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The best breweries in Raleigh and Cary, North Carolina

The Best Breweries in Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh hides in Asheville’s shadow when it comes to the best North Carolina breweries. Although that’s to be expected, as Asheville is generally known as one of the best beer cities in the United States. Even other areas of the state tend to get more recognition for their breweries, but the best breweries in Raleigh are starting to change that perception.

Maybe it’s because Asheville’s craft beer scene has been going strong since the 90’s. Whereas Big Boss Brewing, Raleigh’s oldest craft brewery, was established only in 2006. Lonerider opened in 2009, and then Raleigh Brewing Co and Crank Arm both opened in 2013. So, the craft brewery scene is much newer here.

But with many colleges in the area and a relatively young population, Raleigh’s beer scene has been steadily improving over the last decade. From great IPAs to sour beers, and even some with fantastic food, here are the best breweries in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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The Best Breweries in Raleigh

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Wye Hill is one of the best breweries in Raleigh, North Carolina and also offers the best food of any brewery in the area.
Wye Hill

Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing much more than one of Raleigh’s best breweries. It is celebrated as a premier destination for both dining and craft beer enthusiasts.

Situated at the edge of Downtown in the historic Boylan Heights neighborhood, Wye Hill offers one of the most photographed views of the Raleigh skyline from its outdoor dining area. This famous patio provides ample outdoor tables that is complemented by indoor seating options.

With its small batch craft brewery, they offer four core beers along with a variety of rotating beer selections throughout the year. And if you don’t like beer, they typically offer at least one of their house-made hard ciders plus wine and cocktails.

Wye Hill is not only known for its exceptional beers but also as a brewery with high-quality food. Its chef-driven menu features unique twists on familiar dishes, all made with a focus on North Carolina ingredients. Whether you’re looking for a casual gathering with friends or a memorable date night, Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing is the perfect spot.

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Crank Arm is one of the best Raleigh Breweries. They promote an active lifestyle and support the cycling community through evening runs, bike rides, and yoga followed by beer.
Crank Arm Brewing

When people who love cycling and beer get together, it’s hard to find a better outcome than Crank Arm Brewing. This award-winning craft brewery located in downtown Raleigh prides itself on a unique combination of high-quality beer and an active lifestyle. They hold evening runs and bike rides that end at the brewery and even host Sunday yoga sessions.

Get ready for a fun-filled brewery experience at Crank Arm, where you’ll find an impressive rotating selection of beers. While its focus is primarily on American styles, Crank Arm isn’t afraid to experiment with new flavors and brewing techniques. Make sure to try its standout beer, Holy Spokes, a smoked porter infused with cinnamon, habanero peppers, vanilla bean, and cocoa nibs.

While they do not serve food in the brewery tasting room, they allow take-out for patrons to enjoy great food alongside their craft beers.

If you want to talk beers and bikes, stop by Crank Arm Brewing.

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True to its name, Funguys Brewing is one of the most fun and interesting breweries I’ve been to… anywhere.

This mom-and-pop craft brewery has become a favorite spot for beer drinkers seeking flavor-forward ales and lagers. But it’s the unique smoothies sours at Funguys Brewing that are perhaps the most interesting beers in Raleigh. This style of sour ale is characterized by the heavy use of fruit during the brewing process, resulting in a beer that are not just sour but also rich in fruit flavor and has a thicker, smoothie-like texture. So, people who don’t like beer (like my girlfriend) might actually love these.

 

The brewery has gained significant recognition, including being awarded “Best New Brewery” of 2022 in a USA Today brewery contest, a testament to its popularity and the quality beers in the Triangle area.

The brewery is not just about the beer; it’s about the experience. Now I only wish the taproom was a bit larger.

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Brewery Bhavana is one of the best breweries in Raleigh. It pairs Belgian beer with Dim Sum in a modern setting.

Brewery Bhavana’s four-in-one concept, featuring beer, Dim Sum, flowers, and a bookstore, creates an unprecedented space that delights visitors from all walks of life. The books and flowers create a setting that is unlike any I’ve seen in a brewery – intended to make its modern space as “comfortable as a living room.” While they do achieve this goal, it’s the beer and dim sum that catapults it to near the top of my list of best breweries in Raleigh.

While the focus is on Belgian beer, Brewery Bhavana’s offerings extend beyond any particular genre and will typically include at least one sour, fruited, grisette, and stout on tap.

Try the Bloom Tripel, an 8.1% ABV Belgian-style Tripel brewed with cardamom for a fragrant and flavorful experience. And then pair it with one of the incredible Laotian-Chinese-inspired Dim Sum options such as chicken curry bao, duck egg roll, or crab rangoon.

And in case you are curious as to the name, Bhavana is a Sanskrit term that means to cultivate, develop, and produce.

Footnote: As of June 2023, cofounder Patrick Woodson has taken over as sole owner of this brewery. I strongly considered my decision on whether to highlight this brewery or not, and ultimately came to believe that because the former owners and employees who engaged in various types of misconduct and sexual harassment have left, that this allows Bhavana to make a fresh start.

Breweries in Cary Worth the Drive

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Bond Brothers is one of the best breweries in Cary, just outside Raleigh, North Carolina.
Bond Brothers Beer Company

Great beer isn’t limited just to within the city limits of Raleigh, as you can find many of the area’s best breweries in Cary. Bond Brothers is a microbrewery and taproom known for its exceptional ales, lagers, and sours. 

In addition to the taproom, there is a back room with pinball machines as well as a very spacious outdoor beer garden. The brewery is both dog friendly and kid friendly (kids are allowed until 8pm). And while only snacks are offered in the taproom, there is a food truck out front.

