Port City Stout Bout

Port City Stout Bout


Wilmington Ale Trail hosted a blind taste test of 16 different stouts and porters to crown local and international winners



This winter, in the hopes of discovering the most delectable dark beers in town, Wilmington Ale Trail held a blind taste test of local and globally popular stouts and porters. Seven of Wilmington’s beer professionals gathered to try 16 different beers, pitting the brews against each other to discover the best of both the local and international offerings.

The beers were judged based on the Beer Judge Certification Program and American Homebrewers Association scoresheet, on points including aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, and overall impression. The judges assessed the beers for stylistic accuracy and technical merit. Of the 16 beers, two local brews and two international stouts rose to the top.


4/3 Brewing – Milk Stout – Wilmington, NC

Browar Witnica – Black Boss Porter – Witnica, Poland

Broomtail Craft Brewery – Grande Rappe Imperial Stout – Wilmington, NC

Broomtail Craft Brewery – Rappe Imperial Stout – Wilmington, NC

Check Six Brewing Co. – Dugan’s Chocolate Stout – Southport, NC

Check Six Brewing Co. – Harley Pope Imperial Porter – Southport, NC

Flytrap Brewing – Stout – Wilmington, NC

Front Street Brewery – Tiny Tim’s Christmas Porter – Wilmington NC

Good Hops Brewing – Water Spout Stout – Carolina Beach, NC

Great Lakes Brewing – Ohio City Oatmeal Stout – Cleveland, OH

Ironclad Brewery – Teach’s Chocolate Stout – Wilmington, NC

Lagunitas Brewing Company – Imperial Stout – Petaluma, California

Samuel Smith’s Brewery – Organic Chocolate Stout – Tadcaster, United Kingdom

Westbrook Brewing Co. – Udderly Milk Stout – Mount Pleasant, SC

Wilmington Brewing Co. – Blair’s Breakfast Stout – Wilmington, NC

Wells & Young’s Double Chocolate Stout – Bedford, United Kingdom


Caleb Churchwell – owner of Bombers Bev. Co., 10+ years experience in the craft beer industry including retail and supplier, Certified Beer Server

Aaron Dowling – manager of Lighthouse Beer and Wine; degree in Brewing Technology from World Brewing Academy; six years homebrewing experience; Certified Beer Server

Mario Espinoza – manager at Fermental; former intern at Mother Earth Brewing and judge at the Lower Cape Fear Homebrew Competition; Certified Beer Server

Steve Gibbs – owner at Fermental; 15+ years experience in the beer industry from retail to wholesale; avid IPA consumer and stout collector; Certified Beer Server; draught mechanic

Jim Koebel – Associate Exam Director for the Beer Judge Certification Program and holds the rank of Grand Master beer judge; expert review for The Beer Connoisseur magazine; began enjoying good beer about a decade ago and started homebrewing shortly thereafter

Justin Lewis – attorney with Ward and Smith, P.A.; member of the Real Estate and Alcoholic Beverage Law practice groups; experience includes assisting the craft brewery, winery and distilled spirits industries in understanding and complying with the complex rules, regulations and permit obligations enforced by various federal, state, and local agencies

Mark Anthony Mueller – brewery consultant and assistant brewer with Waterline Brewing; co-owner of the Port City Brew Bus, providing weekly educational brewery tours and style tastings for Wilmington residents and tourists; a student of both beer history and styles and considers himself a craft beer evangelist


#1 LOCAL AND #1 OVERALL – Wilmington Brewing Company Blair’s Breakfast Stout

Weighing in at 7% ABV, Blair’s Breakfast Stout was described by judges as possessing a strong coffee aroma—like cold brew coffee—and a bitter, roasted finish. The appearance offered good head retention of a light brown color, while the liquid was an almost opaque black. According to the judges’ notes, the flavor also offered an undertone of berry and sweet vanilla while the mouthfeel was rich and creamy with good carbonation. Out of 50 available points, Blair’s Breakfast Stout averaged at 38.2.

