Explore Raleigh’s unique craft beers brewed with community spirit.
In the last decade, Raleigh’s craft breweries have racked up national accolades and amassed legions of fans, both near and far. As the city’s culinary and craft beer scenes have grown, breweries and restaurateurs have looked at innovative ways to make their brews, drinks and food stand out. Cue the collaborations.
For local brewery owners especially, partnering with restaurants, coffee roasters and bakeries offer them opportunities to work with like-minded businesses, collaborate with friends and foster community, all in the name of crafting some seriously creative and sought-after flavors. We spoke with folks at four popular Raleigh breweries who shared how working with talented local coffee roasters, chefs and bakers create truly local, one-of-a-kind brews.
Be forewarned: some of these collaborations are only around for a limited time, so make sure to try them soon!
Crank Arm Brewing Company x The Cortez Seafood + Cocktail: Salty Spokes Smoked Oyster Stout
Adam Eckhardt, co-owner of Crank Arm Brewing Company, believes local beers made with local ingredients tell stories. With chef Oscar Diaz and owner Charlie Ibarra of The Cortez Seafood + Cocktail, Crank Arm has brewed its best story yet: a beer made with 100 percent North Carolina ingredients. The Salty Spokes, a smoked oyster stout, features malt sourced through Durham-based Epiphany Craft Malt; Lawton Points oysters harvested in the Newport River from Locals Seafood; hops from Pittsboro-based Farm Boy Farms; and yeast from White Labs Asheville. For this limited edition beer, 5 percent of the malt was smoked over pearwood, and a half bushel of oysters, added in whole during the last 15 minutes of the boiling process, imparts a trademark brininess, while the meat and shell’s calcium adds creaminess. “It’s got that smokiness and saltiness,” Eckhardt says. “There’s a liquid ham or bacon thing going on with that.”
Founded in 2006, Big Boss Brewing has a long track record of local collaborations. “We’ve done things with restaurants, with local breweries and with local bands,” says Big Boss product manager Dave Rogers. “Whenever we get to do a collaboration, it just shows a mix of collaboration on every level: the concept, the product and how you present it afterwards.” One of Big Boss Brewing’s ongoing partnerships is with neighboring coffee roaster Larry’s Coffee. The brewing duo first collaborated on Aces & Ates, a strong winter stout infused with Ethiopian cold-pressed coffee. This month, Big Boss will release the Honduras Coffee Lager, a classic German-style lager infused with roasted and gently cracked Honduran coffee beans. The beans were selected during a coffee cupping at Larry’s Coffee, where a team tasted seven different kinds of brewed coffee. The Honduran beans were chosen for their nutty, fruity and smooth flavor to complement the light-style beer.
The team at Brewery Bhavana acknowledges that the craft beer industry is inherently collaborative. “Brewing with friends is a nice change of pace,” says Roxanne Bellamy, the brewery’s beer manager and storyteller. “There are new hands, minds and hearts to offer new perspective.” Last April, Bhavana’s head brewers Patrick Woodson and Brent Steffen worked with Josh Bellamy and Sam Kirkpatrick, co-founders of Boulted Bread, on Boult, a barrel-aged imperial kvass made with Boulted’s baked Nordic rye bread. To brew the kvass, they wet, mashed, then pureed the bread and aged the resulting wort for six months in wine barrels with Brewery Bhavana’s house yeast culture and Boulted’s sourdough starter. “It’s just chock-full of Raleigh’s wild yeast strains,” Roxanne Bellamy says. “Also, it’s delicious—mildly sour with a nice, smooth, grain-like backbone. Kvass is an Eastern European fermented beverage, usually under one percent alcohol, like kombucha, but ours is 6 percent, so we call it an ‘imperial kvass.’ It’s one of the most beautiful beers we’ve made so far.”
Trophy’s brewers collaborated with Jenny and Jonathan Bonchak of the coffee company Slingshot Co. to brew Slingshot, a best-selling winter coffee porter infused with Slingshot cold-brew. Trophy brewer Chris Powers says that the coffee lends notes of citrus and dark cherry to round out the dark beer’s flavor. Trophy’s next collaboration with Slingshot will feature a different kind of coffee product: cascara tea. “Cascara is the cherry on the outside of a coffee bean, but it’s got a much lighter, fruitier flavor with a cherry tobacco note to it,” Powers explains. “We reached out to [Slingshot] because we wanted to work through it with someone coming at it from a coffee background.” The beer style hasn’t been finalized, but they’re experimenting with using Slingshot cascara in an imperial stout, in which the cherry tobacco notes add a nuanced brightness to the dark style beer, or a Belgian Tripel, where its fruitiness plays off the ale’s malty sweetness.