Beer Tour of Wilmington: Waterline Brewing Company

Y’all, is there anything more exciting than a new brewery opening in town?

If you think there is, feel free to stop reading. You’re probably not going to be that interested in what I have to say.

There’s a new brewery in town! I have been waiting for this day for quite some time. A couple months ago my coworker informed me that her husband was doing some work (he’s a contractor) on a brewery set to open up before the end of the year. I immediately started driving around trying to find it. Okay, not immediately. I waited until work was over.

Walking into the building was a little confusing. We walked into the Art Factory entrance by accident and weaved through aisles of baskets and small handcrafted goods until we found ourselves among a furniture collection. It was there I realized the line between brewery and the Art Factory was very blurred. You might get your beer from the bar and take to a table you’ll consider purchasing. It seems like a great business plan. The more beers sold, the more gifts sold.

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The brewery area is fantastic. Exposed brick walls lead your eye to rough cut pine ceilings and beams. Their colorful, retroWaterline Brewing taps have a fun, upbeat feel anchored at the other end by their sleek, guest tap companions. The bar area is bright and cheerful, offering an atmosphere that lends itself to afternoon drinking rather than a late-night last call destination.

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There’s quite a few tables inside but there’s picnic tables outside for the drinker that prefers sunshine with their beer. With corn hole, kan jam, tables-a-plenty and hopefully more food trucks (loved that 2 Bros Coastal Cuisine!), it’s a pretty good spot to soak in the afternoon sun.

Okay, the most important part. My drinking companions and I were all concerned this would be Ironclad 2.0: beautiful location but lackluster beer. Breathe easy friends. The beer is good. It’s not change your life good, but it is refreshing and tasty. During our time there yesterday, they were offering their Red Ale, Oatmeal Stout, IPA, Pale Ale and Kolsch. The verdict:

The Red Ale is not too hoppy, like “running into an old friend”. (I asked my companion for this description. She may have been a little buzzed.)

Oatmeal Stout was rich without being heavy. It was not sweet and contained a deep roast flavor.

I’d describe the IPA as easy drinking. It was hoppy without being overwhelming and not particularly distinct in hops or notes. Very smooth.

The Pale Ale was also very easy to drink- perhaps a little too easy. It lacked much body or distinction.

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A beautiful, easy to drink IPA

Unfortunately no one at my table tried the Kolsch or the Tripel which was offered later in the day. We were running out of sobriety and needed to call it quits.

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The grand opening was packed and fun for everyone. Live music, food trucks, a beautiful day and cold beer! They could have used a couple extra bartenders but it was their grand opening- would you expect anything less? I look forward to coming back for more!

Annual Christmas Present Panic: Balancing Thoughtful Gifts with My Budget

On November 1st I felt the annual panic. Lighted wreaths appeared on the telephone polls outside the wine shop. Target’s Christmas light selection appeared behind the newly discounted candy. We are moments away from hearing the Nutcracker theme on the speakers in every mall, post office and dentist office.

What does this all mean? As a overly zealous planner, it means I need to know what I’m doing for Christmas gifts. Every year I try to balance three key issues:

  1. The Budget- I don’t have a large budget for Christmas gifts, but I love elaborate gifts. There is no logical reason for this but I am always concerned about my gift “not being enough”. Nor can I resist purchasing “the perfect gift” when I come across it.
  2. Homemade- Trying to keep my budget low goes hand in hand with making homemade gifts. The problem with homemade gifts is unless you’re especially gifted (get it?!) you may find that yourself staying up late at night working on overly intricate hand-embroidered items or making gifts that you’re not sure anyone actually wants.
  3. Materialism- Why are we stressing ourselves out over gifts when there are so many people who don’t have anything? Do you actually need anything this Christmas? Are the gifts you’re giving contributing to the closets of the one you love or are they things they will appreciate? There is so much excess in our country. I don’t have any desire to contribute to it more than I already do.

I truly love to give gifts. I don’t always succeed in giving personal, thoughtful gifts but I always try and I like the process. None of this would bother me if I didn’t.

This year (as I do every year) I’ll be doing my best to only give homemade/handmade, local gifts or immaterial gifts. We’ll see if I can do it! I’ll be sharing ideas for you to do the same if it appeals to you. Here’s last year’s Christmas gifts if you need some ideas to get you started!

Beer Tour of Wilmington: Le Catalan

Sometimes on rare occasions I make wild and crazy suggestions like, “Instead of drinking tonight, let’s take a walk.” This is always met with enthusiasm for making our lifestyles more healthy but when five o’clock rolls around…we have a problem. We want to be healthier, exercise more and still have a glass of wine.