#2 LOCAL – Broomtail Craft Brewery Rappe Imperial Stout

This north Wilmington brew is 7.4% ABV and was ranked by judges at 30.6 points. Notes described the beer as featuring a “nice nose” of dark fruit, which carried into the flavor profile. Judges also picked up on a lighter mouthfeel and some tobacco and brown sugar in the aroma.

#1 INTERNATIONAL – Lagunitas Brewing Company Imperial Stout

The consensus on this 9.9% ABV beer was a smoky yet sweet aroma with a bit of dark fruit, such as figs and berries. With excellent head retention, Lagunitas Imperial Stout offered plums, molasses, and smoke in the flavor, along with bitter chocolate. The creamy beer featured medium carbonation and a warm mouthfeel. The stout’s average score was 37.2.

#2 INTERNATIONAL – Samuel Smith’s Brewery Organic Chocolate Stout

The Samuel Smith’s organic version rings in at 5% ABV and earned an average of 34.6 points. Many judges harped on the birthday cake-like flavor, though it wasn’t overly sweet, with an aroma of vanilla, maple, and dark brown sugar.

Local Brewery and Beer Traditions

3262204_xxlIn the craft-beer-lover’s world, there are two principles which tend to ring true. One, every season brings about a new batch of limited releases brewed with the weather in mind. For instance, every Black Friday, fans scramble to acquire even one bottle of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout. Meanwhile, each February, crowds engulf Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa, California, for a glass of Pliny the Younger, a 10.25% ABV triple IPA.

Locally, Wilmington’s breweries purvey their own seasonal must-haves. And like any craft-beer aficionado, the brewers have their own personal beer traditions both at the brewery and at home with family and friends. Thus, this is the second rule of craft beer: Sharing with others is what it’s all about. Bottle shares are increasingly popular, where groups gather to sip rare and vintage brews from around the world, which friends either collected in their travels or traded with other beer fans in other states.

Perhaps there is no better time than the holidays to pull up a kitchen bar stool with loved ones and partake in the spoils of the season. (Not to mention increased travel means increased opportunity to snag good beer for next time!) Wilmington Ale Trail inquired with a few of our city’s breweries to find out their favorite holiday beer traditions—and to encourage our readers to revel in their own ceremonial celebrations.

Broomtail Craft Brewery

“At Broomtail we have our annual Christmas party, where we have some special beers saved for the occasion to share with our Broomtail friends,” owner Lisa Owings explains. “We also have a little something special we’ve been working on and a few interesting and hard-to-come-by beers that Barry [Owings, owner and brewmaster] brings back from his travels.  Our special release this year is a collaboration brew with Lowes Foods. It’s a winter warmer ale called Jolly Elf which we delivered mid-December to Lowes Foods and will be available in our tap room. We enjoy getting everyone together to celebrate the season and celebrate great beer!”

Flytrap Brewing Company

“My holiday traditions tend to focus more around time spent with friends and family,” Mike Barlas, owner and brewer, shares. “Sure, some tasty brews are inevitably involved. Usually some careful selections are made from the beer cellar. Visiting breweries with family and giving gifts of great beer are a few of my favorite things. The holidays are for sharing some quality time and beers with people we love.”

Front Street Brewery

“Although I’ve been involved in the craft beer scene since I was legal to drink, at 26 I’m still developing traditions involving beer,” head brewer Kelsie Cole reveals. “There’s one release that I look forward kelsie-at-bar-smiling to every year, simply because I was able to be at the brewery with my family for the release: Highland Cold Mountain. I know it’s a beer that gets a lot of hype, but to see a North Carolina-brewed beer accumulating such a strong following, it makes me proud. Since I’ve had the honor of being there for the release, I promised myself I’d buy at least one bomber every year as a tribute to that one fine memory.