They typically feature 14 unique beers on tap and have a renowned barrel sour program that includes traditional sour styles and some creative twists. I suggest ordering 10oz small pours so you can mix in favorites like the well-balanced Obfuscate Hazy IPA or the Manasa Witbier. But the draft list changes so frequently, you never know what exciting beers they’ll have for your visit.

In addition to the brewery, they also have an Eastside music venue and bar that is open in the evenings.

While You’re in Cary: Walk across the street to Bull City Ciderworks for a selection of great hard cider.

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Cotton House is the taphouse for Triangle Brewing Co, one of the best breweries in Cary, North Carolina. It is located in a historic house with beautiful indoor and outdoor seating.
Cotton House

If this doesn’t look like a brewery, it’s because it isn’t one. Rather, Cotton House Craft Brewers is a beautiful tap house for Triangle Beer Co. The brewery was located just a few blocks away, but recently closed. Social media accounts say they are moving to a new location, but details are unconfirmed.

While neither the beer nor the service at the brewery garnered remarkable reviews, this location offers a unique setting that I really love. Sample the beers made from local hops while enjoying the cozy indoor seating or relaxing in one of the outdoor areas. 

I will update when I get further details.

Other Great Raleigh Breweries

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Neuse River Brewing & Brasserie (NRBC) is a standout in the Five Points neighborhood. This is an area north of downtown that is home to several of Raleigh’s best breweries.

With a focus on Belgian Ales and IPAs, they also venture into other styles to provide a wider selection. I often have a preference for Hazy IPAs and New England IPAs, and their Saturday Morning Hazy IPA is one of my favorites in the area. A Brasserie was added in 2019 to serves European Bistro-inspired fare with a North Carolina twist, perfectly complementing the craft beers. While the half-pound burger gets a lot of fanfare, I suggest ordering the duck poutine beside it. And the croque madame makes for a good Sunday brunch along with their Irish coffee.

 

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For a classic American craft brewery experience, stop by Lynnwood Brewing Concern, one of the original breweries in Five Points. They have a selection of beers offered year-round like the Czech Yourself pilsner, Kiss my Irish Stout, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Amber. My favorite is the flagship beer, Hop On Top, which is a modern take on an American IPA, striking a perfect balance between bitterness and fruity notes. 

In addition to the core beers, Lynnwood Brewing Concern offers seasonal brews that include a pumpkin hefeweizen, an oatmeal stout, and a coconut porter.

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Trophy Brewing Company, established in 2013 on West Morgan Street in downtown Raleigh, has evolved significantly from its humble beginnings. Initially starting with just 14 seats at the bar, Trophy Brewing has expanded to two locations and introduced three sister concepts: Young Hearts Distilling (a distillery and restaurant), State of Beer (a bottle and sandwich shop), and Maywood Hall & Garden (a private event space).

The production facility on Maywood Avenue features a beautiful taproom and food trucks, while the original location has been renovated and serves up some interesting and delicious pizza to go along with the beer.

The flagship beer is Trophy Wife, a session IPA that offers a bright, crisp, and refreshing taste. While beers like Mily Way (salted caramel stout,) and Double Death Spiral (Double IPA with local honey) are distinctive treats.

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Altered State Brewing Company should probably make the jump up higher on my list for two reasons: They have some of the best hazy IPAs and heavily fruited sours in Raleigh. While the taps rotate just like everywhere else, there are typically several sours available at any time. New beers are released every Thursday to keep the offerings fresh and engaging.

Altered State Brewing provides a family and dog-friendly environment, making it an inclusive and welcoming space for all beer enthusiasts. 

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Raleigh Brewing Company (RBC) was founded by passionate home brewers who wanted to share its craft with the community they hold dear. So when Kristie Nystedt became the first woman to own a brewery in the state of North Carolina, it opened alongside a supply shop for homebrewers and a supplier of tanks and equipment for other breweries.

With eight year-round brews, rotating seasonal beers, and countless experimental batches, RBS has grown into one of the largest breweries in the area. In addition to the main Raleigh brewery, they have locations in Cary and Smithfield.

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Founded in 2009, Lonerider is currently operating as the oldest brewery in Raleigh (if Big Boss reopens then it will revert back to the 2nd oldest).

Embracing a Wild West theme, Lonerider’s branding and beer names like “Shotgun Betty,” “Sweet Josie,” and “Peacemaker” reflect the outlaw spirit of the brewery.

Lonerider has expanded its reach beyond its original brewery and taproom, with distribution to nine states. And they have opened locations in nearby Wake Forest, Oak Island, and even at the Raleigh-Durham International airport.

North Carolina Breweries With Raleigh Taprooms

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New Anthem is one of the best breweries in Wilmington, NC and has opened a taphouse in Raleigh.
New Anthem Beer Project

New Anthem Beer Project is a Wilmington based brewery that has now expanded into Raleigh. In spring of 2023, they opened a taproom in the Smoky Hollow complex just off Glenwood Ave, a street filled with bars and restaurants.

While the beers are brewed in Wilmington, they’ll offer new releases straight from the production facility every Saturday. And this is a great opportunity to try the clean, crisp IPAs and lagers that they specialize in.

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Burial is one of the best breweries in Ashville and is known for having some of the best stouts in North Carolina. They have opened a taproom in Raleigh.
Burial

In 2012, Burial began in an old transmission shop in Asheville. It quickly became a local favorite and now has a taproom in Raleigh’s Transfer Co Food Hall. True to the brewery’s morbid theme, the taproom is basically a mini art exhibit with pieces that range from macabre to abstract, but definitely interesting.

Burial has some of the best Stouts in Raleigh, including the Skillet Donut Stout (brewed to mimic a fresh donut and a cup of coffee). Their Imperial Stouts, which go up to 15% ABV are also popular, but they have a range of IPAs, lagers, and even an occasional sour.