From the mountains to the coast, the Carolinas are so frothing over with breweries that you needn’t drive far for a good beer. Here are a few worth driving to:
Asheville: How has Wicked Weed Brewing ( www.wickedweedbrewing.com) so quickly become a must-visit destination in a city filled with breweries? By offering lots of India pale ales, saisons and sour ales, such as their Serenity, which won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2013. The kitchen is turning out great fare as well, and the brewpub itself is gorgeous. Taster flights (small samplings) of beer are not sold on weekends, but 10-ounce pours are.
Morganton: Todd Boera brewed at Morganton’s Catawba Brewing for four years before heading just a mile down the road to start Fonta Flora Brewery ( www.fontaflora.com) in 2013. His operation is much smaller (think of a tiny bar with a brewery in the corner), but allows Boera the freedom to constantly brew something new. You won’t find a flagship here. Instead, look for variety of table beers that often come in below 4 percent alcohol, open-fermented saisons brewed with locally-grown produce, or India pale ales from the brewery’s Hop Beard series.
Durham: Some breweries are known for specific styles of beer, but not Bull City Burger and Brewery ( www.bullcityburgerandbrewery.com). Founder Seth Gross and company take pride in brewing a range of true-to-style beers, from sessionable English ales like the 27701 Durham Mild to big barleywines like the Olden Horney. Make this a lunch or dinner stop: The farm-to-fork brewpub prepares almost all of its food from scratch.
Kinston: Father and son-in-law Stephen Hill and Trent Mooring founded Mother Earth Brewing ( www.motherearthbrewing.com) in 2009, and have drawn many a beer traveler to their hometown since. In their modern and fun taproom, you can enjoy year-round styles like their Endless River Kölsch as well as a host of seasonals and small batches.
Greenville, S.C.: Thomas Creek ( www.thomascreekbeer.com) opened in 1998, making it one of South Carolina’s first craft breweries. Over the years it has brewed everything from classic styles like their flagship River Falls Red Ale to their atypical series, which includes a Banana Split Chocolate Stout. Now you can enjoy these beers in the brewery’s new taproom. Better yet, visit the last Tuesday of each month for the brewery’s popular cask night. Quest Brewing ( www.questbrewing.com) has been on quite the journey since opening in July 2013. Though the beers are getting easier to find, their small taproom is still worth a visit. Quest’s refreshing Golden Fleece Belgian Pale Ale is brewed with coriander and grains of paradise ginger. On the other end of the spectrum is Kaldi, a stout brewed with local coffee and cacao nibs.
Columbia: Conquest Brewing ( www.conquestbrewing.com) made history in 2013 when it became Columbia’s first production brewery since Prohibition. Their small, garnet-painted taproom sits just a couple blocks away from USC’s Williams-Brice Stadium. From sword-shaped tap handles pour such beers as the quaffable Artemis Blonde, the bitter Sacred Heart IPA and the sweet Medusa Stout.
Mount Pleasant, S.C.: The Charleston area is home to several excellent breweries, including Westbrook Brewing Company ( www.westbrookbrewing.com). Few operations brew such a broad range of styles as Westbrook, and their taproom is the perfect place to try several in one spot. Refreshing yet complex summer options include the White Thai, a witbier brewed with ginger and lemongrass, and their gose, a sour and salty style that’s surging in popularity. Also look for beers by Evil Twin Brewing, which brews at Westbrook (and elsewhere). Growlers, bottles and cans are available to-go. Daniel Hartis