You plummet from the top of Hawk Tower, your hands clutching the thick rope running to the zipline above. From 120-feet up you can survey a great portion of the U.S. National Whitewater Center, flying past the new Deep Water Solo climbing complex (the first of its kind in the world) and over the kayaking pond before you slow to a stop.
Your zipline trip from the new Hawk Tower might be finished, but your time at the USNWC is not. Ready for a beer?
Good, because the USNWC goes to great lengths to ensure you can find craft beer in a variety of places around the park. Every year they tout the new features and facilities they are adding, which almost always include something beer-related.
The next time you visit the USNWC, make sure to check out these spots to grab a beer after your adventure (here’s a handy map noting these areas, as well as mythological creatures like Nessie and Bigfoot).
New for 2016 is a 5,000-square-foot shop near the USNWC’s entrance where you can pick up apparel, equipment or even a beer. Of the store’s six taps, half will feature beer while the remaining three taps will pour cider, wine, and cold-brew from Summit Coffee.
With 14 taps and a selection of cans, River’s Edge Bar and Grill is a great spot to grab a beer (they have cider and wine as well). This year, the bar has received an upgrade that includes new booths, lighting and a kitchen expansion. If you want lunch or dinner to accompany that beer, this is your spot.
Located on Belmont Abbey Island near the pumps that power the manmade rapids, Pump House Pavilion has 46 taps (40 for beer, six for wine). There’s also a separate Pump House Draught Bar with 20 additional taps of beer and cider, plus the Pump House Can Bar. And coming soon is the Pump House Porch, with a new deck and 30 more taps.
The Kayak Center is no longer just a spot for picking up a flatwater or whitewater rig. A recent expansion means you can now grab a pint or a slice of pizza as well. There are coolers full of 16- and 20-ounce cans, and six taps. Beside the Kayak Center is a new Airstream trailer turned pizza truck.
Like the Kayak Center, the Trail Center has six taps and a variety of cans. It’s a good spot to have a quick beer if you’re just coming in off the mountain bike trails.
The Gear Box
You can rent mountain bikes out of this shipping container, and you can also find a selection of canned beers as well.
Beer-Related Events at the USNWC
In addition to all of these places to grab a beer are the various beer-related events that the USNWC hosts each year, some of which kick off in April and May. These fill up quickly, so check the schedule and sign up if interested.
Work your way through five ziplines and two roped bridges, then rappel down and head to the Ridge Retreat for a fireside dinner with a couple craft beers or glasses of wine. The Zipline and Dine is $75 per person, with events starting next week and going through the fall.
If you prefer to be out on the water instead of in the air, consider attending the USNWC’s Microbrews Cruise. You’ll paddle down the Catawba River and back, likely spotting some wildlife along the way (I saw turtles and a blue heron during my cruise last year). Each cruise ends with a fireside dinner and beers from a featured brewery, which this year include North Carolina breweries like Birdsong Brewing, Sugar Creek Brewing, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Wicked Weed Brewing and Olde Hickory. See the full schedule and make reservations here.
If you prefer wine to beer — or standing to sitting — then Unwined might be more your thing. Introduced last year, Unwined follows the basic format of the Microbrews Cruise, but with stand-up paddleboards instead of kayaks and wine instead of beer. And like the Microbrews Cruise, each Unwined event features wines from a featured winery. See the full schedule here.
Now in its fifth year, the Brew Stash Bash returns to the USNWC on Saturday, June 18. From 1-6 p.m. is the beer festival portion, wherein you can purchase and redeem tickets for beer samples. If you’re particularly ambitious, you can start your day with the Brew Dash 6K that morning — or end the night with live music.