Craft Beer Guide to the Albemarle Sound Breweries, Bottle Shops & Further Adventures

craftbeerguideWelcome to the 2017 Craft Beer Guide to the Albemarle Sound! The clever digital guide is perfect for the beer enthusiast charting a course to the region where land and water merge.  It is designed to help visitors and locals navigate their way through breweries, tap rooms, local bottle shops, growler filling stations and a few small-batch brew fests that seasonally land along our shores. We also squeezed in an introduction to seasonal selections that are specially brewed for the holidays and winter. By no means is this a “definitive” guide but one emerging and a work-in-progress. We’re simply trying to maintain pace with the exploding craft beer movement taking hold in our state. Stay tuned, keep in touch and let us know about regional craft beer news brewing in the region.

Currently, the Old North State claims more than 180 craft breweries. Here in the northeastern corner of the state, more and more craft breweries are popping up in the low country. As you travel around the region, you’re sure to gain a better appreciation of our regional microbreweries as you sample the eclectic styles of beer, meet the passionate brewers, go behind the scenes on a brewery tour and hear the wonderful stories that are connected to these creative enterprises.

We encourage our readers to learn more about the brewing process, discover the camaraderie of the craft beer community and maybe even take a few field notes next time you’re out test driving a flight of locally brewed beer. Hopefully, our guide will help point you in the right direction.

Happy Trails!                           cheerstocraftbeeralbemarlesound

Craft Beer News around the Sound

The Outer Banks Brewing Station is spreading holiday cheer one sip at a time with their Christmas Beer release this month – a Belgian Trappist style ale crafted with locally sourced pecans. Yum! They’re teaming up this year with the Rum Boys over at Outer Banks Distilling in Manteo, NC. OBBS is brewing the seasonal with “spent” pecans used to make the popular Kill Devil Hills Pecans and Honey Rum.

Just in time to welcome the cold weather, Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery in Farmville released their Baltic Porter. A recent exploration of their website on the Our Beers menu described it as being “deep, rich and velvety soft with full blooded roasty character.” The brewers add, “This special brew rewards unhurried attention.” Sounds like good advice and the perfect beer to savor during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

Also, a big shout out to the microbrewery for their award in the 5th Annual NC Brewers Cup held earlier this fall. The Duck-Rabbit Märzen won 2nd Place in the Commercial European Amber Lager Class. This year’s competition included 651 total entries, which included 477 commercial entries and 174 home-brew entries. The event is organized by the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild and also serves as a Beer Judge Certification Program.

 

 

Connecting Communities – Small batch brewers are “crafty” in their use of locally sourced ingredients. From barley, wheat, rye and hops to sorghum, pecans, figs, blackberries, sweet potatoes and persimmons. This plow-to-pint movement is cultivating “beer farms” that produce local ingredients for the craft beer & home brew industry.

From the Tar River to Currituck Sound

Weeping Radish Brewery, Butchery & Farm located in Grandy, NC always brings joy to the holidays with their seasonal (Fall & Winter) Christmas Bier. The Doppelbock (Double Bock) is traditionally stronger than the German-style bock beer but not necessarily twice the strength as the double bock might suggest. The hearty beer tends to be exceptionally malty but surprisingly, not too bitter. These extraordinary beers trace their roots back to the 17th century. According to Weeping Radish’s website, “A Bavarian specialty first brewed in Munich by the monks of St. Francis of Paula.” One interesting side note — the Doppelbock is craft brewed using NC grown hops and malt.

Tarboro Brewing Company recently brewed and kegged their first Imperial Stout, which they named Southern Solstice. Talk about good timing – just in time for the Historic Tarboro’s Annual Weekend Christmas Crawl held last week. Hmm, might be a good idea to ring in the New Year with the folks at TBC and listen to some live local music, make new friends and check out the seasonal stout!

For all you “fest heads” out there, hurry up and buy tickets now if you want attend our region’s first craft beer festival of 2017! Greenville, North Carolina will be hosting the Jolly Skull Beer & Wine Festival on January 21, 2017. The seventh annual event showcases more than 50 American craft microbreweries and wineries. Approximately 125 beers and wines will be featured. Click here for tickets and more info.

