Beer Tour of Wilmington: The Blind Elephant

It’s not often I stray from beer or wine. Cocktails, while delicious, are expensive outside the home. And in the home I am lazy. I want the instant gratification I can receive of pouring a glass of wine or opening a beer. No glass needed there.

But sometimes you feel fancy. Sometimes you are on a lady date with a friend who had free passes to a film festival (Cucalorus). Sometimes you are extremely pleased with the movie you chose (It Had to be You– not yet sold for distribution) and would recommend it to anyone. So then you need a cocktail. Right? To celebrate?

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Finding The Blind Elephant is simple but requires more effort than most. You’ll need to peek down the alley way beside Front St. Brewery to catch a glimpse of the simple sign hanging under a single spotlight. It’s members only but you can join at the door (no fee) or come as someone’s guest.

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It was a packed house Saturday night and it was a struggle to get a drink. We both selected Farenheit 451 which sounded sweet, sour and firey.  A Farenheit 451 is made with Lunazul Blanco Tequila, homemade ginger beer, cayenne pepper simple syrup, fresh grapefruit, lemon and orange juice. It did not disappoint. To keep it cold and refreshing a perfect sphere of ice floats and spins as you sip away.

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There were old movies playing on two different screens (no sound) and an awesome upstairs loft area. Big comfy leather couches let you sink in and encourage you to stay a while.

The down side is the prices will not. Shelling out $9 for a cocktail that’s mainly ice will remain a treat not a regular choice. On the bright side they had a few beers on tap and a good wine selection to help you once you’ve spent all your cocktail dollars. I’d probably come on a night when it wasn’t so busy but I’d definitely come back.

 

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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!

Beer Tour of Wilmington: Goat and Compass

This stop was badly needed. It was after a shockingly bad day at work that we set out for a beer. We went to the nearest place we could.

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From the outside Goat and Compass looks like an English pub. Once inside it seems more like a neighborhood dive bar. I don’t say that in a bad way. It was small, a little dark and very casual. The beer selection told a different story. The draft and canned selection had plenty of local, craft beers. It was more than enough to please all of tastes (some like it light, some like it floral and some like it hoppy!).

Music started about an hour into our visit and was pretty pleasant. It wasn’t loud enough to drown out our conversation but added nicely to the atmosphere. We were too caught up in our work drama to think to check out the outside beer garden but I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to do so next time! Plus Goat and Compass offers open mic nights and a corn hole league in addition to its live music nights so it’s pretty much got something for everyone.