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The Johnston County Visitors Bureau BLOG is published weekly with news and feature articles on visiting the county.

The Art of the Cocktail is Being Revived in Clayton

The Art of the Cocktail is Being Revived in Clayton

When you think of a bartender in these modern times you probably imagine a harassed, busy, maybe friendly person hastily taking orders and doling out drinks behind the counter in any given restaurant, tavern, or club. At their best bartenders are welcoming, knowledgeable about the drink menu, and attentive. At their worst, they are rude, short, apathetic and happy to serve you a hastily-mixed version of whatever you ordered.

We can blame this iteration of the bartender on prohibition (like so many other things). But before prohibition a bartender was a sort of Renaissance man, able to expertly serve his bar patrons a concoction fit for their preferences and tastes while understanding enough about each of them to know where along the bar to linger, to listen, or to avoid. He was an artist who knew enough about his craft to make the best popular drinks of that era and to even create his own recipes.

“An excellent bartender can read their customers – they recognize what they want, when they need space or when they need attention. Beyond detailed service, bartending means a deep understanding of ingredients combined with proper execution.”

That definition comes straight from Zack Thomas, bartender and Renaissance man himself. Zack is the Bar Manager and Beverage Director at Clayton’s brand new jazz-influenced cocktail lounge Revival 1869. Revival will be opening the 24th of this month and is the culmination of more than a year’s hard work on the part of owners and entrepreneurs Mike Stojic and Maleah Christie. Both of them immediately knew Zach would the perfect person to be the face of their lounge.

Zack’s background includes work at Foundation, a popular Raleigh nightlife spot. Born in Boston, Zack moved to Raleigh in the early 90s and then back to Boston for college where he started bartending. When asked why he then moved back to Raleigh again, he said it was because he missed it too much.

“I felt at the time that Raleigh was experiencing a cultural revolution, which is also sort of the same feeling that’s led me to Clayton and to Revival. There is a feeling here of being on the cusp of something. The idea that Clayton could have a true nightlife scene is something people are excited for, and I think that what Mike and Maleah are doing with Revival is going to be the moment that kicks it all into full gear.”

So, what will visitors to Revival 1869 experience? Well, excellently crafted cocktails for one. And hot jazz music for another. The bar will feature classic cocktails like the Sazerac, the Old Fashioned, and the Hemingway Daiquiri. A seasonal menu will also feature all original cocktails created in-house. Limited beer, wine, and food items will be available, all with trends towards local and regional sourcing. For example, you’ll certainly be able to find Broadslab Distillery products on the menu. Music will also be a huge focus at Revival. There will be live jazz music every Saturday night and alternating Thursday nights will feature jazz jam sessions and solo pianists and vocalists.

Mike is excited for what Zack and Revival can bring to Clayton’s downtown scene, “We want to go back to the visionary aspects of what cocktail making was 80 to 100 years ago, and get back to treating it like an art.”

Which brings us back to the resurgence of the career bartender. The best our modern-day vernacular can muster up is mixologist. Which makes them sound like alcohol chemists. Which they are. But, they are also so much more. The bartenders you’ll find at Revival, including Zack, will be passionate and meticulous.

According to Zack, his vision for Revival is, “to reintroduce the cocktail culture to Johnston County, which has a long history of spirits. I want Revival to be an interpersonal place of great cocktails shared among people who have a love for good drinks, community, and history. I also want our service to be on-point every single time – fresh ingredients, fresh juices squeezed in-house daily, and a knowledgeable staff.”

Finally, the most important question. What is Zack’s favorite drink? A Rum Manhattan, as it turns out, for its rich, decadent, funky vibe. This could also easily describe the atmosphere at Revival. It’s soon to be one of your favorite places to visit in Johnston County.

There used to places you could go to relax and unwind. Where you could lounge with friends and discuss important or whimsical things. Where the bartender was a magician and every glass full of his own special brand of magic. Where the gin was cold and the piano hot.

And now, in downtown Clayton, there will be again. You could call it a revival.


Stay tuned-in to everything going on at Revival 1869 by following their Facebook page. Revival will open its doors to the public on Friday and Saturday evening March 24th and 25th. They will be closed Sunday the 26th. After that, regular hours will be Thursday through Sunday with exact times to be announced.

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Looking Forward to Spring in JoCo

Looking Forward to Spring in JoCo







1. Picking strawberries. This activity is perfect for families with little ones. Johnston County has a few working farms that open their fields to pickers, or just show up and buy them pre-picked by the bucket. Click here for a list of berry farms and farmer's markets sure to have this sweet, red fruit.


2. With the weather turning warm and breezy, Spring is a great time to enjoy the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail. In the Spring months our family-owned, award-winning vineyards are green with grapes growing on the vine and waiting for the late Summer harvest. Sit on the porch and enjoy a chilled glass of wine and take home a bottle of your favorite. Don't forget that April is NC Beer Month. Johnston County's breweries will have special release beers and great weekend events happening in celebration. Visit the Beer, Wine, Shine Trail website to learn how to travel along the trail and then click on each trail location's website for more information on events and products.


3. For parents of young, energetic kids it's been a long winter of being cooped-up indoors due to the weather. Take the family outside to explore, play, and learn. The Neuse River also offers an excellent opportunity for canoers and kayakers. For a list of places in Johnston County to hike, bike, and play visit our Nature & Recreation page.

