with wavered black cherry and black grape notions. Spiced rye malts, dry walnut and fig secured Red Head Rye Ale, a soft-toned medium body.

Instructive ‘peppercorn’ and garlic’ adjuncts provided a unique sidebar to Pony Swim IPA, where dry wood shavings tingle sharp Cascade-hopped orange and grapefruit spicing as well as caramelized pilsner malts.

  Assawoman Bay Angry Clown Brown AleEasygoing Angry Clown Brown Ale brought nuts, raisin and dark cherry to the fore as caramelized biscuit malts and coffee-stained Fuggle hop bittering gained latent hazelnut, fig and molasses undertones. Not as clearly defined, TransPorter traipsed dry cocoa above desolate vanilla and caramel tones.

The darkest ale, Commodore Decatur Black IPA, brought thriving black chocolate and dark cocoa overtones to dry grapefruit tartness while its damp-wooded hop char gained bitterness.

Unfortunately, the ever-popular Weizen Shine Hefe kicked right before we entered.

Though this copious venue may seem mainstream with its affluent sportsbar feel, family-styled pub dining and mall-like atmosphere, Assawoman Bay’s fine beer selection will capture everyone’s attention.

assawomanbaybrewing.com

MOTHER EARTH BREWING

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KINSTON, NORTH CAROLINA

Taking up a whole street corner in Kinston’s rustic downtown, MOTHER EARTH BREWING has taken the Inner Banks section of North Carolina by storm and helped revitalize the small community since starting production during 2009. Run by owners Trent Mooring and Stephen Hill and brewmaster Josh Brewer, Mother Earth’s expanded into a large operation with its own bottling line, beer garden, windowed brew tanks, boutique store and exquisite modern deco-styled taproom (with U-shaped 16-seat bar, side tables, couched lounge and snazzy blue and white hanging lights).

During my mid-morning stopover June ’16, I picked up five bottled and one canned brew running the gamut from ever-popular Weeping Willow Wit to stylishly wondrous Endless River Kolsch to sessionable Park Day Bohemian Pilsner to Sisters Of The Moon IPA to Dark Cloud Dunkel Lager and Old Neighborhood Oatmeal Porter (all reviewed in Beer Index). But the best way to discover Mother Earth is thru its sterling taproom, where limited edition, one-offs and seasonal specials prove just as worthy as the bottled-canned staples.

The environmentally responsible brewery also makes use of recycled material, organic compounds and spent grain. Anyone traveling thru the heartland of Carolina needs to discover this fine gem.

www.motherearthbrewing.com

 

WILMINGTON BREWING COMPANY

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WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA

Going to college in Asheville (commonly known as “Beer City USA”) inspired young Wilmington natives John and Michelle Savard to begin a homebrew equipment shop that expanded to one of North Carolina’s finest brewpubs by summer 2015.

In a tan 11,000 square-foot industrial building with three barrel system and cozy beergarden, WILMINGTON BREWING COMPANY just began kegging its homemade beers as of my two-hour June ’16 sojourn. Within walking distance of North Carolina-Wilmington University, its family friendly tap room features 15 draughts at the wood-topped aluminum bar, five small tables, various games, childrens’ toys and 32-ounce crowlers to go.

First up, refreshingly dependable Bier Garden Kolsch balanced sweet honeyed malts with orange-dried tartness and lemony sourness

Splendidly balanced Tropical IPA matched floral-perfumed citrus hops to sugar-spiced crystal malts as the fresh-watered medium body gathered tangy grapefruit-peeled lemon, mango, guava and peach illusions above mild resinous pine astringency.

Dried cocoa, black chocolate and sour coffee inundated Damn Good Brown Porter, gaining a walnut-seared hop char to increase its latent molasses-dried cola nuttiness.

Dark-roast coffee and menacing charred hop bittering overwhelmed vanilla bean sweetness for rich Vanilla Coffee Porter.

Creamy Blair’s Breakfast Stout let dark-roast Focal coffee take center stage over soothing chocolate cake and vanilla tones as subtle cappuccino, toffee, hazelnut and espresso illusions wavered.

Here’s more Wilmington Brewing beers yet to be tried: Raspberry Saison; Jalapeno Saison; Beach Banger Session IPA; Midtown Swank Double IPA.

