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You know Wilmington, North Carolina is the perfect craft beer destination since CraftBeer.com named it one of “America’s Beeriest Beach Towns.” Plus Untappd (an app allowing users to check-in, rate and share as they drink beers) is headquartered in Wilmington, North Carolina (follow me on Untappd as @ Common Traveler). These were sure signs that Wilmington is a craft beer aficionado’s dream destination.
A short two-and-a-half hour drive from Durham, Wilmington is an easy getaway. It is also only a one-and-a-half hour drive from I-95 for visitors traveling along the Eastern seaboard. Wilmington is a popular summer destination. Those who prefer to avoid the summer crowds will find it the perfect off-season getaway.
I prefer cities where you can walk from one brewery to another – and Wilmington fits that bill. Please pace yourselves! I visited all of these over multiple trips but this may give you some ideas on which appeal to you and which you may want to skip. Click on the brewery names to be connected to their website.
PRO TIP: Find lodging near Front Street for ease of access and so that you won’t have to drive from place to place after sampling some delicious North Carolina craft brews.
Plan your itinerary headed in one direction (I’ve listed these from south to north), though food offerings and tastes may also influence which brewery you want to visit at a specific time.
721 Surry Street
Located in a historic 1940s warehouse under the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, Waterline brewery pays homage to the history of the building and its local roots. I visited during a coffee crawl (which, as a coffee lover, I must now attend next year!) so the place was crowded. The brewery offers six flagship ales: Kolsch, Pale, Red, classic IPA, Oatmeal Stout and Tripel. Special and limited edition offerings complete the full range of flavors, including gose, black IPA, and Hefeweizen. With my love of coffee and beer, the Coffee and Cream was one of my favorites. This lively place is a great meeting place for large groups and families.
116 Dock Street
Flavors at New Anthem Beer Project steer heavily towards the hoppy and the dark. Names of the beer make popular references, like Hold My Beer, Throwing Shade, and Daddy Issues. With a beer philosophy of “push on the edges every time from both the inside and outside,” New Anthem’s beer is constantly evolving. You’ll notice this with nuanced changes from one beer to the next due to subtle recipe adjustments. This laid back brewery is a great hangout with your friends. With expansion plans to move their brewhouse while maintaining the taproom, look forward to even more excellence from New Anthem.
9 N. Front Street
Front Street Brewery, Wilmington’s original brewery and restaurant, was founded in 1995 and has kept its award-winning beer flowing ever since! The brewpub took home nine medals during the Carolina Championship for Beer in 2018 for its Amberjack ESB, Port City IPA, Slainte Irish Red, Afterglow Vienna Lager, Spring Brew, Coastal Kolsch, Sinful Stout, Papa Don’t Peach Sour and Henry Helles Boch. Swing by for an afternoon tour and tasting or stop in for a late-night snack and craft beer nightcap – the restaurant serves a full menu until midnight. I enjoyed lunch and a beer flight as it was a perfect starting point for the adventure. Because it is open late and has food, it is also a perfect ending point for your brewery adventure.
319 Walnut Street
Flytrap Brewing pays homage to the Venus flytrap, a carnivorous plant whose only native habitat in the world can be found within a 60-mile radius of Wilmington and can be seen in the wild a short drive away at Carolina Beach State Park or at Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden. The brewery specializes in American and Belgian-style ales with a constantly rotating draft list. The facility educates visitors about the Venus flytrap, its shrinking habitats and ways to protect the plant from extinction. Located in Wilmington’s Brooklyn Arts District, Flytrap is not only a brewery but also a place where locals and visitors meet and mingle, artists display their works and live music can be heard every weekend. Food trucks are parked outside the brewery every Friday and Saturday. I found the airy beach decor a breath of fresh air.
604 N. 4th Street
Located inside a 111-year old historic firehouse in Wilmington’s Brooklyn Arts District, Edward Teach Brewing features a two-story ship-shaped bar with eight craft beers on tap, including the Three Sheets Double Wit, Cutlass German Lager, Devil’s Son IPA and Peg Leg Chocolate Porter. The brewery’s name is a nod to the infamous pirate Blackbeard, whose real name was Edward Teach, that frequented the shores of North Carolina. To find Edward Teach Brewing, look for the flag Blackbeard flew over the Queen Anne’s Revenge at the door. Argh, Matey! Definitely the most unique brewery in the area.
115 N. 2nd Street
One of the more swoon-worthy breweries in Wilmington, it is easy to see why Ironclad Brewing has transformed into an event space, booked almost every weekend of the year for weddings and other special events. The revitalized historic building from 1925 houses a brewery and event space. The brewery’s name refers to the Ironclad class of ships hand-forged in Wilmington’s shipyard during the Civil War. Ironclad serves at least 14 beers ranging from lagers, pale ales, wheat beers, to stouts, so that there is something for every preference. In addition to their beers, Ironclad offers wine, liquor and soda options.
Looking for something else to do in the area? Consider these tours:
WORTH THE RIDESHARE:
824 S. Kerr Avenue, Wilmington, NC
Starting out as a homebrew shop, it developed into a full-fledged brewery. Having attended UNC Asheville, the owners were in the thick of “Beer City USA” where their appreciation of craft beer was born. After touring some breweries in Europe and working at some facilities in Asheville, they decided to open their own place near the beach. Having just purchased a large plot of land nearby, look forward to this brewery increasing its production and hosting large events.