4. Explore Johnston County's Downtown areas. All of our historic downtowns are very walk-able with shops, restaurants, and museums. You never know what sort of unique treats your might find, like the Hills of Snow snow cone which is a local, seasonal favorite - opening in March. Spring also starts our festival season. You can learn more about all our events here.


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In Celebration of Beer

In Celebration of Beer

I feel like I say "blank is my favorite time of year!" a lot. Here's the deal. I love Christmas. I do. I also really love Autumn. So, there are seasons and holidays that have my heart. But, I have to put those aside for a minute to exclaim that April is my favorite time of the year! And if you love the state of North Carolina, craft beer, and good times, then it should be yours too.

Get on board the NC Beer Month Train

This year will be my second NC Beer Month with the Johnston County Visitors Bureau. Which means it has been more than a year since I moved home to pleasantly rediscover the county of my youth. And doesn't that sound winsome? As it turns out, in the years since I was away, Johnston County is now home to 2 craft breweries. I moved home from Asheville, so this knowledge came with great joy and consolation. And if you thought that Deep River Brewing Company and Double Barley Brewing brought their NC Beer Month A-game last year, you are in for a pleasant surprise.

It has been an absolute joy over the last year to work with creative, motivated, beer-loving, big-picture-seeing people like Lynn and Paul Auclair (#TeamDR), and Cheryl and Larry Lane (#TeamDB). Both breweries have been busy this year. Between the two of them they've added beers to their line-up, expanded distribution, increased brewing capacity, and started canning.  Basically, their 2015 was a lot like Justin Timberlake's 2002 when he went from being that guy in that boy band to a certified pop star. Started from the bottom, now we here. That sorta thing.

Near, Far,  JoCo Beer is Wherever You Are

If adventure is your natural inclination, and full-of-beer is your natural state, you should spend at least part of your NC Beer Month in Johnston County at both our breweries. I can assure you that you'll be right at home. The barstool will feel like it was molded for your tush. The clouds will open metaphorically and you'll hear the Lion King theme song in your head. Definitely. Probably. Is that just me?

Even better, Johnston County is located conveniently in North Carolina right where I-95, I-40, Hwy 70, and Hwy 301 converge. In a sense, all roads lead to beer. I mean, all roads lead here. Basically, if April finds you transversing the great state of North Carolina, you're going to go right by Deep River and Double Barley. Trust me. It's basic geography.

One thing is a guarantee. You will find a beer you like. You might even find THE beer. You know the one. Because Deep River and Double Barley have a variety of styles to choose from and even more specially concocted masterpieces foaming at the tap for just the month of April. I have included a full list below of NC Beer Month activities happening in Johnston County. You're welcome! Cheers!

Deep River:

The 3 Year Anniversary Party is April 7th - 10th (you read that right, it's a 4 day party). There will be an anniversary glassware giveaway each day to the first 100 customers, special release beers on draft, limited edition mixed 4-packs for sale that include a Tangerine White IPA, Sour Cherry Ale, Hoppy Pilsner, and Munich Dunkel, live music, and food trucks all weekend.

Pinapalooza is April 9th at 2PM and there will be 20 cask beers on tap, all of which were made by the employees. Tickets are $25 and include a limited edition commemorative tasting glass, free samples of all of the cask beer, and a vote for your favorite. Limited tickets available day of the event in the taproom.
There will be a Deep River Beer Dinner with the Cleveland Draft House in Clayton on April 27th at 6:30PM. The 5 course meal will be paired with 5 courses of beer. Ticket prices and availability to be determined at a later date. To keep you in suspense.

Double Barley:

An on-going promotions for the month of April include a $3 pint special every Wednesday and Randy Thursdays. What is a Randy Thursday, you ask? It's a different beer and flavor infusion every week concocted by a Double Barley employee and placed on the Randall system every Thursday. I can't explain more than that because I can't science very well. But ask upon arrival.

Give Em Hell Release Party will be April 2nd from 2PM to 7PM and will celebrate the second release of "Give Em Hell", the Double Barley Imperial Red Ale.  The proceeds from the sale of this beer are donated to the Beer Army Foundation for college scholarships in NC.  Event also includes live music, food trucks, and limited edition t-shirts.

Enjoy Craft Beer Cocktails on April 16th. Double Barley will have a special menu of their beers mixed together with other ingredients to create craft beer cocktails.  Live music with Ken and Cricket will be from 7PM to 10PM.

Double Barley hosts "Q, Brew and You" for the first annual Down East Beer and BBQ Festival and Competition at the brewery.  Nothing goes better with BBQ than beer! Competition starts at 11AM on April 23rd, taproom opens to the public at noon.

For all there is to know on an on-going basis about beer, wine, and spirits in the Johnston County area, visit beerwineshinetrail.com.

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Get Tickets to the Beer, Wine, Shine, and Dine Tour

Get Tickets to the Beer, Wine, Shine, and Dine Tour

The Ultimate Craft Beverage Experience

In September of last year we announced that Clayton Food Tours had partnered with the Johnston County Visitors Bureau to offer a new Beer, Wine, Shine & Dine Tour as a guided tour of the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail with lunch. It's a great way to explore the trail while letting someone else do the driving! Much to the delight of attendees, the November inaugural tour was a huge success. So, cheers to that!