“Of course I also have to throw in Tiny Tim’s Christmas Porter brewed at my brewery, Front Street. I always looked forward to this release when I was a server. Two of my favorite things blended together: a rich, robust porter and fresh, cold-steeped French Vanilla coffee. Now that I’m the one producing it, it makes it that much more special and sentimental.

“I’ll have to mention one more beer I look forward to drinking around the holidays: Brooklyn Black Ops. A few years back I tasted my first Brooklyn Black Ops and it was love at first sip. Bartending at a local craft beer bar at the time, I bought a bottle and managed to save it until last year’s holiday season. Feeling celebratory, I cracked open the 2012 vintage alongside a 2013 and 2014 with my family. I’m a firm believer that good things come in threes, so I don’t like to age anything over three years. The vertical tasting was magical.

“I tend to be more of a spontaneous spirit, so planning annual traditions doesn’t come easy. Whether it’s a well-made spiced brown or a delicious bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout, as long as I’m drinking and sharing it with the people I love during the holidays, I’m happy.”

Good Hops Brewing Company

“Our son owns Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain, NC,” Good Hops owner and brewer Richard Jones shares. “For several years now we receive beers from other breweries and customers.  We save those and sit around the dinner table and share all of those wonderful beers.

“[As for at the brewery,] we do not brew a pumpkin beer because we love the other flavors of the season; this year we made an apple beer from Honey Crisp apples, a sweet potato beer (Batatas) from local NC sweet potatoes, and a Christmas Ale of local honey, cinnamon and ginger.”

Wilmington Brewing Company

wbc-oyster-stout“We brewed our annual Oyster Stout [on December 10th],” owner Michelle Savard details. “That seems to be our brewery’s holiday tradition. It’s fun to do something unique this time of year, and using oysters in our brewing process definitely creates some holiday cheer.”

Wilmington Bottleshop series – Fermental

This will be an ongoing series on local bottleshops.  Our aim is to see what makes them different and the  history  and backgrounds of the owners and managers. This series will be in collaboration with the Port City Brew Bus.

Fermental Beer and Wine

7250 Market St.

(910) 821-0362



In March 2013 when Fermental Beer and Wine opened its doors—the doors to a funky little 1940s bungalow, that is—in Ogden, some may have mused that owner Steve Gibbs was taking a risk. After all, Ogden is surely outside the downtown hub of the Central Business District, and his neighbors the barber and locksmith don’t exactly make for good bar hopping. But the bottle shop was swiftly embraced by the growing population in north Wilmington—and then some.
The space inside is quaint. A small bar with three draft options, a cooler with singles, and around the corner a living room with the coziest couch—literally, folks sink the second they sit down. Meander through the other rooms, still laid out like the home it once was, and peruse the to-go offerings. From six packs to bombers to stacks of wine, Fermental has a taste to cover all palates. Outdoors, guests can gather at a picnic table under a canopy of café string lights and stars.

fermental“As one of north Wilmington’s first alternatives to the local bars and restaurants, Fermental continues to grow and cultivate itself to its surroundings,” Gibbs, who spent 15 years in the industry—from retail to wholesaler to supplier—before opening his shop, explains. “As a resident of the Ogden area myself, it seemed like a likely spot to offer unique beer and wine to the community, and I feel a lot of other businesses have joined us along the way. A lot of folks aren’t interested in the downtown scene and some don’t even like crossing Gordon Road after 5 p.m. And if you’re driving, it’s better to stay close to home. Not only do we offer some of the best pricing and selection of beer/wine in town, Fermental is a place to bring your family, your friends or meet new friends. Fermental is family. Many parents bring their children along with them, as well as pets and picnics and out of town guests. We are casual and comfortable and offer a space to relax, congregate, and/or celebrate. Fermental is a fun, quirky, casual space that invites people from all age groups and backgrounds into a general revelry of good beer, fine wine and culture.”

