On the morning of Saturday 3/8/14 we woke up to a beautiful view of the Currituck Sound in the northeastern corner of North Carolina. After a hearty breakfast at a roadside café that just so happened to be the home base of the popular monster truck, Grave Digger, we drove just a few more miles south to the oldest microbrewery in the state, Weeping Radish Farm Brewery. If you have been paying attention to our travels, you know that NC has a booming craft beer scene and it all started here with the work of a Bavarian native, Uli Bennewitz. After moving to America he had a vision to share the delicious beers he had grown up with and decided to open up a traditional German style brewery and restaurant in NC’s popular Outer Banks. So he went to work and ordered brewing equipment to be shipped from Germany, later finding out that his grand vision was an illegal one. At that time it was against the law in NC to sell a brewery’s beer directly to consumers (a 3rd party distributor was required) so in 1985 Uli spearheaded changing those silly laws with a local senator and won, finally opening up his brewery in Manteo on July 4, 1986.
After 20 years at that location, in 2006 the Weeping Radish was moved a short distance north to Grandy in order to allow for some additional space to expand. Nick Williams has been running the brewery side of the business as Brewmaster for the past 5 years and we were able to have a long conversation with him that afternoon along with the Assistant Brewer, Corey. Nick was formally schooled at the Siebel Institute as well as the Doemens Academy in Munich, Germany, giving him a rock-solid foundation for keeping up with Uli’s vision for traditional German lagers. Utilizing a 10 bbl system, the brewpub churned out just under 1,200 bbl this past year which is a little shy of doubling the previous years’ production. Nick did, however, share with us the extremely seasonal nature of brewing on the Outer Banks. Business is booming over the summer as tourists flock to the beaches and pick up plenty of beers along the way. In the winter, though, many businesses in the region are lacking funds and clientele to purchase kegs and Weeping Radish actually closes its doors for the winter months.
One of the nice things about our stop in early March, after the restaurant had just opened back up for the season, was that we were able to taste some great beers that had gone through an extended lagering process. The brewery’s top sellers are the Corolla Gold Munich Helles and the Black Radish Schwarzbier. Those two brews along with the Fest Marzen were available upon the Weeping Radish opening and are brewed by Reinheitsgebot German Purity Law standards. Also added to the line-up over the years is the OBX Beer Kolsch-style Ale, Weizen, and the Doppelbock Christmas Bier. In recent years the brewery has begun to contract brew for other local breweries and has loosened the strict adherence to Reiheitsgebot. They are currently making an Oatmeal Stout and a sort of Scottish IPA (a high ABV malt heavy beer that is a bit more hoppy that the English IPAs but not quite as high in IBUs as many American IPAs) for Two Fathers Beer Co in addition to a Blonde Ale and IPA for Full Moon. They had been contracted to make a Red Ale for another brewery that ended up pulling out but Weeping Radish kept making it and is currently offering the beer with their more German centric brews. Also, a newer addition is the Bitter Bee, a hoppy honey ale utilizing tulip poplar honey from the Shenandoah Valley.
With these changes, Nick and Corey have had some more leeway for experimentation. They told us about the Maibock done last year utilizing all North Carolina ingredients, aside from yeast, but Nick has plans to try to incorporate local yeast into another seasonal beer in the future. The brewery staples, along with their Root Beer, are available to consumers in 22oz bombers that can also be bought from the brewery by the case. There was even discussion of getting into canning in the future to accommodate the beach crowd, possibly starting off with a mobile canning unit. This would also further the eco-friendly farmer to fork concept. Weeping Radish takes great pride in their meats, prepared by a Master German Butcher with 34 years of experience, Gunther Kuhle. They contract with local naturally focused small farms to prepare an array of nitrate-free sausages and meats.
The Weeping Radish Farm Brewery is open selected hours Wednesday-Sunday during the open season so definitely stop by for a great traditional German experience of food and drink on your next trip to the Outer Banks. Tours of the brewery and butchery/smokehouse are offered for $5 Wednesdays at 11am or the brewery can be viewed from the 2nd floor mezzanine for free during open hours. Their beers are currently found in select accounts throughout most of Eastern and Central NC as well as at different events like festivals at local vineyards during the summer. Also, plans are in the works for an Oktoberfest party with Brew Thru and Kitty Hawk Kites with an exciting BrewTag (like Red Bull’s Flugtag but instead with beer kegs – now that has got to be fun to watch). Thank you very much to Nick and Corey for speaking with us about Weeping Radish that afternoon and for showing such amazing hospitality to finish out our trip through North Carolina.
Author: Brandon Wurtz