Craft beer might be everywhere you look these days, but there was a time not too long ago where trying to find a local brewery in the area – much less in town – was a challenge. The Carolina Brewery, a staple on West Franklin Street for many years, opened its doors in 1995. The brewery was producing local beer long before “craft” was the word you almost always expected to hear before “beer.”

Independent breweries are being bought up at a breakneck speed, sending ripples through the industry. Although Carolina Brewery has extended its reach past state lines as far as distribution goes, it was retained the local roots that originally brought the brand success. But, it too has seen some changes.

These days, you can find a second Carolina Brewery location in Pittsboro, and the Franklin Street spot has recently revamped its outdoor sidewalk seating. These places aren’t just breweries, they’re full-service restaurants. You can easily eat to your heart’s desire at either location, but at the end of the day it boils down to beer. Coincidentally, on Thirsty Thursday they have $3 pints.

Walking into a place with several taps can be daunting to some. For those trying to figure out which beer sounds the most up their alley, there’s a simple solution: order a flight! A flight is generally a sampling of several short pours of beer on tap. If you don’t know what you like, haven’t fine-tuned your palate or have no idea what a “honey brown” is, this is a great place to start. You can sip on various samples and ultimately decide on the best pint for you.

At Carolina Brewery, I had the seasonal flight, which consisted of a wide selection of styles. A lager, imperial pilsner, session IPA, honey brown and an ESB were all on display. I often refer to the ESB style as my “gateway beer” to craft offerings. It’s robust and roasty, a far cry from the yellow and fizzy American macro-lager of my college years. If I see one on the menu, I’ll order it. The Carolina Brewery also make an imperial pilsner, which seems like an oxymoron seeing as pilsners generally don’t crest past five percent ABV.  I highly recommend it, and you don’t have to trust me – just look at the Untapped reviews.

The sleeper hit in my flight was the honey brown ale, sourced from Busy Bee Farms in Pittsboro. It was a beer I definitely wouldn’t have ordered a full pint of without tasting it first, and that’s what flights are all about! So, next time you are at a brewery, order a flight – you just might educate and liberate your palate.

What will you be drinking on #ThirstyThursday? What do you want to see us drink? Leave a message, send a tweet. We want to know what you think.