Top of the Hill Brewery has been a local institution since it opened in 1996. With an excellent location on the corner of Franklin St. and Columbia in the heart of Chapel Hill, and boasting proud ownership by UNC alum Scott Maitland, TOPO has been a mainstay for UNC students for decades.
These days, TOPO is a triple threat with a restaurant that features an event space and a back bar that houses a cask-conditioned ale system. More recently, the business added distillery to its name and now produces organic spirits.
With so much to choose from, I kept it simple by sampling their Kenan Lager. The beer pours golden straw with a thin body and little head. The lager style is of European descent meaning you’ll most likely find the use of Noble Hops which tend to be more floral and spicy in the nose than the citrus-forward American hops. Lager’s taste is also dictated by the yeast, which most breweries have their own proprietary strain. The yeasty backbone gives the beer a very bready finish. Kenan Lager is pretty much a textbook version: low in ABV and IBUs and yeast is king. The lager is craft beer’s closest offering to mainstream light beer so if you’ve got a friend who typically drinks Bud Light, Miller Lite et al., this is a good place for them to start in the craft world.
All the names of the beers have a local slant. The lager is named after the Kenan family. Frank Kenan was an oil baron and a major benefactor to UNC. You’ll see the family name throughout campus most notably on the football stadium and the business school.
Great beer, good food and blatant localism are some of the many reason to make a stop at TOPO. But by far the best thing this place has to offer is the majestic views from the second floor rooftop patio. For a true local color experience, one needs to witness a national basketball championship celebration on Franklin St from this vantage point. Good luck finding a seat.
What is your favorite TOPO beer? Or are you more a cocktail person? Leave us a comment. Send us a tweet. Bottoms up it’s #thirstythursday