4238 Market Street, Wilmington, NC
If you’re looking for more of a sit-down restaurant location, Bill’s Front Porch is a good option. Limited edition and seasonal beers complement four flagship beers. Because of the large variety of beers, some are only available in cans, rather than drafts. Love tater tots? Then you’ve got an additional reason to visit Bill’s Front Porch. Order one of their skillets with tater tots covered in Poutine, Buffalo Chicken, or more traditional fully loaded (OG) and Beef Cake. The menu includes many options for those wanting a sandwich, burger, or salad and a children’s menu will make them forget that they’re in a brewing establishment.
3130 Randall Parkway, Wilmington, NC
The newest addition to the Wilmington brewing scene is Flying Machine Brewing Company. Designed with future growth in mind, this is one of the largest new breweries I have visited. Flying Machine offers two of my favorite things: craft beer and coffee. They blend the old world with the new through the use of innovative techniques. Their beer menu features a little bit of everything – sours, lagers, malty, hoppy, and many easy-drinking beers like Kolsch. On the recommendation of another patron, I thoroughly enjoyed Wolf Lord – a double New England IPA. When I say they offer coffee, I don’t mean just a cup of joe. Order cappuccinos, lattes, and espressos to your caffeine lover’s delight. Enjoy one of the nightly food trucks too.
4712 New Center Drive #100, Wilmington, NC
Billed as a brewhouse and smokehouse, Skytown offers locally crafted beer and a food menu created by Chef Stephen Durley from “Best of BBQ.” Starting as home brewers who won several awards, the owners of Beer Barrio decided to open their own brewery. With 12 beers on tap and a good menu, Skytown is a great option at mealtime. If you were a fan of orange creamsicles, try the Dreamsicle Milkshake IPA. And if you’re in the mood to try something a little different, order the deep fried sausage gravy.
6309 Boathouse Road, Unit C, Wilmington, NC
Indulging in a beer can be “good” for the environment, too. Mad Mole Brewing is Wilmington’s first solar-powered brewery. Solar panels installed on the building’s roof use the sun’s rays to power the brewery’s seven-barrel system. Take some time to enjoy the sun yourself and sip on a signature beverage like the Marilyn MonMole, Darth Mole, Boston Mole Party or Raspberry Molay in the brewery’s outdoor, dog-friendly beer garden.
While you can’t walk to these locations, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention these nearby beach breweries.
6201 Oleander Drive, Wilmington, NC
Named one of the “6 Breweries with Meals that Rival Their Beers” by Our State Magazine, Wrightsville Beach Brewery is known for its eleven different craft beer options – like the Airlie Amber Ale, Oysterman Stout, Wilmywood Wit and Waterway IPA – and for its great food – especially signature and unique items like its kimchi and fried oyster bites or shrimp-and-grits pizza. Wrightsville Beach Brewery frequently features live music events in its beer garden, free brewery tours and tastings and cask tapping as well. The brewpub not only serves delicious beers but also aims to educate customers about good environmental stewardship and contribute to the sustainability of local charities through its “Beer of the Month” program, where a different nonprofit receives proceeds from the featured beer.
811 Harper Avenue, Carolina Beach, NC
At Carolina Beach, Good Hops Brewing – a family-owned and operated small-batch brewery that is dog- and family-friendly – offers beers of all styles from golden ales to IPAs. Good Hops increased in size with new seven-barrel and 10-barrel fermenters, meaning bigger and better beer production in 2019. Don’t miss out on the Boardwalk Brown Ale, Flip Hop IPA, Donna Golden Ale or – a classic – the Good Hops Pale Ale. Plus, the 18-hole par 3 disc golf course located on the brewery’s four acres of land makes for a unique experience guests are unlikely to find elsewhere. The course is open to the public during daylight hours. Our puppy got to enjoy the relief area when he accompanied us.
RIDE IN STYLE
Like the idea of visiting several breweries but don’t want to have to drive or make decisions? Port City Brew Bus provides a worry-free tour of several local breweries where you’ll participate in the brewery tours and sample their beers. Port City Brew Bus will create a tour with your group’s interests in mind. Or choose from one of their specialty tours. The Brunch & Brews Tour hits three local breweries and features small brunch plates paired with a pint, while the Downtown & Midtown Sampler takes participants to three breweries in Wilmington to learn more about each spot’s brewing process and partake in some samples. I have not tried this tour but it sounds like a good idea.
WANT MORE HELP?
This post only includes breweries. Use the Wilmington Ale Trail, a complete guide to all things breweries, bottle shops and bars in Wilmington, to create your own personalized beer lovers itinerary. The guide also includes information about local craft beer festivals taking place throughout the year. As a beach destination, there is much more to Wilmington than its breweries, but a beer lover can certainly appreciate these while enjoying the area’s other offerings.
Once you’re in Wilmington, you’re at the southern starting point for an epic road trip to visit North Carolina’s seven lighthouses. Find out how here.
If you’re in Eastern North Carolina, why not consider a weekend getaway to Kinston, NC and eat some delicious food! If you’re traveling on I-95, find out whether the Marine Corps Museum is worth the visit.
Annick, The Common Traveler