Craft Beer Guide to the Albemarle Sound including Bottle Shops

further craft beer adventures albemarle sound

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The Craft Beer Guide to the Albemarle Sound & Beyond!

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Up the Creek with a Paddle Kayak Camping & Water Trails

Kayak Camping Roanoke River Paddle Trail

I haven’t backpacked since college. Although I have had a long love affair with camping, my only backpacking trip was more of a one-night stand. You know, one of those experiences that seemed like a better idea the night before than the morning after. Not that it was a bad experience. I just decided that carrying a 40-pound pack was not my thing. I always figured that bicycle camping would be my ticket for adventure travel until I ran across a picture in the Raleigh News and Observer. The photo captured a setting of several canoes tied to the dock of a small camping platform and nearly concealed within a cypress grove. Suddenly my desire to go camping was rekindled but this time I’d be sleeping out under the stars on camping platforms along a designated paddle trail.

Roanoke River Paddle Trail

The camping platform highlighted in the Raleigh News & Observer is part of a paddling trail network managed by the Roanoke River Partners — a grassroots non-profit serving the five North Carolina counties that border the Roanoke River. RRP operates 16 of these platforms that were constructed in the Roanoke River basin in order to bring tourist dollars into an area of North Carolina that had been hit hard by plant closings and the demise of the herring fishing industry.

When they were first built, locals weren’t so sure that they wanted outsiders paddling through their backyard playground but the project has proven to be quite successful. A recent study revealed that the Roanoke River Paddle Trail generates over $550,000 to the regional economy annually. This impact is the result of both the overnight campers and day-trippers utilizing the trail and facilities along the river. It is projected that since the construction of the first platform in 1997, the trail has attracted well over 15,000 overnight campers (with an estimated four to five times that many day trippers).

kayak boardwalk camping platform

Welcome Home!
photo courtesy of Tom Carmine

The Internet can be an adventure traveler’s best friend and through RRP’s website, I had two platforms reserved along with a growing file of information on kayak camping. Man learned thousands of years ago that a boat was better than one’s back for carrying a load, and I was planning to put that into practice. Packing a kayak for camping is like packing a backpack. The stuff has got to fit, and the weight has got to be properly distributed. Since we were not taking canoes, there was no place for coolers and lawn chairs.

1st Outing – San Souci Shuffle

Our target launch date was the last Friday of April, which we hoped would still bring cool nights to minimize the bugs that inhabit swampland. My goal for our first trip was a short paddle the first night and a longer paddle on Saturday and Sunday. We intended on camping one night at Lost Boat and the other at Otter One. Both camping platforms rest within the Roanoke River basin and are located just off Route 17, south of Edenton, NC on the Cashie River.

We arrived at Lost Boat just barely before dark after a four-mile paddle from the Sans Souci ferry landing. The camping platform was nestled in a small cove just off the Cashie River. We quickly set up our tents anticipating that the resident mosquito population would soon arrive to party with us but the cool spring evening kept the bugs at bay. Our first night was exactly what I had hoped for. The night was quiet except for the nocturnal sounds of owls, frogs and other wildlife at play in the woods.

The next day we could have paddled back to our launch site to restock for day two and paddled downstream to Otter One. Instead, we opted to take out our kayaks and spend part of the day in nearby Plymouth, which was hosting a large Civil War reenactment. After lunch and a tour of the town, we launched from Route 45 and paddled across the intersection of the Roanoke River, Middle River back to the Cashie River and down to end of Broad Creek.

Despite the five-mile paddle, Otter One was not far from Plymouth for the average crow, and the evening’s peace was occasionally broken by cannon fire and musket volleys from the rabble-rousing reenactors in town. It’s always good to bring a book along for the evenings on the platform since you can’t build a campfire on the deck and roast marshmallows for entertainment.