The Beer, Wine and Shine Trail currently has 2 craft breweries, 2 family-owned wineries, and one moonshine distillery. Johnston County is conveniently located to I-40, I-95, and the Triangle area. So if you're a local or a visitor, the tour can be a great way to extend your exploration of Raleigh breweries, wineries, and distilleries. Due to travel time and allowing for ample time to tour and taste at locations, each tour will involve only one winery, one brewery and the distillery along the trail. This will be an exciting and relaxing way to enjoy Johnston County’s growing beverage scene. This tour is great for couples and friend groups celebrating special occasions.

Beer, Wine, Shine, and Dine Infographic

The spectacular news is that the 2016 tour dates have been released!

March 19 -- Hinnant Winery, Broadslab Distillery, Double Barley

May 21 -- Gregory Vineyards, Broadslab Distillery, Deep River

October 1 -- Gregory Vineyards, Broadslab Distillery, Deep River

November 12 -- Hinnant Winery, Broadslab Distillery, Double Barley

The first tour, offered on March 19th, will include Hinnant Winery, Double Barley Brewing and Broadslab Distillery. Lunch is to be provided by Simple Twist located in downtown Smithfield. The motorcoach will depart at 11:00am from Double Barley Brewing, where the tour will end at 5:00pm. There is ample parking around the back of the brewery where participants can safely leave their car. It is recommended that you arrive at least 15 minutes early to check-in.

The cost is $89 per person. Welcome bags will be provided by the Johnston County Visitors Bureau. Space is limited, so call (919) 585-4498 today to reserve your spot. You may visit the Clayton Food Tour website to purchase your tickets. If you would like to explore more of the trail on your own, or share it with your friends, more information and a map is available on the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail website.


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Buy a Bottle at Broadslab

Buy a Bottle at Broadslab


We have reached at least a temporary closing to our Meet the Makers. Broadslab Distillery is the last of the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail locations to be discussed in this blog series. Broadslab's owner and master distiller Jeremy Norris is the last maker in Johnston County to fall under the craft beverage industry. However, that does not mean that Jeremy is the last maker I will have the privilege of sitting down with. It is my hope to extend the Meet the Makers series into other blogs, regarding artisans and artists throughout the county. So, stay tuned. Meanwhile, onward with boasting about Broadslab!

One For The Road

Craft distilling is a growing industry across North Carolina. And like wineries and breweries, distilleries not only boost the econoTasting at Broadslabmy through production and sells, but through drawing tourists to the state who are interested in tasting vodka, bourbon, gin, whiskey, and authentic southern moonshine. North Carolina has always been, shall we say, notorious for the illegal home brewing of such beverages, but distillers have been able to legally make it (with the proper permits) for years now. But, did you know, that distillers have not always been able to sell their own product on-site at the distillery until this month?

Benson-based Broadslab Distillery has been offering tours and tastings since March of this year. But, in order to buy the product, visitors to the property where Jeremy makes his "shine" would have to leave the farm and drive into Benson, to the nearest ABC store, to lay their hands on a full bottle of product. This year NC legislators voted to change that. For the first time in over 100 years, visitors to Broadslab can purchase a bottle of shine from Jeremy.  One bottle. Per person. Per year. For those visitors from states with more liberal alcohol laws this may sound restrictive. But for the members of the North Carolina Distillers Association it's a step in the right direction... and hopefully a singular step on a longer path to making our state a mecca for visitors looking to experience authentic southern liquor.  I invite you to visit and give Broadslab a try. You can now take one for the road! The tasting room is located right off I-95 in Benson, NC near the intersection of I-40 and I-95. This makes Broadslab convenient from the Triangle if you're looking for things to do in Raleigh or you want to expand your tour of Raleigh distilleries.

The Real Deal

Jeremy is what we would dub the "real deal", with a back story about growing up in a family of moonshiners in a community known for the trade.Broadslab Legacy Shine Gold Medal Unlike some distilleries in the state using moonshine stories as a marketing ploy, Jeremy is building a brand whose story has honest origins. Jeremy was raised by his grandfather, and helped him on the farm for many years as he ran a produce stand there at the house, now the tasting room.  His grandfather's heart and hands and spirit tended the land and his shine stills once dotted the landscape back before Jeremy was born.

The Broadslab recipes are the embodiment of a 5 generation legacy and were passed down by the great-great grandfathers on both sides of Jeremy’s family. One of them, William “Bill” McLamb, was active in the dawn of the moonshine trade and distilled smooth, sipping whiskey long before prohibition. But it was Jeremy’s grandfather, Leonard A. Wood, who eventually passed on the family recipe.

Once moonshine became legal in NC Jeremy saw the opportunity for his family to turn a lawless legacy into a labor of love operation. His grandfather Leonard finally agreed to share his knowledge, recipes, and oral shine history. And so they toiled together, perfecting the process and arguing between decades of tradition and modern techniques. As Jeremy’s mentor and personal advisor, Leonard was integral in building the Broadslab still, but passed away before opening. Since then, Jeremy has purchased land from his family to own the farm his grandfather loved so much.  Jeremy has roots in the land like many other Johnston County farmers. The distillery sits in the footprint of many of his stills on the family farm outside Benson, NC.

From Dirt to Bottle
Broadslab Legacy Reserve Shine Bronze Medal
As far as Jeremy knows, he is the only distillery in the state that is growing the grain, harvesting and processing it, and making it all with natural ingredients. If you're standing in the Broadslab tasting room, you're standing on the land that the corn in your whiskey was grown on. There will be no additives, artificial ingredients or syrups in Broadslab products.  Some are even considered organic for those foodies that seek out that designation. But, there are some other important "organic" ingredients to Broadslab Distillery's product that make it truly one of a kind. The hand-crafted love that goes into every step in the process is one ingredient. From "dirt to bottle", Jeremy is the engine behind the process putting that drink in your hand.