On my next Carolina trip, I will venture to Wilmington’s Dutch Square Industrial Park to peruse Broomtail Craft Brewery and then hit downtown’s Good Vibes and Waterline breweries.

www.wilmingtonbeer.com

IRONCLAD BREWERY

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WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA

A few blocks from Wilmington’s waterfront lies the Medieval-inspired IRONCLAD BREWERY. Open February ’15 and visited pre-dinner June ’16, Ironclad’s a jumbo-sized public house with a spacious ground level and barn-topped loft area (with elegantly elongated wood-stained L-shaped bars and multiple tap handles).

Preserving the original structure of the brick-walled pub, previously an auto body repair shop, was essential to maintaining its historic integrity.

Upon entering the stone castle-designed edifice (with oversized Chamber-styled wooden front door), customers are welcome to the rustic Old World ambiance of the low-ceilinged, cement-floored, Industrial-styled ground floor. Upstairs, a balcony lounge area with vast seating (sometimes used for banquets and weddings) surround the classic 25-seat bar.

My wife and I grab seats at the bar and get the hummus with crackers (also available were chicken wraps, sandwiches, pretzels and popcorn). New brewer Laren Avery will bring his own recipes to the expansive beer menu that included ten well-rounded house brews and a few excellent local microbrews upon my springtime perusal.

Sweet honeyed Lydia’s Lager brought Helles-like pilsner malting to Noble hop spicing and a snickering lemon lick. Nearly as light-bodied, honey-spiced Old Baldy Golden Ale retained a laid-back lemony orange tang.

Fine English-styled moderation, Fish Tale Pale Ale, coalesced sweet orange peel, dried cherry and caramel apple over light dry hop bittering. Earthen amber grains picked up cherry, fig and apricot tones for Nash’s Irish Red Ale.

Easygoing Cape Fear Defender IPA let lemon-dried grapefruit peel tartness contrast sweet crystal-malted melon and honeydew snips above soft piney hop astringency. Spicier and pinier than the aforementioned Defender, Teddy Hopper Double IPA placed lemony orange-peeled grapefruit rind bittering above syrupy peach sweetness and white-sugared barley malts.

Girardelli white chocolate infused White Squall White Chocolate Brown Ale, a sweet, soft-toned, sessionable dessert treat with subtle fig-dried spicing.

Nutty mocha-fronted India Brown Ale contrasted glazed pecan and hazelnut sweetness against seared walnut astringency as mild mocha malting reached the surface and subtle perfumed hops wafted beneath. Cask-conditioned India Brown Ale, regaled with peach, plum and date adjuncts, retained the original version’s perfumed nuttiness and a more definitive fruited flavor profile.

Brewer Avery’s newest elixir, Laren’s Black IPA, lifted dried cocoa, black chocolate and coffee tones above charcoal-hopped black grape and blackberry rasps.      

www.ironcladbrewery.com

FLYTRAP BREWING

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WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA

Everyone should have a true blue neighborhood brewery as friendly, convenient and cozy as Wilmington’s inconspicuous FLYTRAP BREWING. About a half-mile up the hill from the waterfront at the Brooklyn Arts District and “specializing in small-batch Belgian and American ales,” Flytrap’s entrepreneurial brewer, Mike Barlas, opened this kind boutique pub in October 2014.

Tucked into a residential community, its white stucco brick exterior and white brick interior provide a clean sheen. The raw space features an aluminum ceiling with heavy metal girds.  The brewtanks behind the centralized 16-seat wooden bar serves eight tables with twelve tapped selections (four home brews were available for my June ’16 late-afternoon sojourn). Eight outside picnic tables provide plenty of room on this clear blue-skied Saturday.

Flytrap’s best selling flagship, an approachable moderation called Rehders Red, brought lightly spiced orange and apple fruiting to caramel-roasted sweetness, providing dry yellow-wooded hop astringency for contrast.

Dry-bodied Saison draped lemon meringue, orange marmalade, white grape esters and sour lemon onto its buttery Chardonnay finish, picking up mild banana daiquiri tones as well.

Atypical Rye Pale Ale weaved dry rye and spiced fig into unexpected pine lacquering and wispy herbal gestures.

Bittersweet dark-fruited mocha malting inundated lightly embittered Stout, a medium-bodied dark ale with blackberry, black cherry and black grape snips as well as dry plank wood reminders.

www.flytrapbrewing.com