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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.



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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.      



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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.




A uniquely casual Philadelphia sportsbar in the heart of Wilmington, THE COPPER PENNY is arguably the finest beer pub in the city. Up the road from the waterfront on Chestnut Street, The Copper Penny boasts multiple draught taps, sundry Philly sports paraphernalia and wooden furnishings in a cozily clustered saloon setting.

Packed to the hilt on a Saturday in June ’16, my wife and I congregate at the 30-seat L-shaped right side bar. A backside open kitchen serves sandwiches, burgers and other pub fare to go alongside a cornucopia of local and national tapped beers and assorted liquors. TV’s are scattered across the walls with framed photos, banners and historic nostalgia. Besides the Phillies, Flyers, Eagles and 76ers memorabilia, there are Sylvester Stallone’s stalwart Rocky pix and several craft beer signposts crowded together.

On my one-hour visit, I quaffed Coronado Berry the Hatchet Fruit-Infused Wheat Ale and Natty Greene’s Smoked Peach IPA, a few previously untried hybrids reviewed in full in Beer Index.

All Wilmington-bound beer enthusiasts are encouraged to give the The Copper Penny a spin.




Reopened 2006 in Wilmington’s historic downtown, FRONT STREET BREWING now saddles ex-Capitol City and Thoroughbreds Grill brewmaster, Kevin Kozak. Rustic tan-cemented two-storied Victorian saloon had tin-embossed white ceiling, wooden tile inlet, exposed pipes, stain-glass divided front dining, mezzanine balcony, and sky-lighted wood mural bar upon July ’08 visit.

Reasonably priced burgers, sandwiches and salads complemented stylistic beer variety. Though corn-dried wheat-strawed-hay-leathered lemon-bruised herbal-tinged Lumina Helles Lager, soapy raspberry-fronted wheat-honeyed cranberry-melon-faded River City Raspberry Wheat, and spritzy banana-clove-centered butterscotch-vanilla-infiltrated orange-soured Hefeweizen were a bit washed out, soft dried-fruited fungi-blunted German Alt and a batch of stronger beers hit the spot.

Boozy pine-lacquered caramel-malted temptress Port City IPA retained dazzling citric zest. Peat-malted whiskey-snatched red-fruited chocolate-smoked fig-dried Dram Tree Scottish Ale truly ruled.

Incredible coffee-roasted molasses-thickened black chocolate-y Russian Imperial Stout retained cognac insistence, roasted nuttiness, and tobacco chew nuance to gooey anise finish.

Sour red-orange-fruited fig-date-teased hop-blanched Belgian Red and lemony apricot-fizzed maize-dried Kolsch suited summer solstice.

During July ’09 revisit, I found three more Front Street ales flowing from the front-windowed silver brew tanks on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. Interestingly, the mild hickory-smoked Milds Davis Stout retained the same penetrating hazelnut coffee theme and hop-roasted cocoa thrust as the even better oats-charred chicory-pinched American Brown Ale.

Grapefruit rind-embittered lemon pith-soured American Pale Ale maintained light caramel malting.


In a tiny sea green store tucked away off the causeway east of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach’s Lighthouse Beer & Wine had a superb microbrew selection. Found Terrapin’s Side Project Roggenrauch, Rye Squared Imperial Pale Ale, and Golden Ale; Azalea Coast’s IPA and Fokker Ale; Pyramid Imperial Hefeweizen; Duck-Rabbit Amber; Highland Imperial Kashmir IPA; and French Broad Wee Heavy-er Scotch Ale.