north carolina breweries

See what’s on tap at Ponysaurus Brewing. (Photo: Courtesy of Ponysaurus Brewing)

Eat + Drink

Raleigh-Durham’s Craft Beer Scene Is Hot. Here’s Where to Raise a Glass

With more than 260 craft breweries in North Carolina and dozens in the Triangle area alone, the state of Southern beer is thriving in Raleigh-Durham. With local brews as diverse and distinct as the state itself, there’s a pint to suit every palate and enough tasting rooms to keep you coming back for another round without a repeat.

Generally, most breweries that don’t serve food welcome dogs and children during the day, often with food trucks parked outside; on a sunny weekend day, expect many beer gardens to be busy with groups and families.

As many taprooms expand their entertainment and food offerings, they’ve cut down on public tours, so check directly with brewers if you’re hoping to get an inside track on their process.

A DIY Beer Crawl in Raleigh

In the City of Oaks, you’ll encounter more than two dozen breweries in and around the capital. Make a plan of attack with a Raleigh Beer Trail Passport, which you can get stamped at participating breweries for prizes like a bottle opener or a pint-glass hugger.

Organize your own pub crawl by sticking close to downtown at breweries like Crank Arm Brewing, Nickelpoint and Little City Brewing + Provisions Co.

Brewery Bhavana elevates the typical industrial brewery look with a skylit, elegant space and quadruples as a bookstore, flower shop and dim sum restaurant. (And sister restaurant Bida Manda is next door, which has been earning accolades for its contemporary Laotian food since opening in 2012).

Trophy Brewing Co. is a Raleigh stalwart, with three different spaces for sampling their beer and a bite, as well as a new bottle and sandwich shop, State of Beer.

north carolina breweries
Belly up at The Glass Jug. (Photo: Courtesy of The Glass Jug Beer Lab)

Durham’s Brewery Scene

Over in Durham, craft beer pioneer Fullsteam celebrates Southern culture with tasty pub fare and “plow-to-pint” beers like the seasonal Coffee Is for Closers, made with Muddy Dog coffee from Morrisville, North Carolina, and the malty Working Man’s Lunch, with hints of cocoa nibs from Escazu Artisan Chocolates in Raleigh. If the kitchen’s menu of snacks and small plates isn’t enough, you’re stumbling distance from The Pit barbecue and Hutchins Garage pizza (which has its own stellar tap list).

Bull City Burger and Brewery makes everything from its porter to its pickles on site, using pasture-raised North Carolina beef in the burgers and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. A small play area for “future beer drinkers,” a dog-friendly patio and a self-service wine dispenser make this a near-universal crowd pleaser.

Ponysaurus is also popular with different crowds, boasting a large beer garden where you can reserve a grill in warmer months and then preorder your meat and sides for a DIY barbecue picnic with the shopping and prep done for you.

If you are visiting Durham in the spring or summer, you can enjoy a Durham Bulls baseball game and a brew made a few feet from home plate. Bull Durham Beer Co. is the only one of its kind to craft ales at a minor league ballpark, with many other North Carolina–made concessions, including Locopops and Bright Leaf hot dogs, to order during the seventh-inning stretch.

Make it an Event

There’s never a bad time to visit the region for a beer tasting, but a few seasons stand out. April is NC Beer Month, with many tap takeovers, bottle releases and festivals like Raleigh’s Brewgaloo on the last weekend of the month.

Brewgaloo kicks off with a Friday night block party tasting of some sours and barrel-aged beers poured exclusively on the event’s first night. Advance tickets for tasters are $45 and free for their designated drivers. Saturday has food trucks and live music to accompany more than 100 North Carolina breweries. Admission is free, with tickets required to sample.

For the Connoisseurs

north carolina breweries
Sample the goods at Cotton House. (Photo: Courtesy of Cotton House Craft Brewers)

Advanced drinkers should seek out upstarts like Ancillary Fermentation, a consortium of beer lovers who launch a single beer each month at a themed pop-up event somewhere in Raleigh-Durham.

Cotton House Craft Brewers in Cary partners with Running Turtle Hops Farm to produce all-local beers in a National Historic Site taproom.

north carolina breweries
Try something different at Botanist & Barrel. (Photo: Courtesy of Botanist & Barrel)

Botanist & Barrel experiments with funky farmhouse ciders and wild ferments out in the countryside north of Durham.

If you need a steady hand to help you choose, the Glass Jug Beer Lab makes one-off beers and stocks a curated list of beverages both local and exotic with a hospitable staff who knows their stuff.

Planning a trip to Raleigh for Brewgaloo? Book your stay at one of Marriott International’s participating hotels and enjoy accommodations just moments away from the venue, a free shuttle to and from the event, plus exclusive goodies.