An hour southeast of Greensboro (take U.S. Route 421 to U.S. Route 64) lies a libations lover’s Xanadu — and in the most unassuming of places.
The Chatham Beverage District in Pittsboro conveniently clusters producers of meads, ciders, and distilled beverages in one small complex off Lorax Lane. It’s a playful place, allowing time to meander from one storefront to the next.
Not far from the district is Carolina Brewery & Grill if you’re into craft suds, as well as 580 Craft Beer, which offers eclectic retail choices plus a dozen brews on tap. For wine lovers, there’s Silk Hope Winery, which is located 15 minutes away from downtown off N.C. Highway 87.
Fermenting honey and water is still trending as this is one of more than 400 meaderies scattered across the U.S. Owners Becky and Ben Starr opened Starrlight Mead in 2010, delighting tasting room visitors who startle at elegantly-crafted dry wines. They produce meads in various styles thanks to North Carolina bees. Of course, if you’re into sweet, you can find that, too. Choices include meads flavored with various spices and fruits. starrlightmead.com
Fair Game Beverage Company
This small-batch distillery is all about spirits and fortified wines. Leveraging North Carolina grapes and fruits and adding brandy to halt fermentation, these products kick it up a notch. Spirits include the Flying Pepper, No’Lasses, and Amber Rum. Fortified wines include Ferris Red (port style), Two Step White (sherry style) and various fruit “tippers.” fairgamebeverage.com
Chatham Cider Works
Right next door to Fair Game Beverage is a cidery for those interested in trying something on the lighter side of fermentation. Hard cider’s popularity has skyrocketed in the last decade and North Carolina is blessed to have the harvest of Henderson County. You can get hard ciders in various styles here. chathamciderworks.com
IPA? Porter? Kolsch? Whatever your taste, taste it here because there’s much to choose from — and there’s a grill for lunch and dinner. They’ve been making craft brews since 1995 so you know they have a loyal following. carolinabrewery.com
Silk Hope Winery
Owner Wally Butler can squeeze more styles out of chambourcin, seyval blanc, norton, and vidal blanc grapes than most North Carolina winemakers. Make no mistake: this is as un-scenic as it gets; the production and tasting room is cloistered in a Quonset hut straight out of WWII. But inside, the tastings are charmingly quaint and personal. Blends include Sisters of Satisfaction and Grand Vista. silkhopewinery.com
Ed Williams, longtime wine columnist for the News & Record, has been known to sample other fruits and grains on occasion.