Jeremy's grandfather told him there are two kinds of shine, the shine you sale and the shine you drink.  Jeremy is making the shine you drink.  He has altered the methods his grandfather used to pour off the harsh chemicals that are in front of the "drinking shine", and he cuts off the still before the bitter taste at the bottom effects the product.  This "sweet spot" so to speak is the fine product Jeremy is producing. Jeremy has remarked more than once that his grandfather would get upset that Jeremy was "wasting" a portion of the product in order to craft a better taste. While Jeremy understood the practicality behind his grandfather's idea, he wanted his product to be a smooth as possible.

And Now, Award-Winningb2ap3_thumbnail_Apple-Shine-Medal.jpg

The hand-crafted glass of Broadslab shine or rum you sip on in the tasting room doesn't just have your basic white lightening ingredients in it. It has the weight of a war between the lawful and the lawless. The sense of secrecy as hands toiled to distill in the dead of night or run boxes up the river under cover of darkness. The smell of wild southern nights, gun smoke, and pure grain alcohol. The taste of sizzling lightening tempered by time and passion into a smooth and robust drink.

If you don't believe me, believe the judges at the Blue Ridge Spirit Competition this year. Jeremy took home Gold for his Legacy Shine, Silver for his Apple Shine, and Bronze for his  Reserve Legacy Shine. Congrats to Jeremy and Broadslab! 

Visit Broadslab Distillery for the shine and you certainly won't be disappointed.  But stick around for the stories and you'll find yourself perched on the barstool long after the shot glass in your hand runs dry. The tasting room is open Thursday through Saturday, starting at 12N, with tours, tasting, and shot glass for $12.00. Find out more at -- www.broadslabdistillery.com.

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Wine, Weddings, and Wonderful Food Meet at Gregory Vineyards

Wine, Weddings, and Wonderful Food Meet at Gregory Vineyards


Cruising the expanse of road that leads you through Gregory Vineyards and up to the tasting room gives you time to take-in the idyllic view. Rows of grapevines stretch out over an expanse of green grass as it slops gently towards the calm waters of a large pond. It would be easy to sit and rest on the porch with a glass of wine with nothing to do but soak-up the autumn sun.

If you have been following along on the Meet the Makers blog series then you know by now that North Carolina has almost 200 wineries and a booming wine industry that not just locals but visitors, from all over the nation and world, enjoy. You also know that Johnston County has talented artisans working in various industries; JoCo can now boast 2 wineries, 2 craft breweries, and a moonshine distillery. Tourists can visit all 5 establishments on our Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail and many visitors are led to the county by other beer, wine, and spirit trails that extend across the state.


Greogry View

It is because of this growing relevance between beverage crafting and tourism that I started Meet the Makers. In this installment of the blog series I sat down with Lane Gregory, owner and winemaker at Gregory Vineyards to discuss what he does every day and what's around the corner for the vineyard.


A Serendipitous Start

One of the first things Lane told me about Gregory Vineyards is that the grapes were originally meant to be ornamental, "a winery was not the purpose of the vineyard. I put the vineyard in as a backdrop for weddings."

To clarify, in 1987 the Gregory's opened Lane's Seafood, a delicious restaurant that enjoyed many years of prosperity. Then, when Lane wanted to spend more time with his children, he left it in the care of a couple who just couldn't manage it like they thought and the restaurant closed for a time. In 2009 the Gregory's reopened the restaurant building, on their beautiful land, to host weddings. The vineyards were planted at that time because Lane thought they would make an excellent backdrop to the weddings and the guests who came to the restaurant to dine.

Gregory Wines
But, when you plant vineyards you are also growing grapes as Lane pointed out, "We had to do something with the grapes. In 2011 the winery opened. We have 12 acres now and we run a small but successful operation." Gregory Vineyards produces award-wining muscadine wines. When asked why he doesn't make a merlot Lane says it's due to the Eastern North Carolina climate. Not all varietals do well, but muscadine grapes flourish and 2014 was a bountiful harvest, making 2015 an excellent wine year for Gregory. Lane says he expects that 2015-2016 will be similar.

Lane plans to expand the vineyard, planting 8 more acres within the year and eventually hopes to add between 20 and 30 acres. Expanding the vineyard means expanding production. The Gregory's still sell almost 100% of their wine on-site. They do not mass distribute and they do not sell in grocery stores.

I asked Lane what he plans to do with more grapes, "we're already licensed to make wine, beer, and liquor, we've just chosen to focus on wine. We are moving in the direction of distilling brandy for fortified wines. In fact, the first fortified wine product hits shelves soon - called Fearless.  Fortified wine means distilling an un-fortified wine and taking the alcohol from that process, which is brandy, and then adding it back into another wine." At that point, the wine goes from less than 16% to 18-20%. Legally a winery can sell wine with up-to a 24% ABV.


A Labor of Love

So, what does Lane Gregory like most about making wine, since he didn't particularly start out to become a vintner? "If I can make wine, anyone can make wine," he jokes, "But, really, it's basic chemistry. And a lot of fun. I think that my years in the restaurant business gave me the ability to blend wine well and to pair the wine we make with the food we serve in the restaurant."

