The Outer Banks’ three craft breweries keep

With three thriving craft breweries on the Outer Banks, there is plenty of good beer to go around. The Weeping Radish, Outer Banks Brewing Station and Lost Colony Brewery have proven their merit and longevity over the years, and they just keep getting better. These locally crafted beers are served on site at the brewpubs and also in other local restaurants. You can also find them in local grocery stores and bottle shops.

In honor of Craft Beer Week on the Outer Banks, I checked with the local breweries to find out what’s new. Two themes that are consistent with all three are staying local and change.

The Weeping Radish

“We always have new things in the works,” says Uli Bennewitz, owner of the Weeping Radish Brewery. The oldest microbrewery in North Carolina, Weeping Radish opened in 1986 in Manteo and moved to Grandy in 2001.

In 2015 The Weeping Radish shifted its distribution model. It ended its distribution to the Raleigh, Charlottesville and Tidewater areas and now exclusively distributes its beer to local establishments

“We are serious about focusing our efforts only locally,” Bennewitz says. “Last year was our first year of local only and for that first year, we didn’t include any chain stores because we wanted to be sure we could handle the self-distribution.”

The brewery has 45 accounts on the Outer Banks and also distributes to local Food Lion stores. Soon they will also distribute to local Harris Teeter stores as well.

Bennewitz says staying local is certainly a good business model in more sophisticated markets, and the Outer Banks is getting there. “It’s the right thing to do and I do believe the movement is growing and we are seeing new models of cooperation,” he says, noting that Food Lion will soon be selling The Weeping Radish’s sausages.

“We’ve got a long way to go, but the fact that Food Lion recently approved our sausages to sell is mind boggling,” he says. “There’s a fundamental change going on.”

For less of an ecological footprint, The Weeping Radish has also switched from bottles to 16 oz. cans. It still offers 1-liter refillable bottles and 15.5-liter kegs and 5-liter mini party kegs filled fresh to order.  Bennewitz says his is the only microbrewery in America that offers the 5-liter kegs.

“They have to be imported from Germany and are a very unique product,” he says. “We got them specifically for the beach environment.”

The brewery is also offering a shandy beer this summer through Brew Thru as part of a fundraising effort for the Outer Banks Hospital.

Outer Banks Brewing Station

Outer Banks Brewing Station is the first wind-powered brew pub in the nation. Photo: Outer Banks Brewing Station

Outer Banks Brewing Station is the first wind-powered brew pub in the nation.Photo: Outer Banks Brewing Station

In May Outer Banks Brewing Station celebrated its 15thanniversary. Co-owned by two husband and wife teams – Aubrey Davis and Karen Loopman-Davis and Eric Reece and Tina Mackenzie – it is the 14th oldest brew pub in the state and the first wind-powered brewery in the country.

The owners and head brewer Bart Kramlik embrace the drink local movement. “That spirit of shopping locally is coming back around,” says Reece, who also offers regular tours of the brewery. “People are shopping locally because it is the right thing to do.”

Paralleling the localization movement is beer consumers’ willingness to embrace change and anything new.

“That trend works well for us,” Reece says. “The state of the industry has come around to what we have always professed: change is good. A brew pub is set up for change – the whole idea is to change and to have the capability to change. You can afford to try new things. That’s essence is what people are looking for now.”

This brewing philosophy guarantees a unique product with every pour. In addition to two year-round beers, Olsch and Lemongrass Wheat, the Outer Banks Brewing Station usually has five or six rotating beers.

“Change is essential,” Reece says. “That’s the idea of going to a local brew pub.”

The Brewing Station cans its Pale Ale and Lemongrass Wheat beers using a mobile canner and distributes their canned beer locally.

As far as what’s on the horizon for Outer Banks Brewing Station, Reece says the owners hope to soon obtain a piece of land to begin lightweight farming of the ingredients used in the pub. For the brewery, he says, change is the constant. “The Outer Banks Brewing Station just keeps evolving,” he says.

Lost Colony Brewery at Full Moon Cafe

Owen Sullivan, left, and Paul Charron of Lost Colony Brewery in Manteo Photo: Lost Colony Brewery

Owen Sullivan, left, and Paul Charron of Lost Colony Brewery in ManteoPhoto: Lost Colony Brewery

When Paul Charron started his brewing operation in 2011 at Full Moon Café, his intention was to brew just one style of beer at the restaurant – a brown ale.

Five years later, Charron and his wife, Sharon Enoch, are now preparing to move the brewery at the restaurant to a 95,000-square-foot building in Stumpy Point that was once an old cabinet shop. They hope to open at the site by February of 2017.

“We outgrew our brewery pretty quickly,” Charron says of the 120-square-foot operation connected to their café in downtown Manteo, where they specialize in brewing British and Irish style ales.

He added that the brewery is testing the waters as far as offering their product to other restaurants. And he says staying local is important.

“We’ve limited ourselves to 30 locations on the Outer Banks,” he says, adding that the business has been slowly evolving into two separate entities, the Full Moon Café and Lost Colony Brewery.  All of the brewery’s distribution clients are local restaurants.

Lost Colony’s brew master is Owen Sullivan, a self-taught home brewer who has a drive for the brewing scene. Charron calls him the “beer whisperer.”

With the move to Stumpy Point, big changes are in the works for Lost Colony Brewery.

“We will be going from 5-gallon batches to 60- to 80-gallon batches,” Charron says. “And we are about a year and a half away from canning beer. And canning is always better than bottles because of the better seal and no light.”

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