Gibbs shares that the goal for growth at Fermental is to move at a slow and steady pace. “Outside, we started with three picnic tables, a few outside lights, and no stage. What was once barely walked-upon green grass, has now turned into a beer garden of straw and mulch along with various games, seating options, flowers, hop bines and more. Plans to continually grow and improve this area are always in progress. Sometimes people give us things—other times we build, find, or purchase.” Gibbs beckons folks to stay tuned for tether ball and additional landscaping this winter.

Indoors, the aesthetic remains warm, inviting, and comfortable. “My wife, Kristen, picked out all the colors inside, which was sort of a red-wine-meets-barley-and-hops Interior 007theme that transitioned into an earthy, comforting vibe. Focusing on the original wooden floors, we went with several wooden structures inside for display and seating, utilizing old wine crates for shelving and thrift store/Craigslist-ing most of the rest. All of our coolers are secondhand and were quite a feat to get inside the building. Overall, a plan really wasn’t made for design, we just painted and put things where they seemed to fit; and remarkably, it all came together. We are drinkers, not designers, but I guess we have an eye for composition. As a whole, Fermental keeps changing, growing, adapting, building, and pushing along. Honestly, we have outgrown the space but have no plans to move away from our little corner in Ogden.”

Fittingly, the Gibbs recently welcomed  a daughter with his wife Kristen, born October 8, 2015. “As we continue to grow, so has my personal family, which can add a new perspective on things,” Gibbs quips. “But for now, we’re planning on staying where we are and continuing with our current state of affairs, perhaps in larger formats. Look for occasional bigger bands playing in 201; additional taps are currently in planning at what will become a newly designed main bar; possibly a more regular outdoor bar in the beer garden next season; additional off-site events; and we’re still crunching in as much beer as we can into our limited interior, but there seems to always be more room. More food truck rotations, more events, more people, and more amusing attributes to keep Fermental fun.”

In the meantime, Fermental carries on with free weekly wine and beer tastings every Friday evening, and occasionally wine and brewery reps are on-hand to offer detailed education and giveaways. Every Friday and Saturday Fermental hosts live music in the beer garden, “alongside a rotating cast of local food trucks,” Gibbs shares. Monthly events run the gamut, from cheese pairings to book clubs, art shows to rehearsal dinners. “With the introduction of Wilmington Beer Week in October, we have an exhausting library of things to do and things to drink,” Gibbs notes. “It’s all for the love of beer, wine and community.”
2 Anniversary 016“Our largest annual event is Arts & Drafts: a celebration of art, music and of course, beer,” Gibbs begins of his yearly September soiree. “We collect, harbor, order, and beg for some of the best, rarest, oddest, and most celebrated beers from all over; tapping them in an all-day extravaganza of beer accompanied by an afternoon into the evening of live music from multiple musicians. The day begins with a beer garden full of local artists, sculptors, and craft makers spread through every free inch of space in our backyard, selling and showcasing their talents in an endless array of media. Throw in a few food trucks alongside some of the area’s best artisans and you’ve got one hell of an adventure. This may possibly be moved off-site in the future to accommodate a larger group of artists and the crowd, but for now we’re still squeezing in just over 20 creative folks in a welcoming variety of artistic genres.”

So, what beverage does Gibbs enjoy most of all? “Over the past few years this has become a difficult question to answer,” he starts. “There are so many beers available, and there are new releases every day. I love wine too, but my background in wine has driven me to beer. Ask most wine sales reps and they’ll share a similar story: After tasting and selling wine all day, nothing beats a cold beer. But if you include that ubiquitous desert island aspect, it would have to be: a super fresh American IPA. Green, juicy, chewy hops that coat your teeth and gums, cloyingly begging for another sip of that super-ripe goodness. Preferably local, but any brewery that can push it to market with the oily, dank, hop residue still intact is fine with me. A few examples include: Stone Enjoy By, NoDa Hop Drop N Roll, Victory Dirt Wolf, Knee Deep Hoptologist, and Wicked Weed Freak of Nature.”