 Almost every unique wine has a creative label and person associated with it, "my wife and I visited a lot of wineries and for the most part Winery-Signwe found that the wine had a generic or esoteric name. We wanted our wine to have a story, most are named after good friends and family members."

People come from all over to have dinner at Lane's Seafood & Steakhouse, and to taste the delicious muscadine wine. Gregory Vineyards gets visitors from Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and Flordia to name a few. Lane says a lot of them are in the area to visit family and are looking for things to do. Gregory also hosted the NC Grape Stomp Festival this year a few weekends ago and around 3,000 people attended. The vineyard also hosts weddings for most of the year now from early spring to early winter, the original plan if you remember, and did over 100 events last year.

I asked what the future held and Lane said that for now, he and his wife are content to grow the vineyard and the business at a manageable pace. He hinted that there would be more initiatives to unveil very soon. Exciting! I love to see small, local business booming. Lane said that even with growth they will remain a Mom & Pop operation, "I still call it a hobby, but a hobby that works me pretty hard."

If you are interested in a wine tasting, a delicious surf and turf dinner, or holding a wedding - possibly all three? - feel free to contact Gregory Vineyards. And if you have a Saturday afternoon free, go sit a spell on the porch with one of the best views in the Johnston County.

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Growing a Grape Legacy and Fermenting a Future

Growing a Grape Legacy and Fermenting a Future

If you have been following the Meet the Makers blog series, then you'll know that I have endeavored to sit down with Johnston County's great makers in some of the fastest growing industries in the state - craft beverages. Beer, wine, and liquor production by small sized and often family-owned companies account for billions of dollars in tax revenue for North Carolina. It's also an excellent reason to visit the Ole North State. And many visitors and locals alike trek to Raleigh wineries and other regions of the state to experience the venticulture we have here. If you haven't been reading Meet the Makers, then Welcome. You can find the previous two blog posts here and here regarding craft brewing in JoCo. Today however, we turn to winemaking.

“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.” ― Paulo Coelho

In my humble opinion there is no more beautiful time to visit a winery than October. October means warm sunshine and cool breezy afternoons. At Hinnant Family Vineyards in Pine Level, NC October signals the end of harvest, when the literal fruits of a year's labor can be divested of their green, leafy vines. These grapes are ready to move forward towards their full potential, becoming grown-up bottles of delicious Hinnant wine.

On one such beautiful Fall day I sat down with the man who has for almost 5 decades had a hand in getting grapes from field to bottle. Bob Hinnant was just 6 years old when the first grape vines were planted on Hinnant Vineyards. His father and his father's siblings sold grapes wholesale to grocery stores and wineries. Bob helped out whenever he could, watching his father cultivate plants from a few acres to what is now a sprawling 100 acre vineyard. In his spare time first his father and then Bob took up making homemade wine with the muscadine grapes they grew.


Not All Vineyards Are Wineries - But They Could Be

"It wasn't until about 12 years ago that we started making wine with a true commercial interest. I saw smaller vineyards with successful wineries and I thought we could do it," Bob admits they started small though with just 1,800 cases of wine produced in 2001. There's 12 bottles in a case to help you with the math. But since that time Bob has grown the winery into a 30,000 cases per year production.

Bob says it's not just Hinnant that's growing, it's the wine industry in NC as a whole, "when we started we were the 16th winery in the state. Now North Carolina has almost 200 wineries." That's a lot of wine and a lot of competition, but Hinnant has met and exceeded expectation. In 2014 alone they took home the Muscadine Cup from the State Fair. But even more impressive they took home Best in Show that year. It's impressive because their muscadine wine beat out all other categories and varietals to win that award. There is a prevailing assumption among the wine community that sweet wines are somehow classed down from traditional, dry, old-world tasting red wines. It's something that Bob is working to change and visitors to Hinnant love the variety of wines available.

Hinnant Bottles

"We grow Muscadine, but we also grow Concord and Blanc Du Bois. We bring in a small amount of other grape varietals from other places, that we can't grow here, in order to blend and alter taste profiles." If you're not a wine connoisseur, allow me to translate for Bob. The varietal of the grape, more than almost anything else, affects the taste of the wine. Growing climate affects what sort of varietals will flourish in a given region. Hinnant grows a lot of grapes, but uses other grape sources and the fermenting process to draw flavor profiles out in their wines. If you like sweet white wine, Hinnant has a wine for you. If you like dry red wine, Hinnant has a wine for you also.

Hinnant didn't take home any State Fair awards this year but Bob thinks that next year is going to be another winning year, "The harvest this year still isn't over, it's been longer than usual. It rained and rained and then it dried up. That means the grapes can sit on the vine and soak up water before harvest. The wines we make out of these grapes will be promising."

But like the grapes on the vine, Bob is about to pull a disappearing act, "I'm gonna take off soon. Harvest has been crazy around here and I've been present every day for months." Don't worry, he's coming back. I think.


Technology Versus Tradition

I asked Bob what's changed over the decades aside from the work load. How does a family-owned winery move from home fermentation to commercial winemaking? He says that capacity doesn't matter, temperature does, "In order to make really good fruity wines you need to control your fermentation temperature. It doesn't matter if it's a 5 gallon bucket or a 500 gallon tank. In that regard technology has made winemaking easier than it's ever been. A large part of making good quality wine is about filtering and about cold stabilization. There are machines for that now. In the old days people would ferment and age wine in caves, or bury it in the ground to keep it cold."

