Wilmington NC Beer is Open for Business


On September 14th, Wilmington, NC took a direct hit from Hurricane Florence.   Many of our friends, colleagues, and businesses suffered devastating personal and financial losses. As we continue to recover know that our local beer culture is alive and well. All 17 of our local breweries are up and running so have a beer with us!

Check out these upcoming events!

Meet the Brewers : Kevin Zelnio

Meet the Brewers : Kevin Zelnio

Meet the Brewers is an ongoing series to highlight the individuals who make the beer at our Wilmington breweries. Check back every week to see the latest interview. All photographs provided by Brian Lantz Photography.  Check out his instagram at  @brianlantzphotography

Kevin Zelnio is the head brewer at Wrightsville Beach Brewery. Zelnio began brewing while living in Sweden and eventually brought his talents back to Wilmington, NC. Last week I asked him what his journey into brewing was like.

Where are you from?

 Born and raised where the Mississippi flows east to west in the Quad Cities, mostly on the Iowa side.

What first got you into brewing?

 A good friend of mine started to dabble in home brewing and I joined in a couple times. But I didn’t really get into it until I moved to Sweden several years ago and lived out in the woods. I was working from home as a science writer and consultant and had a bit of time on my hands. Beer is also pretty expensive there and controlled by a state-run alcohol monopoly, so the nearest place I could get a beer was a 45-minute drive away. It became more of a practical thing for me, as well as a creative outlet!

How long have you been brewing?

 This is my sixth year as a commercial brewer.

 What was the first beer you made?

 With my aforementioned buddy we did a green tea pale ale with tettnang and cascade hops and green tea we bought from a market in Japan while at a deep-sea biology conference (my former life was a marine biologist). The first all grain brew I did on my own was a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone.

What is your favorite beer to make?

 Stouts and porters. Nothing makes me happier than filling up the brewery with the smells of mashing in dark grains early in the morning!

 What made you want to start brewing on a larger scale?

 While in Sweden, I lived in a small village and our neighbors there enjoyed the free beer I was constantly giving to them. They encouraged me to start selling it. After raising the money, I  selected a location in an old prison that was turned into a hotel in the small Baltic town of Västervik. Bryggeri Fängelset (literally meaning “The Prison Brewery”) was a small 3 barrel capacity brewery that I solely ran with my wife and business partners for almost 3 years.

Having honed the creative skill set and brewing process, my wife and I decided we could have better opportunities back home in the US. After suffering the cold north for far longer than I needed to, I landed a great job as a production brewer at Jdub’s Brewery in Sarasota, Florida. There, I got comfortable with large tanks and big machinery and learned the skills and techniques for high volume production brewing that I currently use now as the Director of Brewing Operations at Wrightsville Beach Brewery. Brewing on a 20 barrel capacity gives me the leeway and creativity I crave in a career while working with an amazing, supportive team. There is truly nothing better than making a product that people really enjoy.

 Is there anything you do differently in your brewing process that other places do not do?

 Every brewery has their niches and strengths. I love having the freedom to experiment with ingredients, like fruits and herbs, in the brewing process and playing around with barrels. It starts from the water — where I build up each batch’s water mineral profile from the ground up— to the final product where we measure parameters, dial in carbonation and monitor the quality of the fermentation and packaging processes at every step.

What is one thing you want your consumer to take away from trying your beer?

 The most important thing to me is that I brew up a wide diversity of styles and offerings. I don’t expect everyone that walks in to love every single brew I make, but hopefully they find a few very enjoyable and want to come back to see what is new. I am proud of every beer we put out and we always strive for the best quality possible in our products. I think it shows and I hope our customers notice it too!



Meet the Brewers: Blair Ferguson

Meet the Brewers: Blair Ferguson

Meet the Brewers is an ongoing series to highlight the individuals who make the beer at our Wilmington breweries. Check back every week to see the latest interview. All photographs provided by Brian Lantz Photography.  Check out his instagram at  @brianlantzphotography

Blair Ferguson is the head brewer at Wilmington Brewing Company. Brewing was a hobby for a large portion of Ferguson’s life before he decided to begin brewing professionally. Recently I asked Ferguson about his favorite beer to make.

