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Beers & Wines of Raleigh

By Jayne Clark

The Raleigh metropolitan area of North Carolina may be best known as a biotech hub, but its craft beer scene is turning heads and bending elbows.

 

Located in the central part of the state, approximately two hours west of the Atlantic Ocean, Raleigh now boasts more than 40 breweries — with one brewery even making it into the Guinness World Record for most beers on tap. 

Raleigh has steadily received shout-outs from media sites covering the spirits industry for its craft beer activity. The drinks culture website VinePair has recognized the area as a top 10 worldwide beer destination, joining the cities of Berlin, Paris and Tokyo. Raleigh has also received kudos from the online beer magazine Hop Culture, which has cited the area as a top beer locale. 

The roots of Raleigh’s craft beer growth can be traced to a series of legislative changes in North Carolina beginning in the mid-1980s. Previously having some of the country’s strictest alcohol laws, the state started allowing small breweries to sell their product directly to bars and restaurants. In subsequent decades, the state raised the limits on alcohol content allowed in beer production, which would also spur growth in craft beer popularity. 

Today, as visitors and new residents flock to Raleigh — ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the country’s fastest-growing areas — the local craft beer scene continues to grow.

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Raleigh Beer Garden
Credit: Greater Raleigh CVB

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Downtown Raleigh
Credit: Wil Hardison

Hoppy Trails

Meandering north and south of downtown, the Raleigh Beer Trail visits 30 establishments, some offering free tours and a chance to chat with the brewmaster. Be sure to collect points at participating breweries and redeem them for prizes.

Tapping Your Inner Outlaw
With quaffs like Peacemaker IPA, Shotgun Betty Hefeweizen Ale and Deadeye Jack Porter, the Lonerider Brewing Company imbues its beers with a Wild West sensibility. The brewery typically brews up to 15 varieties at a time. Lonerider — which holds over 50 awards for its beers — has three locations, including an outlet that opened in October 2023 in Terminal 2 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.  

Banking on Brews
Ancillary* Fermentation started as a “pop-up fermentation experience” in 2018 but has since moved into a permanent taproom in a former bank building in Raleigh’s Midtown community. Raise a glass at the teller’s windows or make a liquid withdrawal from the drive-thru that is lined with picnic tables.

A Bountiful Garden
If you crave variety, there’s no better place to quench your thirst than in the Glenwood South district at the Raleigh Beer Garden, the recipient of three Guinness World Records for the sheer volume of its on-tap offerings. The first-floor bar is dedicated to North Carolina brews (144 of them), and another floor stocks 222 domestic and international brands. There’s also a rooftop bar and, as its name implies, a beer garden.

Sipping at the Source
Raleigh’s winery landscape may be less robust than its craft beer scene, but two nearby locations are worth the trip for oenophiles. 

Chatham Hill Winery in Cary, just west of Raleigh, has been making traditional European-style reds and whites since 1999. The winery also crafts two muscadines using a recipe from 1890 and a line of fruit-infused wines called Sweet Carolina. The winery is open Friday afternoons, Saturdays and Sundays, with live music on Saturday nights. 

Established in 2010, Cloer Family Vineyards in Apex produces five wine varietals, including Riesling, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Guests can stroll through the five-acre vineyard on this working farm 15 miles west of Raleigh. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, plus you can bring a blanket and picnic on the laws.

The Art of Wine and Beer
Vita Vite serves wine and craft beer in a homey setting (think plush armchairs and fireplaces) surrounded by southern art and locally made artisan goods. The establishment operates two Raleigh locations — Vita Vite Downtown in Raleigh’s Warehouse District and Vita Vite Midtown in the North Hills neighborhood. 

 

Getting There
Frontier (3x weekly), United (26x weekly) and American (25x weekly) fly nonstop between O’Hare (ORD) and Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU). Southwest (27x weekly) and Frontier (3x weekly) fly nonstop between Midway (MDW) and RDU.

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Lonerider Brewing Company
Credit: Derek Tenbusch

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Raleigh Beer Garden
Credit: Greater Raleigh CVB

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