Paddle the Same River Basin Twice

Our second annual excursion took us to Royal Fern. We left the boat ramp at the beginning of beautiful Conaby Creek and paddled three miles to the end of a smaller creek. Royal Fern was the most secluded place I have ever camped. There were absolutely no sounds of civilization of any kind and animals bounded through the woods in and out of the creek all night long. The swamp forests along the Roanoke River floodplain provide ideal habitat for bears and this area is no exception.  Although no bear encounters have been reported around the platform in a couple of years, I could not resist shining my flashlight out of my tent during the night to see if any eyes were looking back from the darkness.

Campers on Roanoke River camping platform

Three’s a charm while platform camping in the Roanoke River Basin
photo courtesy of Tom Carmine

For this trip, Steve and I decided to make it a three-day expedition. Leaving Royal Fern on Saturday morning we paddled out to the Roanoke River for a 12-mile paddle that routed us into the Albemarle Sound for our second overnight at Otter One on the Cashie River. Unlike the prior year when a 15 mph wind had kept the fisherman at home for the weekend, this year we passed fishing boats throughout the day.

We had hoped to find a portion of beach about halfway through the trip to allow us to snack and stretch our legs but the shore of the Sound was lined with dense trees and logs pushed ashore by two hurricanes. We were left with no place to get out of the kayaks so we rested while floating in an eddy behind some fallen trees at the mouth of the Cashie. By the time we arrived at Otter One, we were anxious to get out of the boats.

By foregoing a mid-day trip into town, we arrived earlier in the afternoon than we had planned. This gave us more time on the platform than we were accustomed to and a sort of “what do we do now” kind of experience. After a short nap, I opted to fish, and Steve paddled off to a nearby eagles’ nest before we cooked dinner.

Three’s a Charm

On our third trip to the backwaters, we were able to recruit two others to join us. Launching from a private ramp at the River’s Edge Restaurant in Jamesville, we paddled three miles up river to the Barred Owl platform. Barred Owl was the first camping platform, and it has one of the most beautiful settings as it stands over the water at the end of a long creek.

That night we were blessed with a clear night, a full moon and a leafless tree canopy. The sound of fish feeding on the surface and hoots of the neighboring barred owls filled the night and left us thinking, “Camping doesn’t get any better than this!”

Saturday’s treat was to return to Jamesville and lunch at the Cypress Grill. It is widely known for its fried herring that were once abundant in the Roanoke River. The Grill is a quaint riverside shack of a place with friendly folk, homemade pies and numerous other fried fish entrées. The Grill is a seasonal restaurant and it’s only open from January to April.

After an abundant lunch of fish and pie, we paddled nine miles to Three Sisters, which was typical of other platforms with its small dock and walkway leading back to a raised platform in the trees. A few platforms have near water level piers but most require the paddler to climb out the kayak onto a dock about one foot above the water.

We completed this trip by completing a circle back to Jamesville via Cut Cypress Creek. This route completes a short cut across the top of a “V” formed by the Roanoke River as it flows past Jamesville. The creek is a scenic passage through a tree canopy until it reconnects with the Roanoke.

roanoke river trail packing kayak

The art & craft of platform camping
photo courtesy of Tom Carmine

Packing a kayak for camping is like packing a backpack. The stuff has got to fit, and the weight has got to be properly distributed. Since we were not taking canoes, there was no place for coolers and lawn chairs.

For the most part, these paddle trips are without too much technical challenge but our trips have not been without some memorable moments. On our first trip we learned that even a small river like the Roanoke could quickly whip up some waves when driven by 15 mph winds. Cut Cypress Creek runs a small but steady current from west to east, which makes it difficult to maneuver long sea kayaks around fallen and submerged trees. One in our group twice learned that you don’t limbo too far to one side when passing under fallen trees across a creek. And finally, in emergencies, help is generally reachable by cell phone or by other boaters during the day. However, always be well prepared and plan accordingly.

After three trips, I can say that the logistics for camping on these platforms are easy. They are simple to reserve, and there are so many options for short or long paddle trips.  The platforms average around 400 square feet. They provide posts for stringing tarps or hammocks, and they have a private area for your own portable privy. Summer campers report that bug spray is a must, but cooler weather campers can enjoy bug free nights. For more information, to make online reservations, or link to other camping platforms in the region visit Roanoke River Partners website at www.roanokeriverpartners.org.

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