Lifestyle, Travel

The Best Breweries of the Triangle: Raleigh, Cary and Durham Breweries

Brewery hopping is kind of our thing.

Brett and I both love craft beer, love the chill atmosphere, and love seeing what other cities have to offer. When planning out first trip away from our little girl, we knew we wanted to pick a city relatively close to explore and narrowed it down to Charlotte and Raleigh, as we’ve been to Asheville quite a few times already and we wanted a city with lots of brew options to pick from! With family in Charlotte and the chance to visit there often, this gave us the perfect opportunity to choose the Triangle Area breweries to finally visit!

We were SUPER ambitious – we went to 20 breweries in one weekend😳. The trick – stick with flights everywhere you go! Now that we have a good feel for them, next time we’ll definitely be more selective. I loved having so many of you follow along on our hopping on Instagram!

For reference, both Brett and I love IPAs. I like the darker beers and the fruitier sours, while Brett is a big sour fan. I also love ciders. Neither one of us are huge fans (though Brett can sometimes enjoy them) of lagers, blonde ales, or generally lighter beers, so my reviews are definitely biased toward that! You can also friend me on Untapped – we rate all that we try! I have most of these saved as a highlight on my Instagram, as well!

Durham Breweries

We visited a few Durham breweries pre-baby, and I shared my thoughts on those in this post. It includes Clouds, Durty Bull, and Fullsteam. We really enjoyed Durty Bull and Fullsteam but always like to go to new breweries if there are others we haven’t explored yet! We weren’t impressed with Clouds🤷🏼‍♀️.

Ponysaurus Brewing Co
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Not going to lie, the name is what made us want to go here the most! From the outside looking in, their location is awesome. They’ve got a covered porch and an upstairs deck for lots of outdoor seating. They had a food truck, and a decently sized taproom as well. Ponysaurus did not do flights, so we both ordered IPAs (their original IPA and the Summer IPA) and really enjoyed both. They also had friendly bartenders, which always factors in for me.

One thing that caught me off guard was a sign posted out front- it encouraged families to bring children, but cautioned them that it is an adult space first and foremost and requested that the children not be disruptive. While I understand and appreciate that sign 100%, I wouldn’t take Scarlett there because of it. Scarlett is a wanderer, she makes friends everywhere and can’t sit still. I would be paranoid about bringing her there for that very reason. We love breweries because they are kid-friendly, and I would rather go to one that I’m not worried about encroaching on someone else’s kid-free time. However, we did see quite a few babies while there! I would just be that paranoid mom🤷🏼‍♀️

Bull City Ciderworks

If you like ciders, this is a MUST GO! They also had a food truck, outdoor and indoor seating, and quite the crowd. It was a happening place. I had my #1 favorite cider EVER while there, the Mo-jito. I have already searched online to see if I could get it anywhere close by, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a seasonal selection. A lot of other local breweries carried ciders from here, and we tried a few others during our trip. I loved them all. This place clearly does ciders well! They also had LOADS of games for people to play. If this was in Boone, I could see us bringing the kids here often and spending a few hours hanging out.

Bull Durham Beer Co.

Ok, so this one only partially counts. It technically is a part of the Durham Bulls organization/stadium, and there was no actual brewery location. There were two spots in the stadium that sold the beer, and the beer was standard. We got the Kolsch and Amber, and as far as those go, they were decent. Easy summer drinking. Worth getting if you’re going to a game to check it off your list, but we didn’t get more than one.

Other Durham Breweries not mentioned: The Glass Jug Beer Lab, Starpoint Brewing, Barrel Culture Brewing and Blending, Hi Wire Golden Belt (division of the Asheville brewery)

Cary Breweries

This was a very pleasant surprise for us! We originally hadn’t planned on going to any Cary breweries, but on a whim decided to go. We make our best decisions that way, and ended up really enjoying the 4 we went to. They were all SO different. Cary is doing well on the brewery scene!

Bond Brothers Brewing Co

This was one of Brett’s Favorites. We both really liked the location- SO MUCH outdoor seating in the cutest little patio. The indoor space was nice as well. They didn’t offer flights which is a bummer, because I would have liked to try more. I didn’t love my NE IPA (Potential Differences Bond Version), but Brett did. I did like the Chatham Street Stop gose, though! We’d go back here for the atmosphere alone I think, and they did have a food truck too! It’d be fun to see this one at night.

