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.
One of the best times of day at Horizon Cellars is dusk. That's when guests out on the covered deck can relax with a glass of wine and watch the setting sun turn the clouds over the Mount Vernon Springs ridge line a soft pink. On weekends, guests can bring a picnic basket and blanket to the winery and sip everything from sweet plum wines to mellow white wines while playing fetch or Monopoly with the dog.
Inside the tasting room, which is located atop a rolling ridge, guests sample Horizon's wines and meads. Its meads are similar to its wines, but are made with honey from Horizon's bee farm instead of grapes. The winery's tasting menus change depending on season and availability, so Horizon recommends that visitors call ahead for a listing of that day's wines.
The Adams family has farmed the land of Adams Vineyards for eight generations. Years ago, though, they replaced the leafy tobacco plants they'd grown for decades with fruit trees and twining muscadine grapevines. Quincy Adams uses blueberries, peaches, apples, pears, and blackberries to make wine. Visitors can pair sips of those varietals with hors d'oeuvres such as Boar's Head cheese or chocolates handcrafted by Quincy's mother, Joyce. At the end of each summer, the family hosts a Grape Stomp Festival, where guests of all ages can participate in the timeless juicing method.
Olive walls flank White Rabbit Brewing Company's taproom, a simple space with a polished wooden bar and a tabletop supported by kegs instead of traditional human legs. On Friday and Saturday evenings, bartenders pour pints and four-ounce samples of the brewery's ales and lagers, which borrow their titles and labels from Alice in Wonderland characters. There's the Double Trouble Belgian Dubbel, a malty, medium-bodied brew, and the Cheshire's Pumpkin Ale, a spiced, light-bodied brew with an "almost cidery" mouthfeel, according to the brewers.
Spread across Lu Mil Vineyard's 58 acres are an antique museum, a handful of cabins for overnight stays, a tasting room, and of course grapevines. Rows upon rows of sweet muscadine grapes are cultivated at the farm, named for its late owners, Lucille and Miller Taylor. In addition to producing a suite of wines, Lu Mil sells a selection of house-made jellies, jams, and NASA-engineered spittoons.
Since 2005, the award-winning Cypress Bend Vineyards has harnessed the rich flavors and antioxidants found in the muscadine grape. The wonder fruit has resulted in the creation of wine varietals including 13 Muscadine, one Cabernet Franc, and one Malbec. Cypress Bend's winemaker leads tours through the vineyards to detail each step of this process, from grape plucking and fermentation to monitoring each grape's 401K as it ages. The flourishing soil also plays home to live events throughout the year, such as Friday-night jazz or beach music concerts.