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.