Port City Party
The PubScout and crew hit up the Wilmington brewing scene.
It had been far too long since I made the trek up U.S. 17 from OIB to ILM. And, whilst quaffing with some regulars at my local “Cheers bar” on a recent Friday night, I learned two things.
First, one of those friends, a really solid, good guy named Harry Joe, who loves beer as much as he loves life, had a birthday pending. Second, neither he, nor some of our mutual friends had ever been to Pour Taproom in the Port City.
There was only one acceptable plan for this: ROAD TRIP!
Ten of us made plans to check out the wonderful things that Brian Ballard has done with one of the most unique and popular taprooms in Wilmington, and with an ETA of “noonish,” we set out. That time frame would not only allow us to sample the fine beers and upgraded food Pour Taproom offers in a beer festival–like setting, but also provide us with ample time to explore beer and food venues elsewhere.
Ballard’s place, as usual, was a hit, and with appropriate COVID protocols put into place, pretty well filled with happy customers. Ballard was even nice enough to bestow a Pour gift card on Harry Joe, whom he had just met for the very first — but certainly not last — time. Like Arnold Schwarzbier, Harry vowed, “I’ll be bock! Er, back!
But there were more stops to make. Who can visit ILM with a beer goal and not head to Edward Teach? So, we got some of those fine brews (and some, like the 8.5% Breakfast at Teaches Imperial Brown Ale are truly outstanding) and assembled upstairs on the ship’s “prow” to continue the party.
Spirits were so high and the laughter so frequent that Keith commented, “I’m laughing so hard, my face hurts!” That must have been due to a particularly crude reference to provolone generated by a senior member of the group.
As any serious quaffer knows, stomachs must occasionally be replenished with fuel in order to stave off the effects of crude comments, so off we all headed to Beer Barrio.
There are lots of excellent beers on tap here at the sister pub of Skytown Brewing, which I covered in this space some months ago. Also, lots of excellent food — tacos, to be precise. Of course, our party devoured platter after platter of chips, guac and salsa before those tacos ever came out. We even inhaled a platter that was passing by, destined for somebody else’s table.
The afternoon light was fading into that wonderful time before the sun decides to fully set, and we had one more place to visit. It was one that I had not yet visited nor written about— Hi-Wire Brewing.
Party member Dave had experience with Hi-Wire, as he had visited not only the Wilmington taproom but the Asheville operation as well. Seems his Asheville-based daughter is friendly with the person who paints all the impressive murals at the Hi-Wire Building, a former car dealership.
No beer is actually made on site, as it’s shipped from the main brewery, but there were at least 20 offerings this day that would have satisfied any cerevisaphile. The place is cavernous, and chock full of not only those well-done murals, but also plenty of games to keep you occupied if you choose.
It’s also dog-friendly, and I met a gorgeous gal named Marilyn while settling in. Marilyn was being tended to by a lovely lass who knew enough about her dog’s attention span to walk behind me with a treat over my shoulder. Marilyn, as you can see, complied fully.
It had pretty much been a stout/porter tap day for me, so Dave and I went with a Blueberry 10W40 Stout. It was out-of-this-world fabulous. Extremely well balanced, not cloyingly sweet, but with just enough blueberry and chocolate and coffee malts to make for a most memorable beer. If I were at home, it would be a session beer, but at 8.5%, I opted for only one.
The clientele of Hi-Wire was a healthy mixture of young, old, tourists, locals and dogs, all of whom were especially friendly. The staff were, too. In addition to the spacious interior, there is a very large and comfortable outside seating area, and parking is available on-site. Someone in corporate was pretty sharp in picking the location. Come April, May, June and “the season” (and if this crappy COVID business fades), Hi-Wire will undoubtedly be the place to go.
In all, the day was a rousing success, filled with laughter, good beer, good food, good friends and, most of all, with love. I even made a new friend who was posing in front of one of those murals, and she good-naturedly posed with me.
Being geezers with early bedtimes, Dave, Donna and I headed back to OIB. Apparently so did the other seven. But they continued the party at our local Cheers bar. God bless— and more power to — them.
All the places we visited for Harry Joe’s birthday dutifully followed COVID protocols, though more than once I found myself halfway to an ordering location before I had to turn around for my mask. Curses! I can’t wait for the day where they’re no longer required.
Even if there’s no provolone around.