As for new beers available in our market, Gibbs remains a fan and consumer of Wicked Weed and Knee Deep Brewing. Yet it’s a Midwestern brewery that is making its mark on his tongue as of late. “I am continually amazed by the beers coming from Prairie Artisan Ales out of Tulsa, Oklahoma,” he reveals. “The sours these folks are releasing are by far some of the best I’ve ever poured into my mouth. Their recent series of dry-hopped golden sours are a deliciously funk-driven, tropical mess of flavor and aroma that dances across the palate, inviting another sip, another bottle, another pint. Not to mention their Prairie Bomb!, another classic from Oklahoma, is a big, sturdy, imperial stout aged on espresso beans, chocolate, vanilla, and chile peppers. A top-rated beer across the board, this bottle of blackness is perfect for the upcoming colder months. As Prairie grows, I would expect to see more greatness and deliciousness arriving from these folks in the coming year. We currently have multiple shelves of their products, just ask!”

History of Wilmington Beer- Good Hops Brewery

This entry is part of a periodic series about the growing craft beer industry in Wilmington, N.C. The series is shared with our friends at the Port City Brew Bus. Check our blogs to stay updated on the series.  We’ll profile a different brewery in each addition. We begin by looking at the history of Wilmington’s craft beer industry.



In 2012 Rich and Patricia Jones helped their son John Garcia, open Black Mountain’s Lookout Brewing. In 2013 they returned to their retirement home of Carolina Beach and spent the next six months opening Good Hops Brewing. With a craft beer boom in full swing the Jones’ felt the focus was on the I.P.A. style. So they decided to focus on less hoppy styles like their flagship brew Donna Golden Ale.

IMG_1584“We Love the Beach,” Jones said of the couple’s decision to open in Carolina Beach instead of Wilmington. After opening the doors in June of 2014 the brewery quickly became a community institution. Realtors are regular supporters says Jones, “they either bring clients by or pick up beer to have available.”

The brewery includes a family-friendly taproom and outdoor seating area, free of televisions, “I love the fact we don’t have T.V.s, it makes people entertain each other,” says Jones. The taproom’s intimate, community feel allows for conversations, often about the beer. Their reputation for helping local charities in the community has spread; in the first six months alone they donated 38 kegs for events and benefits.

Maintaining a strong relationship with Asheville breweries, specifically their son John at Lookout has helped the Wilmington scene grow in Patricia’s opinion, “we talk everyday with our son,” she says. Almost 70% of their clientele are new customers through word of mouth, often from other breweries. “We get customers that come in and say I just came from your son’s brewery or I just came from Wicked Weed,” says Patricia.

Distribution remains a priority with taproom sales a close second. Rich and Patricia believe quality is most important and have decided not to bottle or can for now. They don’t want the pressure of “filling shelves” to affect the quality, “It’s important that Wilmington continues to put out top quality beer.” When people ask why a style isn’t on tap Rich will often reply, “we’re waiting on the beer.”

Craft Beer is Booming and There’s Still Room to Grow

Anyone who has been to Wilmington recently, or even heard of Wilmington, knows that Wilmington has fallen in love with craft beer.  From long time home brewers taking the next step to investors wanting to get into a fun and growing market, craft breweries are popping up everywhere.  To meet the growing demand for craft beer, several new bottle shops and bars also have opened in and around Wilmington.  It’s an exciting time for those who like to brew or drink craft beer (or both) and the good news is that there’s room for more growth.

Recent Boom

For a number of years, Front Street Brewery was the only game in town.  More recently, Wilmington Brewing Company, Flytrap Brewing, Good Hops Brewing, and several others have opened for business.  There also are a number of breweries in planning, including New Anthem, which will be joining a handful of breweries downtown.

