For nearly 30 years, Wilmington was home to just one brewery, but the city has seen a big beer boom since 2014: The count now stands at nine breweries (with more planned) as well as a burgeoning bottle shop, bar and restaurant scene. Here’s where to soak it up.
This teenie, 2-year-old brewery serves all of its beers out of its downtown taproom. Regular brews are split between Belgian styles and American beers like the popular Rehder’s Red amber, named for Stanley Rehder, a leading preservationist of the indigenous Venus flytrap.
New Anthem Beer Project
American takes on farmhouse ales and tart saisons are the focus at Wilmington’s newest brewery and taproom, which set up shop in September in a 100-plus-year-old former stable on Dock Street. Keep an eye out for Northeast-style IPAs and the potential for future can releases.
Wilmington Brewing Co.
A husband-and-wife duo, who also operates the adjacent Wilmington Homebrew Supply, specializes in brewing dry, clean West Coast-style IPAs from their 12,000-square-foot space. But even hopheads won’t want to pass up the Blair’s Breakfast Stout—a dozen 10% ABV versions of the beer brewed with maple syrup and aged in various spirits barrels will debut this winter.
Bill’s Front Porch Pub & Brewery
Out back, a tiki bar and year-round sand volleyball courts conjure a beachside vibe; inside, there’s a rustic feel to the restaurant, which began brewing a diverse range of beers this summer. Brews often find a home on the food menu in popular dishes like the spent grain beer pretzel served alongside cheese soup made with housebrewed Mosaic IPA.
Front Street Brewery
Wilmington’s original brewery since 1995, this family-friendly brewpub is at its coziest during the winter months when tourists have left and regulars have reclaimed their bar stools. Expect true-to-style classics like an ESB and a Scottish ale, and don’t miss the sweet pulled chicken nachos. Free brewery tours take place daily between 3 and 5 p.m.; sign up at the hostess stand.
Head to the second-floor Loft above JohnnyLukes KitchenBar for a casual bar with 19 taps (including two nitro lines) that favor in-state breweries like Duck Rabbit, Mother Earth Brewing and Good Hops, along with a lineup of burgers that includes the jalapeno, sriracha mayo- and jack cheesetopped New Orleans “The Kicker.”
Tavern Law 1832
Sixteen taps at this come-as-you-are, sports bar-ish tavern are dedicated to N.C. breweries, with at least 12 lines pouring Wilmington-area breweries, including Broomtail, Waterline and Check Six.
Cape Fear Wine & Beer
For 13 years, this combo bottle shop and 30-tap bar has brought some of the best local and national brews to downtown Wilmington, including lust-worthy bottles from Lost Abbey, Wicked Weed, Hannsens and even Westbrook’s coveted Mexican Cake stout.
Tips: Survey the scene without getting behind the wheel via Port City Brew Bus. Tours include stops at three breweries and a pre-tour sampling of common beer styles. Need a beer souvenir? Stock up on bottles to take home at Palate Bottle Shop & Reserve, or swing by for free, guided beer tastings on Thursdays.