A Closer Look at Carolina Brewing Company

I thought it was only appropriate to start this website by taking a closer look at the brewer that is responsible for my love of craft beer.  Carolina Brewing Company’s Nut Brown Ale was the first craft beer I ever liked the taste of.  I drank that beer exclusively for the better part of a year before I started to branch out into other styles and other brewers.

Joe Zonin was nice enough to take a few minutes, before his brew tour, to talk with me about CBC and their place in the NC beer community.

Joe Zonin


1)  What is your role with CBC?

I am one of the original owners and I handle sales and promotions, marketing, wholesaler relations and quality control of beer after it has left the brewery.

2) How many employees do you have?

There are three owners and one employee.

3) What made the guys at CBC first want to start their own brewery?

We were avid homebrewers.  We had been brewing in our basement for several years, trying the recipes out on friends and entering them into local competitions.  We thought we had good recipes and the started working towards opening our own place.

4)  How did you end up choosing NC as a location for your brewery?

We chose North Carolina in 1993 (two years before we opened) because there were so few breweries in this state.  When we chose North Carolina, there were only two craft breweries in the state.

5) There has been a craft beer boom in this area over the last few years, how has that effected CBC?

We have been fortunate to have a very loyal following.  The craft beer boom has been great to us and made a lot of people excited about beer in general, which can only help us.

6) How does CBC differ from other local craft brewers?

There are a lot of small things that separate us from other local breweries.  We have stayed very local; after 16 years we’re still in only 6 counties. We make fairly traditional beers and offer them at a great price.

7) What was the first beer that you brewed?

The first beer we brewed at home and professionally is Carolina Pale Ale.

8) I dont see Wiggo under your list of seasonal beers anymore.  Are you still making that?

Wiggo is a beer we make sporadically.  It has only been a seasonal beer once (Winter Wiggo) and it has been a single batch beer about 5 other times.  Its an interesting beer, in that it doesn’t really fit into any beer style.  Because we use a lot of malt and a lot of hops, its either a really hoppy amber or a really malty IPA.  The last time we made it was for our 15th anniversary in 2010.

9) What (non CBC) beers do you drink on a regular basis?
I don’t drink any other beers on a regular basis.  I do drink a lot of non-beer items on a regular basis: wine, tequila, etc.  I do drink other breweries beers, but its usually to try something different, so its nothing on a “regular” basis.  The closest things to old standbys for me would be Highland Gaelic Ale and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
10) Where can we find CBC on draft?

CBC is on draft in about 125 bars and restaurants in the Triangle area.
11)  I noticed that you are very supportive of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. What makes that charity so near and dear to your heart?

We have been very committed to this cause because we have personal connections to people that have been affected by this disease.

12) What other community involvement does CBC have?

We try to support as many causes as we can, ranging from Pints for Prostate, to the Walk for Hope, to Autism Awareness.

13) I have heard that CBC was the beer that the Carolina Hurricanes drank out of the Stanley Cup.  Is that true?  If so, how did CBC get chosen for that?

Carolina Pale Ale was drunk from the Stanley Cup.  It wasn’t the chosen beer and I don’t know how many Hurricanes drank from it, but the cup made its way to Blinco’s Sports Bar in Raleigh.  People were drinking from the cup, and it was Carolina Pale Ale on draft that was the chosen beer that night.  We’ve got some great pictures of it at the brewery.
It was also the beer chosen by Mayor Charles Meeker for the traditional bets between cities during the finals in 2006.  Mayor Meeker bet a case of Carolina Pale Ale against the mayor of Edmonton for one of their local beers.  Needless to say, Mayor Meeker didn’t have to send any beer.

14) What is your vision for the future of CBC?

I think we will spend the next 16 years a lot like the way we spent the last 16: making high quality beer for the local market.

15) Do you have any special events planned in the near future?
We will be having a beer dinner at 42nd St. Oyster Bar on Sunday Nov.6 and we will be at the World Beer Festival.

16) Is there anything else that you want people to know about CBC that I haven’t covered?
Now that the weather has turned cooler, the brewery tours are a lot more fun.

I have to agree with Joe that the tour is much more enjoyable in the cooler weather, but the heat certainly doesn’t stop the crowds from flocking to CBC  to learn about beer brewing and sample the beers.

crowds lining up to sample the beer

Their tour is my favorite in the area, it seems to draw a lot of home brewers and not just people looking for free beer.  I have always walked away from their tour having learned something new.
Its well worth the trip to Holly Springs to check the place out.  You can also pick up some t-shirts, glassware, kegs and bottles of the seasonal releases at the brewery.

retail area

I may have moved on from my days of drinking CBCs Nut Brown Ale exclusively, but CBC will always be in my heart and in my refrigerator.

Who needs vegetables?!


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