Fortnight Brewing
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Ok, this was probably our favorite experience out of all of them. First, I’ve never been to a brewery quite like this. They take the whole medieval/British theme and they rock it! It reminded me of something like the billiards room at the Biltmore😂. They had sofas, tables, bar seats, all that jazz… but no outdoor seating. They are opening a taproom soon, and I took a peak in there too. It’s got a London Subway vibe and looks like it’ll be awesome! This brewery had the best clientele, and I know that’s completely luck of the draw. They only had a few Fortnight beers on tap, and we tried the Karma Chameleon (a sour I didn’t love), All You Need is Hops (IPA- loved), and Pendragon Porter (great porter!). We’d go back just because we had a great time, and ended up purchasing some beer to take home.

Jordan Lake Brewing Company

Ok, so this was an interesting one. Brett and I visited it immediately after Bond and they had COMPLETELY different vibes. This one felt like more of an older crowd. I will say, the workers here were the absolute nicest! The beer was decent. We had the Tropical Wit, which was a decent Wit, Day Sailer (Session IPA), which I didn’t love but I’m not a Session IPA fan, Nova Anglia (NE IPA- great!), and the Crosswinds IPA- decent. I wish we liked the atmosphere or beers a little more, because the people were the sweetest.

Cotton House Craft Brewers
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This Cary brewery might just be the neatest idea for a brewery ever. It’s a LITERAL HOUSE. And it’s as charming and precious as you’d expect a house to be close to downtown Cary. Each room has either sofas, tables, or both, and they have outdoor seating as well. I wish Boone had a brewery like this, it’s a must visit if you’re in that area! We had the Juicy IPA, Pineapple Milkshake IPA, Cherry Limeade Gose and Orange Cream Wit. All of their beers had a ton of flavor, and I loved both the Pineapple Milkshake IPA (enough to order a whole glass) and the Wit. I’d definitely go back here!!! If you’re looking for a good Triangle area brewery, I’d put this one very high on your list!

Raleigh Breweries

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This was the main purpose of our trip- explore the Raleigh Breweries. Y’all, there are a TON of breweries in Raleigh, which surprised me! Asheville is known for it, and Charlotte has a great beer scene, but Raleigh definitely held their own. To be honest, we probably went to too many😂. We didn’t have too much to drink, but we could have enjoyed some of them a little more. I also would have loved to see the Raleigh ones during the day as many did not have big crowds at all at night!

I should note, the brewery recommended to us the most was Brewery Bhavana, and we didn’t make it there. We had lunch reservations, but opted to drive to Cary instead for the earlier part of the afternoon. We’re glad we did that just because it worked for us – it was more our scene and allowed for more flexibility. We’ve heard great things, though, and I feel like I should include it in this list anyway!

Gizmo Brew Works
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Gizmo Brew Works was one of the first we went to, and we easily could have gone back. They do flights of 6, and Brett and I loved just about EVERY beer we tried! Rarely does that happen – Gizmo ranks up there with top breweries I’ve visited period based on beer I liked. It’s big time off the beaten path, but they had both outdoor and indoor seating. I bet it’d be a neat atmosphere if you didn’t go right after it opened on a Friday ha. Deep Blue Blueberry Saison was amazing, Born To Bee (sour) was amazing, Mad Queen (IPA) was amazing, Blood Orange Milkshake IPA was amazing. Fake News (NE IPA) was good, Stoppage Time was ok (Session IPA- again not my favorite kind). I’d put this first on my list to go back to when we head down to Raleigh again for the beer alone.

Lonerider Brewing Company

I’m always skeptical to visit big breweries, but Lonerider does the whole “western” theme well. Most Lonerider beers you can get at local grocery stores. We had the Hoppy Ki Yay, Addies Revenge, The Hops you Rode in On, and Lonerider Innovation #5, which was a lime beer and probably my favorite of them all. They were all average. This would be a fun place if they had a band or something going on outside – lots of space and seating. We went in the middle of the day, and there were a lot of people working on laptops at tables, which is always cool to see people hanging out for things like that.

Raleigh Brewing Company

Raleigh Brewing Company came highly recommended to us! We enjoyed it enough, but I honestly expected to enjoy it a teensy bit more. It didn’t stand out as much as I thought it would, if that makes sense. It had a really good atmosphere and a pretty good sized crowd, too. Both outdoor and indoor seating, and I believe there was a food truck. We had the Coffee Hidden Pipe Porter, huge on the coffee taste, the First Squeeze, The House of Clay IPA, and the Not Another IPA (NE). I loved the Not Another and enjoyed the House of Clay as well. We’d probably visit here a good bit if we lived in town, and this is one I’d want to spend a little more time enjoying instead of making it such a brief pitstop. I believe it’s owned by a female veteran, so that definitely gets it some bonus points.

