Deep in the Umstead Industrial Park, something stirs. Amid the clank of modern machinery, a group of workers busy themselves with one of the world's oldest crafts: brewing. At Gizmo Brew Works, this meeting of contemporary technology and ancient know-how produces a tempting slate of small-batch beers. Inside tanks that hold the equivalent of 1,000 pints each, brewers prep favorites including the smooth and sweet Black Stiletto Stout and the complex Palisade Wasp India Pale Ale with the same care that has earned many of their past beers medals at the Carolina Championship of Beer. They also save room for seasonals, carefully adding a sweet caramel flavor and spicy Noble hops to their altbier, which they serve in a traditional stange glass or a large mug in celebration of Oktoberfest. These beers and more make frequent appearances in the brewery's taproom, gracing pint glasses for impromptu toasts or filling up growlers for at-home sips. Never ones to shy away from curious guests, brewers also open up their facility for Saturday tours, walking groups through the beer-making process during 30-minute explorations.
A fortnight is an English term for a period of two weeks, which is coincidentally the amount of time needed for an ale to age to full maturity. In England, the beer often spends that time in casks. It's these principles that inspire the name and techniques of Fortnight Brewing Company, whose cask and keg ales?made in the English tradition?are rich yet balanced in flavor. The founding brewers, who hail from the US and the UK, use English malts and hops to craft four main beers: an English Ale, a Porter, an ESB, and a Blonde Ale. Special seasonal releases experiment with flavors and tours give visitors a closer look at the exotic brewing process.
Lonerider Brewing Company favors old-school quality over the latest trends in its work and takes its cue from the Wild West. The result is a selection of award-winning beers, which include Shotgun Betty hefeweizen, Sweet Josie brown ale, and Peacemaker pale ale, along with various outlawed and most-wanted brews. Not ones to rest on their laurels, the brewery's team is also on the lookout for new beers. That's why homebrewers compete for the opportunity to craft their creations at Lonerider during the brewery's annual Brew It Forward, which invites all beers?the good, the bad, and the ugly?but rarely hands out awards for the second two.
Railhouse Brewery founders Mike Ratkowski and Brian Evitts both did stints in the armed forces before they met while working the same job. The two shared an interest in the effervescent qualities of a good beer, and in 2009, they turned that passion into a business. Brian, a homebrewer for 20 years, oversees the production of the company's five main beers?oatmeal stout, brown ale, pale ale, honey wheat, and barley wine?and Mike handles operations, sales, and the number of bottles of beer on the wall. Together, they help bring Railhouse brews to 14 restaurants and bars in the Sandhills.
The Railhouse Brewery also frequently hosts concerts and festivals, and holds cornhole tournaments every Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, check out the event page or send a pack of investigative hops to visit the brewery.
After Dustin Canestorp returned home from his tour of duty in Iraq, he and his Marine Corps buddies would gather to play poker and sample the beer Canestorp brewed at home. His dream: to brew beer professionally by opening a microbrewery in eastern North Carolina, a beach-filled haven with a craft-beer desert. That dream came to fruition, though with one additional element: Beer Army would raise funds for local charities and communities. Now, Canestorp holds festivals that introduce revelers to local and regional craft beers while gathering money for those in need. He also runs the brewery, which currently pours four of its own brews, and manages the Beer Army Outpost, a 3,000-square-foot store with a plethora of craft brews for purchase.