I wanted to know what was over the horizon for Hinnant or for the wine industry, "we're really working on re-branding our labels to make them look distinct on the shelf. We have moved into bottling with Stelvin screw caps instead of cork. That's something that the industry as a whole is moving towards. We also have 2 private label wines right now we're making exclusively for Walmart. That partnership has potential to take-off. I hope down the road to begin making brandy, sherry, fortified wines, and grappa."

That sounds amazing, but some of those drinks would require a distilling permit due to the alcohol volume. I was told that it's in the works. Exciting. In the meantime, you can enjoy a glass of Hinnant wine on the wrap-around front porch of the tasting room. Or pick-your-own grapes. I followed Bob out to the vineyard so I could see the unique double wire system they use to grow their vines. It's called the Geneva Double Curtain and it splits the branches of the plant so that the vines creep along two running wires and not one. This increases grape production by about 40% more fruit per acre.

With my head stuck up in the middle of a grapevine between two pieces of wire and with a leaf in my hair, I could certainly see what Bob was talking about. The particular grape vine plant I was standing in was massive, with large and ripe red grapes. With the sun shining down and the hint of fall chill to come in the air I honestly wanted to stand in the Hinnant vineyard until the sun went down. I highly recommend doing the pick-your-own and sticking your head in a grape vine... that's how you find the best grapes.

Bob's son is too young yet to show any true interest in maybe one day being the next Hinnant to run the vineyard. But there are many harvests left yet before Bob is ready to step down. Bob's hope, and certainly my hope as a Johnston County native, is that Hinnant Family Vineyards continues to grow and prosper. Much like the grapes growing on the vine every year, only time will tell.

To experience all the Beer, Wine, and Shine that Johnston County has to offer. Try the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail!

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Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail Now Offered as a Tour

Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail Now Offered as a Tour

Double Barley



 Thanks to Clayton Food Tours, the Johnston County Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail will now have a guided option. The tours have previously been central to the downtown Clayton area with a focus on local and delicious cuisine. However, the tour company is adding on a tour that will take guests along parts of the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail (normally a self-guided endeavor) on a bus. The experience includes tours and tasting of each location on the route, as well as lunch provided by a local restaurant.

The Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail has 2 wineries, 2 breweries, and a moonshine distillery location throughout the county. Due Broadslabto travel time and allowing ample time to tour and taste at locations, each tour will involve different stops along the trail. The first offered tour, in mid November, will include Hinnant Winery, Broadslab Distillery, and Double Barley Brewery. Lunch is to be provided by Simple Twist. The bus will leave promptly at 11:00am from Double Barley, where the tour will end. There is ample parking around the back of the brewery. It is recommended that you arrive at least 15 minutes early to check-in.

All Clayton Food Tours come highly recommended and wonderfully reviewed. We are very excited that they have decided to make a tour out of the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail. Subsequent tours following the first one will switch off between the locations listed above and Gregory Vineyards, Broadslab Distillery, and Deep River Brewing Company. Having 2 tour offerings means being able to highlight all Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail stops completely without having to fit all five stops into one very long tour. This will be an exciting and relaxing way to enjoy Johnston County's growing beverage scene. The tour is great for couples and friend groups celebrating special occasions.

The cost is $89 per person, with a minimum of 20 people needed to run the tour.  Welcome bags will be provided by the Hinnant WineryJohnston County Visitors Bureau. Space is limited so call (919) 585-4498 today to reserve your spot. You can also visit Clayton Food Tours on the web at www.claytonfoodtours.com.

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Double the Barley. Double the Laughs.

Double the Barley. Double the Laughs.

Double the Barley. Double the Laughs.


You always know how Cheryl Lane's day is going the minute you greet her. And even on a bad day, she'll  make you laugh. When I breezed into the chill-vibe taproom at Double Barley Brewing for the interview she greeted me with a hug and said, "you know, the way I've been feeling today, I'm not sure I want you to put me in a blog called meet the maker." Classic Cheryl. I am never not laughing when I'm at Double Barley.

Last week I talked about my new blog series Meet the Makers - not The Maker, Cheryl - and if you missed it, click here to read.
Larry and Cheryl Lane
I recently sat down with another craft brewery in JoCo called Double Barley, owned by Larry and Cheryl Lane. Both have an engineering degree - if you read the last Meet the Makers blog you will notice a pattern, and for good reason. Larry explained, "engineers are analytical. We love processes. Crafting a great beer recipe takes ingenuity, but to craft great beer consistently at commercial volumes, that takes precision."

So what makes consistent beer? "Having the same ingredients, going into the process in the same order, at the same time in the process, at the same temperature," Larry gestured around the tap room to the patrons, "the better question is, why is consistency so important? There is a bond in the craft beer industry between the people that make the beer and the people that drink the beer. When you drink your favorite beer today you want it to taste like it did yesterday and last month. As a brewer, delivering that consistency is important to me."

I asked him about the creative part, "I'm not particularly creative, but I love food. If you have a developed palate then you have a taste for beer." Larry admitted that he doesn't do a lot of the day to day brewing. I wondered why and was told that he still has a full-time job as an engineer.

I must have looked stupefied because Cheryl laughed at me and interjected, "honey, we have 3 growing boys at home and it's all I can do to run this place and run them. We don't wanna kill ourselves trying to grow this place hand-over-fist. We had a plan when we opened the brewery. Larry was always going to keep his day job. Slow, steady, positive growth is good with us."