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In this situation, just walk to the wine. Wilmington’s downtown river walk is perfect for this. From my work’s parking lot, it’s not quite a mile along the water to Le Catalan. In the evening if the humidity is kind and the breeze generous, it’s a really pleasant scenic trip. I try to spend as much time as I can near downtown’s best feature.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at Le Catalan. I’m always skeptical of restaurants on the river as it is a prime spot for tourists. Will it be overpriced and less than tasty? Le Catalan was exactly what the doctor ordered. With the sun setting and the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge in view, the outdoor patio was perfect. A little warm at times before the sun finally dropped below the tree line but the dining area is covered so it’s not intolerable, but there’s an indoor area for those who prefer not to sweat a little.

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The wine wasn’t cheap but the prices were comparable to anywhere else in town. More importantly the server was knowledgable but didn’t scoff when we couldn’t pronounce anything correctly. Lots of pointing.

The only downside of the evening is we had worn our workout clothes to what turned out to be a very cute cafe. In addition as we were finishing up our glasses, a 5k was going on and the participants passed us. They and we were all in our company’s workout gear which made us look like enormous slackers. On the other hand wine enabled us to cheer very enthusiastically.

Beer Tour of Wilmington: Wilmington Brewing Company

This place is my favorite. Well, if not my favorite it’s in my top three. Really, like the only thing that works against is it doesn’t serve food.

Reasons why Wilmington Brewing Company is completely awesome:

  1. It sells brewing supplies. You may not care but I do. The store set up is pretty easy to navigate but if you’re a beginner or in need some guidance, the staff is very friendly. We haven’t been brewing much here lately but we’ve gotten a lot of help in the past there and made a lot of good beers.
  2. Their beers are delicious. This is not the place to take your friend who “kind of likes beer” and will order wine or a mixed drink at the first chance he/she gets. They serve beer. Beer they made themselves. Only beer they made themselves. Light ones, dark ones, hoppy ones, tasty ones. You can drink them there or get your beer to go. Try a crowler. It’s a 32 oz can of beer. Yes, you should share it.
  3. It may look like a tiny bar but go past the bathrooms and you’ll discover another world. A world of giant Jenga and cornhole in an open warehouse. If you don’t feel like being inside, head to the picnic tables. You can admire the hops growing on the vines while you sip your tasty beverage.
  4. The people that own it are UNC Asheville alums. Go Bulldogs! (It’s not very often I can say that, so I have to take advantage.)

Truly, I have nothing negative to say about Wilmington Brewing Supply. I will go there any day with you. Just ask me.

Beer Tour of Wilmington: Paddy’s Hollow

If you were to follow along on this beer tour and thought, “I need a week off. I’m going to skip one place.” Skip this one.

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I hesitate to say this but… not a very impressive place. Paddy’s Hollow is reasonably cool looking inside although heavy on the Irish cheesiness. The service was fantastic! I really cannot say enough good things about the service. The bartender was our server and in addition to being incredibly attentive (but not overly so) she also gave my friend a new beer when she simply didn’t like the one she had chosen. No one ever does that. That’s fantastic.

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We only ordered a couple appetizers- a sampler platter and a spin dip- but they were pretty bland and there wasn’t much to them. We finished them off pretty quickly.

Of course, the company was great so a good time was had by all and maybe we didn’t try the right thing but Paddy’s Hollow wouldn’t make my list of recommendations to a visitor to Wilmington currently.

Beer Tour of Wilmington: Copper Penny

Sometimes you have big aspirations of taking an out-of-towner to try the best beer Wilmington can offer. And sometimes a torrential downpour and half-price bottles of wine lead you somewhere very close by- the Copper Penny.

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I have to admit something. I did not think I was going to like this place. From the outside it reminded me of… basically any pub/bar on Sixth Street in Austin, Texas. I don’t mean that it looked like a place that someone would have a bachelorette party at or where trashy frat boys would throw up there. It just looked generic.

I readily admit that I was wrong. The half price wine we bought? Absolutely delicious. The service? Our server checked on us regularly and was very friendly. The atmosphere? Dark and cave like. It was perfect for the non-stop storming outside. The food? We shared spin dip and nachos which was fine although not anything to write home about. It was ample food for a good price. I’ve heard their wings are fantastic so that’ll be next time!

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Overall Copper Penny ranked pretty high in the Beer Tour of Wilmington!

Beer Tour of Wilmington: Wilmington Wine

Um, beer tour got a little confused and ended up a wine night instead. If you’re going to have this happen, Wilmington Wine is the best place for it. You might not see it at first glance. It’s nestled in with all the cutie antique and art stores on Castle St. We stopped by on a Friday just as the free wine tasting began (as it does every Friday). It was pretty packed in the tasting area so we sampled for only a short while before heading to the back porch to drink our wine in the cool shade.

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My favorite part of the wine tasting (other than the free part) is the atmosphere. Everyone is incredibly friendly and chatty in the shop, making room for one another and making suggestions. It felt very welcoming, but when you’re ready to dive into a deep and meaningful conversation with your companions the patio outside is cute and shaded.

This is one of my favorite places to share a bottle of wine. There’s not many places you share a $10 bottle of wine at the establishment. When you bring a friend with you (or more) it is very reasonable.

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This was my second time at Wilmington Wine and I can’t say enough good things about it!