Not a Bad Beer in the Bunch at Catawba Valley Brewing
The PubScout visits Catawba Brewing Company’s Wilmington location.
Billy Pyatt and his brother, Scott, launched the first Catawba Brewing Company in western North Carolina in 1999. Four taprooms later, including one called Palmetto Brewing in Charleston, South Carolina, it appears the Christmas gift Billy’s wife, Jetta, gave him in 1994 — a beer making kit — has become the gift that keeps on giving.
I could tell you more about that, but this story is about me and my riding buddy, Harry Joe, getting to know Catawba beers a bit better at Catawba Brewing Company’s Wilmington location. And thanks to Tasting Room Manager Mary Mayo, that mission was duly accomplished.
I first met Mary while covering an event designed to hype the wonders of Burke County in the hills of western North Carolina — Morganton, to be exact — which just so happens to be where Catawba Brewery was founded. At Catawba Brewing Wilmington, we found her to be the most affable, beer-knowledgeable, best-front-person-a-business-could-want.
Although Mary was most responsible in dispensing our samples, I lost count of how many beers we actually tasted, but I can tell you this: There wasn’t a “meh” beer in the collection. I mean, I am definitely not a “sour” guy, but that Blueberry Backtrack would definitely find some space in my backyard/beach/BBQ cooler. Ditto that Lemon-Ginger Zombie.
To be sure, the average Joe may not find all of these in his local Lowe’s, or even on the website, as some are small-batch/in-house-only efforts. But the Joe I was with was ecstatic about everyone we tried, including one named in his honor, called Evening Joe. That’s a coffee blonde ale that would be apropos at any brunch.
Accordingly, our saddlebags transported Evening Joe south to OIB. That prompted us to decide that the next trip we took to Catawba Brewing Wilmington would have to be on four wheels, just for transporting treasures like the flagship Farmer Ted’s Golden Ale, Clear Ridge IPA, Hopness Haze (quite a story accompanies that beer!), Brown Bear Brown, Palmetto Espresso Porter and even Peanut Butter Jelly Time Raspberry Brown Ale. We actually had a variant of this with grape jelly.
Catawba Beers are not knock-your-socks-off hop monsters or blowout-high ABV mindbenders, as most of the beers fall into the high 4/low 6 range. We did enjoy the Double Entendre Belgian Dubbel, which was a dangerously drinkable 7.5% ABV, and the 10% Three Mulletteers Creamsicle Milkshake could certainly induce the irresponsible in the population to use a lampshade as headgear. But our thanks to Mary, our samples, as I said, were most responsible pours designed to impart the flavors of the beers — which they did. The last sample was the Tropical Milkshake IPA, of which I had become enamored at my first visit, and after that, we stayed for lunch. Harry Joe loved his cheese curds, and my Steak and Cheese Quesadilla was simply outstanding. That we enjoyed them in the ambiance of Catawba’s sparkling, airy taproom surely added to the experience.
But the main ingredient throughout our experience at Catawba was Mary Mayo. A repository of info about the beers and the company she represents, quick-witted, friendly, and a pleasure to chat with, she needs a beer named after her.
Maybe the Palmetto Low Country Lager, a beer originally made for Cinco de Mayo.
To that end, Cinco de Mary works fine.
Want to go?
Catawba Brewing Company
4712 New Centre Drive, Wilmington