Behind the Barley

So, who brews your delicious Double Barley beer? That would be Mark Kirby, also at the table with Larry, Cheryl, and I. He's almost a one-man-show. Cheryl gestured to him, "by the Grace of God we found Mark."

Larry rolled his eyes, "I wouldn't go that far."
Behind the Scenes
Cheryl laughed, "He's like family. Everyone who works for us is like family."

Mark is in fact not an engineer, but he has one rule, "I don't make bad beer." Sounds simpler than it is. Larry, Cheryl, and Mark are the brewing team, making decisions on Double Barley brews from staples to seasonals to sensational experiments. The team likes to start with a style of beer and then brainstorm flavors based off of corresponding matches. Larry explained, "fruit flavors work really well with wheat beers. We're always going to do a summer time wheat beer with fruit. Last year it was strawberry. This year it was blueberry."

Mark and Larry banter back a forth about hops as I madly scribbled things down in my notebook, "matching the hops is vital to the style and the flavor you want. There are over 2,000 different varietals of hops. And those are just the ones with names.  Some are still in an experimental phase and simply have a number assigned to them."

Apparently hops can give off flavor and aroma profiles. Sometimes when you smell or taste what you perceive as a food additive to a beer - lemon, mango, pine - you could be getting that from the hops used, not necessarily because that food was added to the beer. Fascinating.

So, what crazy things does Double Barley do to experiment? They are currently working on a Russian Imperial Stout aged in red zinfandel wine barrels. It will have a 15% ABV (alcohol by volume) which is the highest percentage allowed by NC law. Other barrel aging experiments include gin bourbon barrels and whiskey barrels. Despite the best brewing and marketing though, sometimes a beer doesn't take off like you think. Cheryl was really proud of their Touché IPA, but it entered into an IPA saturated market. Their Abby's Amber on the other hand had almost no competition in the market. It was a traditional English Amber, hard to find in NC. It did even better than they had hoped.

The brewery is also considering the possibility of adding cans in addition to the bottles they currently package beer in. Never fear, just the packaging is changing, not the killer beer or uniquely humorous names and stories that accompany each beer. Cheryl says that keeping the names of the beers, and the stories behind those names, is important to the entire Double Barley team, "most of the time we brew the beer first and then a name follows. We collaborate together on the concept for each beer, which can lead to better ideas but also means the melding of more opinions. We always aim to be funny. It's the coolest part of the job for me."


Come for the Beer. Stay for the Fun.

No matter your favorite sort of beer, Double Barley has something for every craft beer enthusiast. People Double Barley Flightcome from different cities and states to spend time tasting in their tap room. Larry mentioned that they get tons of people who have found them online and come off I-95. As the interview progressed, a couple from Virginia ambled in to the tap room. That happens a lot at Double Barley. The tap room is in the cross-hairs of business 70, highway 70, highway 301, and I-95. Folks visiting Raleigh, Johnston County, or just on the way somewhere else, stop by for a now renown beer. There's certainly an awakening in the Raleigh brewery and craft beer scene; Double Barley and Johnston County continues to be a part of that growth. 

Larry summed up why people love their beer, "we're a family here and everyone loves what they're doing. You can taste that passion in the beer."

If you haven't ever been to Double Barley, make sure you head over tomorrow for the release party of their Gourd Rocker pumpkin porter. Another up-and-coming event will be the beer release party for a special beer created by Double Barley for Crobot, a rock band. The band will be at the brewery to drink their brew and play some tunes on the 10th of October. It will be a rousing, cold-brew-fueled, heck of a good time. Which honestly describes Double Barley on any given night. Check out what visitors to Double Barley already know... it's double the fun!

Catch you next time for Meet the Makers. Cheers!

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River Deep, Tourism High

River Deep, Tourism High

River Deep, Tourism High


It is an exciting and profitable time for the beer, wine, and spirits industries in North Carolina. Not only do these booming industries create jobs and stimulate the economy, but they also boost adjacent industries like tourism. Studies show a precipitous rise in the last decade of travelers not only interested in touring and tasting local craft beer, wines, and spirits, but the actual willingness of a tourist to travel to a state or city with the explicit purpose of exploring tDeep River Canhese establishments.

This is great news for North Carolina, ranked 12th in volume of craft breweries per state by the Beer Association of the U.S. The number is 115 breweries as of 2014, with 58 more in the planning stage. What's the economic impact from that, you ask? About $1.2 billion in 2015; and those numbers are trending up. Plus, that's just the beer! North Carolina also has over 100 wineries and 25 distilleries.

The even better news for visitors is that all of these various industries converge in Johnston County which boasts 2 wineries, 2 craft breweries, and a moonshine distillery. Tourists can visit all 5 establishments on our Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail and many visitors are led to the county by other beer, wine, and spirit trails that extend across the state.

It is because of this growing relevance between beverage crafting and tourism that I am taking the opportunity to start a new blog series called Meet the Makers. In this series I will sit down with the owners, brewers, distillers, and vintners right here within Johnston County to discuss the hard work and the magic behind what they do every day.

We will start with Deep River Brewing Company located in Clayton, NC and owned by Lynn and Paul Auclair. Sitting down with Lynn and Paul in the office of Deep River, with their large Labrador pups trying to get my attention, I am struck by how welcome I always feel at Deep River. Lynn and Paul themselves are both funny and warm, so pleased with their job and proud of their brewery. Getting to spend time with them is like getting to hang with your really cool cousins. Except that I already have really cool cousins. But, Lynn and Paul own a brewery. It's different. It's also amazing how long a conversation can last that starts with, "tell me more about what you do every day."