Where are you from?

Winston-Salem, NC .I attended Mineral Springs Elementary School. Go Bulldogs!

What first got you into brewing?

I’ve always liked to make things. I discovered home brewing when my interests turned to beer in college.

All photographs provided by Brian Lantz Photography.  IG: @brianlantzphotography

I had to give it a shot.  It was fun to make different beers and share cheer with friends. It still is.

How long have you been brewing?

As a hobby, off and on as life allowed for around twenty years. I have been brewing professionally since 2014.

What was the first beer you made?

 My first brew was an American pale ale. Luckily, it was drinkable and I continued brewing.  American pale ale was really the first beer style to showcase the amazing aromas and flavor of American hops.  I think it inspired a lot of brewers and its influence continues as evidenced by the popularity of IPAs today.

What is your favorite beer to make?

I really like making new beers.  Getting creative with recipe formulation and seeing how it turns out is gratifying.  Fortunately, we live during an exciting time for beer. Consumers are receptive to trying new and different brews.  Craft beer is a great marriage of tradition and innovation.

What made you want to start brewing on a larger scale?

I wanted to make a living doing something I love.

Is there anything you do differently in your brewing process that other places do not do?

At its heart, brewing is a traditional industry.  So a lot of processes are similar. That said, we are a very quality focused brewery and are always open to tweaking our process to ensure the best product we can make.  If we discover a method that makes better beer, we will use it.

What is one thing you want your consumer to take away after trying your beer?

Hopefully, our beer sets the stage for healthy conviviality.  A great sensory experience from tasting a fresh product made with care should enhance the moment.


Meet The Brewers : Dani Bearss

Meet The Brewers : Dani Bearss

Meet the Brewers is an ongoing series to highlight the individuals who make the beer at our Wilmington breweries. Check back every week to see the latest interview. All photographs provided by Brian Lantz Photography.  Check out his instagram at  @brianlantzphotography

Dani Bearss is the head brewer at Waterline Brewing Company. A self-described nomad, she has traveled all over but settled down in Wilmington to bring us great beer. Recently I asked Bearss about her journey to head brewer.

Where are you from?

Originally I’m from Michigan, but I’ve always been a nomad. I’ve spent time living all over California as well and I just returned to Wilmington after spending a year in New Zealand, first hiking the 3000 km Te Araroa trail then working as a brewer.

 What first got you into brewing?

I used to work as a barista in a competition cafe, and when I learned about the craft beer movement, it was a natural transition between roasted beans and malted barley.  I was living in the land of Founders, New Holland and Bells, all of which were less than an hour away, and I knew a few of the people making beer professionally. I liked the combination of art, science and manual labor…when I saw the process commercially, I was hooked.

Waterline gave me my start into brewing when they were just as new to Wilmington as I was, and for a while, I was just a part-time bartender and over-eager volunteer to clean kegs and squeegee the floor.  Brian (Waterline’s former head brewer and part owner) saw how eager I was to learn and gave me every opportunity to move up as long as I was willing to work for it.

How long have you been brewing?

I started brewing with my friend back in Michigan maybe only five or six years ago and started brewing professionally a few years later when I got connected with Waterline.  I’ve been a volunteer, a cellar(wo)man, and an assistant brewer with my own commercial beers at Waterline, and in New Zealand, I was a lead brewer for Renaissance Brewing.  I returned to Wilmington and Waterline a few months ago to take on the Head Brewer position.

What was the first beer you made?

I think the first thing I made back in Michigan was a raspberry stout, one of my friends’ recipes.  The first all grain beer I ever concocted on my own was my “Port City Paradox,” a coffee porter that was both beer AND coffee–I brewed the coffee using beer as the solution instead of water.  I wanted to combine my two favorite vices: coffee and beer.  Delicious! And impossible to carbonate.

