Destination Beer: Fayetteville, North Carolina
Local brews are a home run in this All-American town.
Story by Jason Frye
Photos courtesy Visit Fayetteville
Sponsored by Visit Fayetteville
Beer and baseball: Two great pleasures invite you to visit Fayetteville, North Carolina, a three-time winner of the All-American City Award from the National Civic League. The growing brewery scene keeps exciting suds on draft while the Fayetteville Woodpeckers—the Single A Houston Astros affiliate—deliver hit after hit of on-field entertainment. The breweries keep the taps open year-round so you can savor a pint any day of the year, but visit during baseball season and it’s like hitting a walk-off grand slam.
Work hard, play hard is a way of life here. Fayetteville’s history is rich in hard work and service. Nearby Fort Bragg—home of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and a host of other units—sets an example that everyone follows, including the breweries. In fact, four of Fayetteville’s five breweries are veteran-owned and operated. The combined work ethic, world travel, and years of extra-curricular beer studies these vets-turned-brewers bring to their beers come through in every pour.
Visit all five breweries on the Hometown Hops Brew Trail and good luck figuring out your favorite beer. With more than two dozen styles, flavors, and takes on beer traditions—all of which impress—it might actually be easier to hit a curve ball. But this is a tastier way to stare down a pitcher with multiple winners allowed. Whether you’re in town for a long weekend of beer and baseball (or your pick among the other enticing pastimes) or just drop in for a sip, Fayetteville’s breweries have much to offer.
When Brewmaster Vernardo “Tito” Simmon-Valenzuela was an Army medic, he got into home brewing almost by accident: He promised a friend “free beer for life” in exchange for that pal’s home brew kit. As it turned out, Tito was good at making beer. Very good. The second beer Tito ever made, a Blood Orange Kölsch, became his flagship brew and inspired one of his friends and taste testers to become a business partner. “I love the creative process and figuring out how to incorporate new flavors into beer while staying true to style,” says Tito, and it’s evident in his Blood Orange Kölsch, in his W.E.I.N.E.R. Smash—a single malt and single hopped beer, made with Vienna malts—and in his personal favorite, Oui Oui French-style Saison, which uses a full bushel of fresh pears and armfuls of locally-sourced rosemary to achieve its bold nose and subtle sweetness.
The Mash House Restaurant and Brewery
Mash House keeps a dozen taps flowing all year. Its Bell Tower Cerveza, a Mexican-style Lager, uses a wheat-rich grain blend to help develop its distinct flavor. This crisp brew was first brewed for a Taco Bell Cantina in Raleigh, N.C. (“Taco Bell? Cantina?” Yes and yes. Taco Bell Cantinas serve alcohol, so a brew made just for them was just what the médico ordered.) For more of a kick, Mash House added a touch of lime to go with the malt and hint of hop bitterness. Not to be outdone, its fruit beer is a rotating tap that always delights. According to Steve Groveunder, general manager, “Our fruit beer is situational, meaning we brew it when the fruits are right and when inspiration and need meet to demand a beer. We’ve had several iterations, from honey jalapeño lagers to peach hefeweizens.” That tap’s always changing, so when you’re there and want something besides the Hoppy Hour IPA (a hop bomb for sure) or the Patriot Pale Ale, ask what’s up with the fruit beer.
Huske Hardware House Restaurant & Brewery
Fayetteville’s oldest brewery, Huske Hardware House, has been a fixture in downtown since 1997, but its building, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, has been there much longer. In 1903, Benjamin R. Huske built a department store that stuck around until the early 1970s. The restaurant and brewery are airy and modern without losing the historic feel; at the center is a 15-barrel brewing system and a trio of 12-foot fermenters. With six flagships on tap year-round and rotating seasonal brews, Huske delivers on the promise of fresh and tasty beer. Sledgehammer Stout has won multiple awards, and though it’s a rich, robust brew, it’s approachable enough to drink any season. Still, hop heads love the citrus-forward Brick House IPA and its Citra bite. But don’t miss the summer brew, a Watermelon Wheat that’s big on watermelon flavor, or spring’s Carolina Blueberry Lager, an easy drinking lager lightly sweetened with blueberries. Load the bases of this taste experience by pairing a beer with one of the signature burgers or brew-battered fish and chips.
Bright Light Brewing Company
Three friends tossed out an idea one night—Why don’t we open a brewery?—and then that idea went on to become a reality: Bright Light Brewing. Their friendship shows in the tap room and in the brewhouse. Part brewery, part backyard get-together, this outdoor patio is a food truck haven and has become a hotspot for dog lovers and families with kids. This trio’s brightest idea on tap may be the 60 Watt IPA, a hoppy brew that’s imbued with citrus and tropical notes and finishes clean: It’s perfect with tacos from California Tacos or a buttery lobster roll from Cousin’s Maine Lobster (both of those food trucks frequent the brewery). Apricot Blonde builds in a touch of apricot sweetness for a pleasantly surprising draft. Playing off the backyard idea, S’More For Me Stout is an American Porter made with lactose sugar; when combined with the chocolatey notes from the malt, it tastes so much like a s’more you might think you’re drinking one of these campfire treats.
Lake Gaston Brewing Company
Lake Gaston Brewing was born when retired 82nd Airborne Division Paratrooper Darrin Jones decided he wanted to enter the world of craft beer. He scoured Fayetteville and found the perfect place, then fate brought retired Green Beret Troy Rassmussen, a homebrewer for more than a decade, into his life. The two were ready to live that craft beer life. Wanting to keep things simple, they focused on brews to sip and savor, and a menu of simple food to match. Enter Chef Theo Gumbs, a man who knew his way around the kitchen and had performed on Iron Chef America and Cutthroat Kitchen, among others. “He had a culinary vision and a strong viewpoint, and he helped make our food match our beer,” says Rassmussen. I agree. A Jerk Chicken Sandwich or the Island Wings pairs well with the Boondocker IPA. A Craft Beer Bratwurst is fantastic with the Wit’l Friend. And for dessert, Dew Drop Lavender—a malty ale with a lavender nose that was an award winner at Fayetteville’s 2018 Blues-N-Brews festival—goes well with the cheesecake. Bread pudding and All American Strong Ale, a malty, chocolatey beer, is another big way to finish a meal.
Plan A Trip
Tap into Fayetteville, North Carolina starting with these five breweries on the Hometown Hops Brew Trail. You can also enjoy dinner at a panoply of international restaurants, get adventurous zip-lining and hiking, visit the U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum, and much more in this hard-working, fun-loving American town.
Visit during baseball season, from April to early-September, to watch the Fayetteville Woodpeckers play at brand new Segra Stadium. Enjoy a local beer (or a brew from North Carolina) at one of the stadium’s 100 taps. Great news: tickets start at around $9. On Thirsty Thursdays fans age 21 or older can purchase $3 domestic beers.
With a number of all-suite and extended stay hotels, you’ll find a comfortable place to rest your head. If you’re interested in making the most of your suds-soaked trip to Fayetteville, North Carolina, plan a visit in April for North Carolina Craft Beer Month; the weather’s perfect across the state that time of year so it’s prime time to sip away an afternoon.
Jason Frye is a food and travel writer, author of the Moon North Carolina guidebook series, barbecue judge and cat lover living in Wilmington, North Carolina. Follow his adventures, bites and sips on Instagram where he’s known as @beardedwriter.