As my comrade (and Chapelboro editor) Jordan Rogers and I stepped into Carolina Brewery on Wednesday evening it occurred to us that although we wanted a column out of the experience, we had no idea or intentions as to what form it would take. I am not a beer connoisseur by any means (though I do enjoy drinking them), even if many of my close friends are, and thusly I am kind of a novice appreciator of good brewing, if nothing else by association only. While we did intend to sample several of Carolina Brewery’s finest, this presented a bit of a ruse in any attempt of ours to do an astute beer critique, whether in this writing or in our conversation whilst on the outing. Probably the most poignant observations we made about the actual beer came from direct dictations of the beer’s description on the menu. That being said, we set to take in the environment, sit back, stroke our egos with “intelligent” conversation, and put down a few cold ones.
Let me be perfectly clear, I love the idea of a good micro-brew. There is this sort of mystique of being a high brow, intellectual; sticking it to the man kind of guy when one indulges in a home town micro beer. The above qualities essentially embody the attitudes that I stand for. However, I have a hard time making a habit of drinking them. When it really comes down to it; I’d rather be seen enjoying a crisp Miller Lite, or something thereof. This is where our conversations regarding the descriptions of the beer began to fall out, because Jordan and I simply lack the appropriate nomenclature or verbiage. For this reason, my eyes began to shift off of the pitcher of Alter Ego Altbier that was upon us, which to my best description was quite good, clean and hintingly sweet, and instead onto the room around us. I enjoy a nice large wooden room; always have. Carolina Brewery boasts a beautiful two story dining hall that reminded me of the hulls of an old wooden ship which had been modernized. Jordan and I were seated on the second floor, directly adjacent to the overhang as so we could look down on the bar below. This was great for one of my favorite observational activities which I call “people watching” (the title should be self-explanatory) and I noticed that everyone in the brewery seemed to be a part of some wonderful organized confusion. I got an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the setting, the dichotomy of the young and restless student population in the brewery, and the content, older wiser patrons. I pondered such dualities as our pitcher of Flagship IPA arrived, another Carolina Brewery specialty.
The Flagship IPA went down easy, and I am a self-admitted IPA lover, even if my ability to differentiate between them is lacking. This one was not too hoppy, and had a light, champagne hue to it. Also while doing damage on this pitcher, we were brought samples of the Anniversary Ale, released each year to celebrate Carolina Brewery’s birthday — in this case the 18th. This year’s edition was slated to be released publically the following day, and it’s a white wheat ale which reminded me of sparkling white grape juice or something of the sort. This sort of beer is quite popular with the ladies, so for any fellas out there still looking for fiscally sound Valentine’s Day ideas, look no further than Carolina Brewery. A pitcher or so of this stuff and you’ll be ready to do whatever the other stuff is that people do on Valentine’s Day. At this point in the eve we were feeling sufficiently warmed enough by the delicious beverages that we decided to undertake one last pitcher before leaving in bumbling fashion.
The thing about “heady” beer as it is sometimes referred is that it tastes great but is elusively higher in alcohol content then the normal domestic bottle. This being the case, the final pitcher (this time the Firecracker Pale Ale), would ultimately be the surly demise of Chapelboro’s finest. The beer flowed like wine. The evening had turned into a nice Franklin Street night, and Carolina Brewery was lit up with southern hospitality and home place warmth. I remember repeating the famous Rasheed Wallace quote, “Ball don’t lie” with fervor several times over although the relevancy is now questionable in what is now an accurate reflection of our state by this point. Jordan and I concluded our venture with slightly slurred salutations and took back to the old dusty trail.
I left Carolina Brewery in high regards, and consider it a vital part of the Chapel Hill experience. Local businesses like this are what knit the fabric that instills the cohesion of college town USA, a feature that I appreciate with time and age. I’d recommend conversational beer outings like this not only to harbor what becomes questionable discourse, but also to soak in the luxury of culture. I look forward to my next flagon of Carolina Brewery ale.
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