Trophy Brewing Company
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Trophy Brewing was another Raleigh brewery that was recommended a ton. It was slightly confusing at first, as it has 3 locations – a taproom, a pizza restaurant, and a tap and table restaurant. We went to the pizza restaurant as our dinner stop. We tried their signature Trophy Wife (session IPA we liked) and Trophy Husband (wit that was ok) beers. Also had the Cucumber Mint Loner and Sunflower Fields Forever, decent sours, Over my Helment, an ok Black IPA, and Still Touring, another decent IPA. This place was PACKED – we had one seat at the bar for most the time, and Brett just stood behind me. Majorly crowded. The pizza was pretty good, the beer was pretty good. I’d love to try the other restaurant – I think it would have been a little more my taste!

Crank Arm Brewing Company

We loved Crank Arm! The flight is 5 beers and we really liked most we tried! Rickshaw (rye IPA) was great, as was the West Coast Break (American IPA), Leadout (NE IPA), and Saturday Morning (NE IPA). I didn’t love the Blutbiken, (hefeweizen) or the Peloton Belgian IPA. This was a happenin’ place! Lots of people, kids too. Parking could be hard but we lucked out and got a spot in their lot. We enjoyed the atmosphere a ton, and even made friends there. We’d go back to this one for sure! Out of all the Raleigh breweries we went to at night, this one had the most happening scene.

Neuse River Brewing Company

This one has so much potential! I think they’re transitioning into a restaurant as well and I so hope it does well. It almost felt like a beach vibe to us. We were there on a Saturday night around 8ish and it was fairly empty. Many of the beers were higher alcohol levels than we wanted by that point in the day, so we got the two they had that we did want to try – Vienna Lager, which was a average lager, and then the Saturday Morning NE IPA, which was a pretty good IPA.

Nickelpoint Brewing Company

Nickelpoint Brewing had a pretty cool location – they had a double decker bus you could sit in if you so chose! They had outdoor and indoor seating. The bar itself wasn’t the best place to sit, though. We tried the Blackberry Wheat (I was hoping for more), God Save the Queen (IPA, pretty good), Chocolate Like It’s Hot (Stout, pretty good), and Pacific Plunge (America IPA, again pretty good). There beers were decent, and the experience has potential. If we were local, we’d probably come back. It looks like they have live music often; I wish we had gotten to hear some!

Neuse River and Nickelpoint are right next-door to each other! However, for a Saturday night, they didn’t have huge crowds. They both have room for growth, and we’d like to go back and check them out at a time when they’re busy to really get the full experience. They could easily be big hits with a few tweaks, and I’m surprised they didn’t draw a bigger crowd.

Funguys Brewing

Funguys Brewing had some of our favorite beer of the trip, but not the best location. For real, though, the sours here were some of the best I’ve ever had. They had like a collection of smoothie sours and they were de-li-cious! The Sandbox Kid NE IPA was great, and their Baby Face Brewa wheat was pretty good! It’s run by a husband and wife duo that do most of the work themselves, and we chatted with the wife a good bit. We’d go back for sure for the beer.

Big Boss Brewing Company

So we were actually told to skip Big Boss, but I’m glad we went! Big Boss, like Lonerider, is big-time distributed, and their beer was some of the first I ever liked. They had a ton of hoppy options on tap, so much so that we got two flights. We loved the Rubys Raider (milkshake IPA), Devils Darling (red IPA), High Roller with Orange Peel (American IPA), and Stratafortress (American IPA). The beer wasn’t super cold, which is a huge letdown because good beer needs to be COLD. It was also fairly empty for a Saturday night. Maybe I’m just used to Boone Breweries which stay decently crowded on the weekends, I don’t know! We probably wouldn’t go back, just because it isn’t a small scale brewery, but we did really enjoy the IPAs and options

Lynnwood Brewing Concern

This is another that has both a brewery and a restaurant, and while we went to the brewery, I’d love to check out the restaurant too! It had one of the best atmospheres of the ones we visited Saturday night. We tried the Lift Off NC (Session IPA) and the Wye Hill Collab Red IPA, and they were both decent but not our favorites.

Other Raleigh breweries not mentioned: Compass Rose, Burial (divisions of the Asheville breweries), Little City, Tobacco Road, Brice’s Brewing Co

Writing this just makes me want to go back to them all – we were truly impressed with what the Triangle area had to offer! Let me know your favorites, or ones we should check out next time as well!

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