craft beer wave which has been sweeping across the country – especially
in North Carolina and Virginia – is coming ashore on Hatteras and
Ocracoke islands in a major way.
every restaurant, grocery store, and nightlife establishment has taken
notice of this national long-term trend and have responded by offering
dozens of unique and hard-to-find beers on tap or in bottles for the
offering a big range of specialty beers isn’t a “new” local concept, by
any means. After all, 20 years ago, one of the biggest claims to fame
for Howard’s Pub on Ocracoke Island was having more than 200 beers
available, and, as such, many frequent patrons made a valiant effort to
try all 200 -- in multiple trips, of course.
just like the recent rise of coffee shops, yoga classes, and other
modern amenities that simply make life more fun, craft and specialty
brews are taking center stage as the new allure for locals and
vacationers who want to unwind, with unique style. And, unlike 20 years
ago, when most establishments had a handful of imports and a lot of
familiar domestics, veritably any place you go will have an enticing
brew to try.
these days, business owners seek out the stellar varieties that will
keep bar, store, or restaurant patrons coming back for more.
The Point in Buxton. This relatively new restaurant -- it opened last
September -- offers roughly 50 different beers, which includes seven
brews on tap.
wide variety was a deliberate move by Herb Clements, the chef and owner
of The Point, the former head chef of the now-closed Dolphin Den in
Avon and a long-time beer lover.
noticed a trend in the restaurant industry where people are going for
craft beers and smoked food,” said Herb. “I do a lot of smoked food and
wanted a menu and beer selection that go well together.”
trend wasn’t just something he noticed with his long-time patrons
either – it was also evident with his friends, who slowly shifted their
tastes as more options became prevalent.
have a good friend who now drinks craft beer, when before all he drank
was Bud Light. Now he really enjoys the complex flavors of different
craft beers and feels like he wasted 10 years of his life,” says Herb.
“I think that’s true for a lot of people.
such a good time to be a beer drinker now," he continues. "There’s so
many different varieties and flavors -- bitter, sweet, sour... With the
different types of craft beers made in North Carolina and Virginia,
there are just so many to sample.”
Carolina really has become a haven for brew lovers in the past few
years. According to the North Carolina Division of Tourism, the state
is home to more than 150 breweries and brewpubs – which is well more
than any other southern state.
of these breweries – such as Highland, Carolina Brewery, Duck-Rabbit
and Foothills -- are steadily becoming nationally recognized brands
despite their small stature, and the Outer Banks is also home to two
homegrown breweries, including the Outer Banks Brewing Station and
Weeping Radish Brewery, which is the oldest brewery in the state.
this statewide beer prestige, it’s no wonder that visitors and locals
alike who are familiar with North Carolina’s growing beer-loving
reputation are expecting great things from local establishments.
And the local establishments, like The Point, are responding with gusto.
like to buy what my customers ask for,” says Herb. “People ask me for
different things, and I purchase them – could be domestic, from South
America, or from North Carolina. I’m trying to get people what they
the same time, flavor and region counts [for selecting beers to serve]
because a lot of our customers want local craft beer. Most of my craft
beers are from Virginia, and I have other offerings from Pennsylvania,
North Carolina, and even Michigan. These are beers people want to try,
or are already familiar with.”
And when it comes to taste, different beers serve an additional purpose for local restaurants as well.
like to cook with them too,” he adds, “and we use different beers for
different dishes. Like our Mahi tacos, which are made with Carolina Blonde Cream Ale.”
Point is just one example of what’s available on the local
restaurant and bar scene, and beer lovers will be happy to discover
that this trend carries over to grocery stores as well.
Supermarket, one of the oldest stores on Hatteras Island, has a
decidedly modern selection when it comes to brews – and just about
have a saying that ‘We have everything from caviar to PBR,’” says
Travis Salyers, manager. “We want to make sure we take care of [our
customers] the best we can.”
as more and more customers shifted their brew tastes, Conner’s
responded by offering up a much bigger and more diverse variety to the
delight of visiting and local beer fans.
headed up the craft beer selection at Conner’s three years ago, and
borrowed 4 feet of shelf space from the wine section to add more craft
and specialty beers.
“It quickly justified the space – not just based on requests, but because of the options that were out there,” he said.
while Conner’s initially started with 4 feet of space for craft brews,
today the store has 12 feet with six shelves that are reserved for good
beer – and this is not including the “big” bottles that are sometimes a
hallmark of the smaller brewing companies.
store currently has 120 different varieties of six-packs, roughly 40
22-ounce big bottles, and more than 25 brewers represented on its
shelves. This doesn’t even include the twisted teas, “adult” root
beers, shandies, and other non-beer beverages that are also available.
as any patron who has spent a few minutes surveying the vast array will
tell you, it’s an impressive selection that will appeal to anyone with
a love of great taste.
craft beers have more flavor going on, because people are taking more
pride in what they’re making,” says Travis. “Big companies want the
volume – craft guys aim for taste.”
from all around the country and world are represented at Conner’s, but
North Carolina and Virginia are especially prevalent on the shelves.
try to bring in anything from Virginia and North Carolina,” says
Travis. “I like IPAs myself, and there are a lot of those, in general,
that are available, but I ask the beer reps ‘What do I need? Anything
new, just send it.’”
response to the current selection has been positive, although
considering how far away Hatteras Island is from the rest of the world,
it always depends on whom you ask.
coming from Asheville might say ‘It’s a pretty good [variety],’ but
Asheville has more breweries than I have beer companies in here,” says
Travis. “But a lot of people have said ‘You have an amazing selection,’
and that’s always great to hear.”
the wide selection means that shoppers can pick up whatever suits the
occasion. “We have session IPAs... and Outer Banks Brewing Station
Lemongrass Wheat, which are great for beach days, or a ‘cut the grass’
beer,” says Travis. “Devils Backbone is a new one that’s worth trying
too. I’m always interested in something new.”
having new varieties – at least in North Carolina and therefore
Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands – won’t be a problem for the foreseeable
a brewery] is taking a hobby to a different level,” says Travis, “I
like knowing that [these beers] were made with a little more
appreciation for the product, and the flavor that goes with it."