 What is your favorite beer to make?

I still get a rush anytime I get to brew a beer that I designed from start to finish–I think it’s a homebrewer’s curse that I’ll never get over, the fact that I have a beer on tap and people order it.  I’ve been really excited to bring back what I learned in New Zealand and introduce some beers made with lesser known NZ hops, like our XPA, and while it will always terrify me just a little, I love taking the plunge into brewing any new beer on a commercial scale.

 What made you want to start brewing on a larger scale?

I like the mental and physical challenge of large-scale brewing.  There are always new recipes and better ways to do things, and there’s a lot of science, but it’s a lot of moving hoses and kegs and lifting bags of grain and being on your feet all day.  I’ve logged nearly 3000 miles of backcountry hiking, and before I was ever into coffee and beer I worked with horses for a long time, working with professional teams and training sport horses.  There is something about the long hours, manual labor, and teamwork that calls to me.

Is there anything you do differently in your brewing process that other places do not do?

I think we all have our little brewery quirks, and it’s part of what makes the independent beer community so diverse.  Since coming back to Waterline, I’ve been starting to incorporate some of the techniques we used in New Zealand to produce low-gravity, flavor-packed beers that are easy to drink.  I like to make unexpected beers that go against the current trends, like the seasonal Gruit and the “new New” XPA, a low alcohol, crystal clear and super smashable New Zealand (“not New England!”) style pale ale.

 What is one thing you want your consumer to take away from trying your beer?

I always aim to please through something unexpected, whether it’s something people have never had or something they thought they had discounted in the past.  I strongly believe that you have to know the rules in order to break the rules, and I try to balance the “weird beers” with classic recipes when thinking about new beer.  We have the Roma Gose, the Coffee and Cream and the Gruit that were a lot of fun to come up with, but I also enjoy designing more traditional beers such as the Wee Heavy, the Porter and the new “Extra” Pale.  I hope consumers can always come to Waterline for a selection of traditional styles and experimental flavors.

Fun Beer Things to do for Valentine’s Day

Fun Beer Things to do for Valentine’s Day

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day or Single’s Awareness Day, you’ll be sure to have a blast at these fantastic events.

Salty Turtle Beer Company

Feb 13 at 11:30 a.m. to Feb 15 at 12 a.m.


Get a jump start on Valentine’s Day festivities with Salty Turtle’s limited release of their Raspberry and Chocolate Porter. Each serving will be paired with a small bite brownie from Sugar Island Bakery.


Front Street Brewery

Feb 14 at 11:30 a.m. to Feb 15 at 12 a.m.

wilmington beer valentine's day


Front Street Brewery’s Annual Valentine’s Day Sinful Stout Beer Release. Celebrate the season of love with their rich chocolatey and deliciously smooth Sinful Stout, brewed with chocolate velvet coffee.


Flytrap Brewing

Feb 14 at 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.


Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a stout flight and donut hole pairing! Four 4oz pours of Flytrap stouts paired with 4 creative and fresh donut holes by Wake N Bake for $15. Enjoy live music by Jared Michael Cline 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. No reservations necessary.


Wrightsville Beach Brewery

Feb 14 at 5 p.m.


Four course meal paired with beer AND wine for only $36. Make a reservation for one, two, three, they will be happy to serve everyone on Valentines! Please call 910.256.4938 for reservations.


Hey Beer Bottle Shop

Feb 14 at 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.


Hey Beer Bottle Shop is partnering with Wake N Bake Donuts for another installment of complimentary donuts paired with delicious dark beers!

They are featuring one of NC’s best limited release stouts…Foothills Bourbon Barrel-Aged Sexual Chocolate!



Feb 14 at 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.


Fermental’s annual holiday Mead Tasting, showcasing a variety of honey wines in different styles from around the world. Celebrate with live swing/gypsy jazz music, a food truck, and mead! Call 910.821.0362 for details.