In addition to the new breweries that have opened, the number of bottle shops has grown significantly.  At one 15120616_xxltime, Lighthouse Beer and Wine was one of the few places where you could find a wide selection of craft beer.  In just the last two years, however, Fermental Beer and Wine, Bombers Bev. Co., Palate Bottle Shop & Reserve, and Hey! Beer have set up shop, and a number of others are opening soon.  Two things all these places have in common – delicious beer and friendly people.

Room for More

Although many breweries and bottle shops recently have opened, there still is room for more growth in this market segment.  Unlike most other industries, the brewery industry is unique in that it is collaborative rather than competitive.  It’s not uncommon to see the local brewers in each other’s tap rooms and many of them are close friends.  The people who make up this industry are cooperative and willing to help others new to the business with advice and war stories about their own beginnings.

So if you’re thinking about opening a brewery of your own, you’ve picked a welcoming industry and an ideal location, but don’t be fooled into thinking that owning and operating a brewery or brewing beer is easy.  Those who have taken the leap to open a brewery have worked hard to be successful.  As much fun as it may be to make beer for a living, it’s hard work and it will take time and dedication . . . and money.

The Costs

There are many costs to consider when opening a brewery.  The first major cost will be the equipment.  To get started, you’ll need kettles, kegs, boilers, cooling systems, storage tanks, fermentation tanks, filters, piping and tubing, refrigeration equipment, cleaning equipment, waste treatment systems, and tap handles.  Maybe even bottling and canning lines and beer labeling machines.  Depending on the size of the brewery you plan to open, this equipment could cost $100,000.00, maybe much more.  You also will need to consider room for expansion when purchasing equipment.  If your beer is a hit and the demand soars (that is the goal, right?), you may need to expand your operation quickly, so you should account for that when purchasing your equipment and choosing your location.

The location of your brewery will be another significant cost.  In addition to the monthly rent, or mortgage payments if you purchase the property, you may have to do some significant construction work to upfit the property.  Unless you rent a building that was formerly used as a brewery, there’s a good chance it will not fit all your needs.  You will need to make sure the ceiling is high enough to fit your equipment, you will need to make sure you have proper plumbing and electricity, and you will need to make sure the floor is suitable.  In addition to proper drainage, the floor will need to be able to support the weight of the equipment and the impact and temperature shock.

You also will need to apply for all the necessary permits, including a federal brewing permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.  If you plan to serve beer at your brewery, and most breweries do, you will need to obtain local licensing, including permits from the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (“ABC”).  You may also want to consider a retailer license if you plan to sell shirts and other merchandise.  It may take three or more months to obtain all of these permits and licenses.

A few other costs to consider are the costs to set up a corporate structure and insurance.  There are several different types of corporate entities from which to choose and it is important to choose a corporate structure that fits your needs.  In addition to the casualty and liability insurance that any lender will require, you will also need a brewer’s bond, which ensures you pay federal taxes, in order to obtain the federal brewing permit.

You also need to be careful how you finance your brewery.  Many new brewers rely on private investors to finance the cost of opening a brewery instead of borrowing from a bank.  This is a good way to raise capital, but there are many regulations regarding investing and you need to be sure you comply with all of them

All of this may sound daunting, and it is, but recent legislation signed into law by Governor McCrory last month may help to remove some of the risk.  This legislation made several changes to North Carolina’s ABC laws, but one in particular may help aspiring brewers.  Alternating proprietorships are now permitted in North Carolina.  This means a brewer with a federal and state brewery permit may rent (or maybe use it for free if you’ve got a good friend with a brewery) the space and equipment of another brewery to brew its own beer.  This will provide an opportunity for a new brewer to produce beer on a larger scale than he or she otherwise could and get it out to enough people to determine if people actually like the beer.  There are no guaranties in brewing, but being able to determine whether there is a demand for your beer before investing all the money to cover the costs described above is certainly an advantage that until just recently was not available to brewers.