Bill’s Front Porch Brewery

Feb 14 at 6:30 p.m.


Bill’s Front Porch is curating a delicious 5-course meal with their own craft beer pairings. This event will be closed to the public in order to keep the night special for guests.

Get Your tickets here

The Sour Barn

Feb 14 at 7 p.m.


Treat your Valentine to drinks and dessert at The Barn. They will be featuring Port City Cheesecake’s Râppé Chocolate Cheesecake. One slice of cheesecake and two Broomtail beers for $14.


Check Six Brewing Company

Feb 14 at 7:30p.m. to 10:30 p.m.


Celebrate with their wine and champagne special and enjoy the fabulous Dale Kinner for a special night with your special someone!


Wrightsville Beach Brewery:  Beers on Tap !

Wrightsville Beach Brewery: Beers on Tap !

Photo Courtesy Wrightsville Beach Brewery

Photos Courtesy Wrightsville Beach Brewery

Wrightsville Beach Brewery, freshly opened to the public on January 21, will rank high on your lists of favorite hangouts. This beautiful, homegrown brewery features some of the most interesting people in the Port City.

Owner Jud Watkins, once a commercial fisherman, grew up in Wrightsville Beach and often gathered with friends and family to enjoy local seafood. Yet at each get-together, he and his father wondered why they never had any local beach beers to go along with it. At the time, only Front Street Brewery was open across town.

That was the beginning of the dream that has just become a reality. In honor of his late father, with whom Watkins dove into the world of home brewing, he is now venturing into the life of brewpub owner and production brewing. The story seems more like a feel-good American movie than your typical restaurant opening.

Chef David Owens says, “Of all the restaurants I’ve opened, this is the scariest.” And he has opened a lot. Born in Ireland, he has been a chef in 23 different countries, has earned three Michelin stars, and has even cooked a meal for Vladimir Putin. So why is this local brewery venture scarier than Putin? Because it’s the lifelong dream of a father and his son, and Owens feels that pressure daily.

“Please tell people to come,” were Owens’ last words to me, and although I simply chuckled, I should have assured him that they will.

First of all, Owens cooks with integrity.  He doesn’t use fish that he can’t drive to pick up, which means he’s buying his seafood from local fisherman. You won’t see farmed salmon, flounder or grouper on his menu, but he may serve you some African pompano or sheepshead fresh from the ocean. He is the kind of person who inspires you to be better, eat cleaner, and think about the environment: No GMOs are allowed in his kitchen, and he uses the leftover grains from the brews in his pizza crust to reduce waste.

Brewer Kevin Zelnio started his professional brewing career in a barn in Sweden. Trying to forget about the brutally cold weather and high European taxes,

Photos courtesy Wrightsville Beach brewery

Photos courtesy Wrightsville Beach brewery

Zelnio brewed beers for the people in the small village in which he resided. They convinced him it was good enough to sell, and soon he had his own microbrewery, Bryggeri Fängelset, which you can still visit if ever traveling through northern Europe. Lucky for Wilmington, that weather eventually brought him back to the States. Although he did admit to being a regular consumer of Icehouse in college, he now loves creating his own beers using ingredients like parsley, sage, rosemary, ginger, orange peels, and honey. A stout, an amber ale, and their Puppy Drum Pale Ale will be the first beers on tap, but Zelnio has plans for many more brews in the near future. His specialty is session beers—beers that are only three to five percent alcohol. Such beers can be consumed on a lunch break or at times when someone may want to enjoy a few but not get excessively intoxicated.

Wrightsville Beach Brewery is committed to keeping the environment in mind as well as giving back to the community. Eighty percent of spent grain will be donated to a local cattle farmer, and the bar and tables were made with wood from the trees that used to be on the property. Before the first pour has even been served, Watkins and his crew have agreed to donate 11 percent of profits from the “beer of the month” to local charities. In a world plagued with greed and waste, these are the kind of business owners one can be proud to support.