The point of this article is not to discourage all the would-be breweries.  It’s quite the opposite.  We want anyone entering into this business to come in with their eyes wide open, ready for the obstacles that they may face.  If you think you are up for the challenge, and most importantly, if you think your beer is good, Wilmington welcomes you.  We can never have too many good breweries or too much good beer.

© 2015 Ward and Smith, P.A. For further information regarding the issues described above, please contact Justin M. Lewis at 910.794.4880 or jml@wardandsmith.com.

This article is not intended to give, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation.  No action should be taken in reliance upon the information contained in this article without obtaining the advice of an attorney.

ND: 4841-1637-8405, v. 1

History of Wilmington Beer

This entry is part of a periodic series about the growing craft beer industry in Wilmington, N.C. The series is shared with our friends at the Port City Brew Bus. Check our blogs to stay updated on the series.  We’ll profile a different brewery in each addition. We begin by looking at the history of Wilmington’s craft beer industry.


Wilmington, N.C. has been known as a ‘port city’ since it’s incorporation in 1739. There are currently nine breweries operating in the area with more planned to open in the coming months. This amount of growth in the craft beer industry is quickly earning Wilmington the nickname ‘beer city.’

Many of Wilmington’s craft beer enthusiasts may not be aware the city’s post-prohibition craft beer history dates back more than two decades beginning with Wilmington Brewing Company; Front Street Brewery and Azalea Coast Brewing soon followed.

In 1994 Tom Dergay combined his “love of history and appreciation of beer” to open Wilmington Brewing Company (no affiliation to the current Wilmington Brewing Company). The Dergy’s brand was distributed in bottles and kegs as far south as Florida gaining a noticeable market share in Wilmington.

dergysThe location off of River Road became a thriving part of Wilmington, as well as a source of pride for Wilmington residents. “The community as a whole supported the brewery unbelievably,” says Dergay.

Celebrating occasions such as new beers with parties at the brewery is the one major advantage he had over the much larger breweries. “I had more friends when I owned a brewery than I could ever imagine,” jokes Dergay. One year he was invited to 11 Super Bowl parties; unable to attend all 11 he delivered a complimentary keg of beer to each.

Dergay sold the brewery to Williamsville Brewery in 2000 and the operation moved to Farmville, N.C. in what is now the Duck-Rabbit Brewery.

Following closely was Front Street Brewery, which has been serving ‘pub grub’ and craft beer since 1995. They’ve become a landmark on Wilmington’s busiest downtown street and the brewpub’s namesake.

Front Street was part of a downtown revitalization project and briefly distributed bottles until their Front-Street-PINT-101suprenovation in 2006. “We’re focused on selling beer here in the restaurant,” says Operations Manager Kevin Kozak. “It works best for us to keep everything here; it makes for a better product,” Kozak says about their 1,400 barrel production.

Two decades later the brewpub has grown and changed with the palates of Wilmington even hiring North Carolina’s first female Head Brewer in . Kelsie Cole began in production three years ago and has noticed a change in what customers order, “People aren’t just asking for our Kolsch or our Scottish ale, they’re asking for more obscure things like our barrel aged beers.”

Growth in Wilmington’s craft beer community can been seen at the city’s oldest running craft brewery daily according to Cole. “People are recognizing the beers we make here, beers I’ve put my heart and soul into and it’s very rewarding.”

In 2004 Azalea Coast Brewery began brewing with kegs and bottles being distributed the following year. They eventually shared the shelves at local grocery stores with some of the county’s largest brands before closing their doors in 2008. One former owner, Ethan Hall is now the Head Brewer at Ironclad brewery in Wilmington.

Both the economy and craft beer climate have changed considerably notes Dergay, who is jokingly referred to as the ‘O.G.’ of Wilmington Craft Beer by current employees. Dergay feels the industry is now driven by creativity and passion. “They(brewers) are smarter than the previous generations, they don’t want to work in a cubicle. These guys go to work in t-shirt and jeans and brew all day; they’re like artists, god bless em.”