Beer Makers Must be Masters of Test and Taste

In April of 2013 Deep River Brewing Co. opened 6 months later than planned. It's ok to talk about it now because the brewery has had such phenomenal success, but to Paul and Lynn it was a time of uncertainty. Not an uncertainty of vision, but at least one of gumption. As Lynn puts it, "there were a lot of sleepless nights - well, there still are - being an entrepreneur is a risky business. A lot of people thought we were crazy."

But they had a vision. And a business plan. And a passion for beer acquired through home brewing. So how does one navigate the road from home brewing to a booming craft beer brewery? You get an engineering degree. Just kidding. Sort of. Both Paul and Lynn have engineering degrees that they were putting to good use with corporate jobs. Paul was at a small firm owned by awesome people, with an awesome culture, and by his own admission he might still be there, "but they were bought out and the corporate culture went downhill fast. I wanted to get out. I wanted to start my own venture."

Lynn adds, "the brewery wasn't the first idea to pop into our heads, but it was the only idea that we came up with that both of us really liked." So they took their passion for the craft beer scene and they started conversations with brewers that had come before them, "the craft beer community is full of giving and creative people who were willing to share their stories with us. Then we had to take our business plan to the bank."

In the spirit of not putting all your eggs in one basket - or all your beers in one case? - the plan was for the brewery to be a side-job and then as Deep River became more successful first Paul and then Lynn would leave their corporate jobs behind.

Lynn laughed, "do you know how long that lasted?"

Paul interjects, "two weeks. I quit my job two weeks after we opened. There was no way that running a brewery was going to be a side-job."

Both are now full-time brewery owners and happier for it. Paul brews and bottles. Lynn works the business side. They are both actively involved in every single aspect of the business, including naming the beers and designing the cans. But I wanted to dial in to the meat and potatoes of the operation... or, in this case, the beer.
Deep River at Festival
It turns out that brewing beer is at once super technical and super artistic. You have to have an analytical mind says Paul, "as an engineer I know that research and documentation is my friend. Delicious and consistent beer means getting every aspect of the process down to a science: record keeping, precise equipment, water consistency, yeast pitching rates, hop alpha acids, malt sugar levels."

If you're confused don't worry, I was too. Lynn laughed at my helpless look, "he reads books about water. Water! It's crazy."

Add to all of that the conundrum of producing at volume and it no longer seems laughable that an engineering degree is necessary to get from home brewing to a 10,000 barrels per year operation. Paul assures me it's all about understanding efficiency and ingredients.

But a good brew master is also one with the ability to create something mystical out of half-cocked ideas. A Leonardo da Vinci of beer, if you will, able to look at styles and ingredients and think, what would happen if? Both Paul and Lynn say you cannot be afraid to experiment. Lynn adds that, "Mango Tango Foxtrot happened because we were trying to get a mango taste out of an IPA without using actual mangos. On the other hand, we actually added real cookies to our holiday beer mash last year."

I asked Paul what he likes to dream up first, the beer style or the ingredients. He said it's a dance, "the craft beer aficionado wants variety. I want to always have a variety of styles on tap, and there are some ingredients and styles that just go together, like putting together great choreography. Right now I'm working on a Berlinerwiesse German-style beer flavored with rhubarb and soured in rum barrels."

To each their own, but I think that sounds amazing! Deep River is also aging beer in bourbon and whiskey barrels. It sometimes seems like their more daring adventures have been the most popular. In March of this year they launched Collaboration Without Representation with Bottle Revolution. It was a limited edition Barrel Aged Imperial Chocolate Milk Stout with Coffee using Raleigh Coffee Co beans. Genius.


Expand Your Circle, Deepen Your River

One thing is for sure, aside from awesome beer-making skills, a fledgling brewery needs the ability to grow uninhibited and the power of positive relationships, "we wouldn't be here now if people hadn't worked with us and believed in us," says Paul, "from the bank to contractors. We didn't want to have investors or a board to answer to and so, we had to amass all the start-up capital ourselves."

Lynn explains the lack of investors, "we didn't want that sort of oversight, people trying to turn a profit. We want to love what we're doing every day, not make a billion dollars." Deep River is proof that great things can happen when people follow passion instead of profit. Not that the brewery isn't doing well. Both Paul and Lynn expect to see continued positive growth moving into the future. They still plan to handle their own distribution in order to further solidify the relationships they have with their accounts.

Lynn had a great point, "nobody cares as much about your beer as you do." The fact that Deep River is continuing to grow in volume and popularity proves that the Auclair's certainly love their beer. As do their loyal customers and the many visitors who come from out of town to try Deep River for themselves. As of now the brewery is not permitted to distribute outside of North Carolina, but Lynn says that doesn't stop the calls from coming in, "I had a guy call me the other day from Georgia asking how he could get Deep River on tap in his bar."


Dive In!

Deep River Cans in Ice

Most nights that the brewery is open you can find both the inside and outside filled with people drinking beer, enjoying the food truck fair of the evening, listening to music, playing trivia, or any of the other many activities happening at Deep River. If you're in the area or visiting the area, next week is an excellent time to try Deep River. Their fall seasonal beer Pumpkin Pie Porter will hit stores and the tap room next Wednesday the 26th of August. In addition, if you plan on being at any of the festivals around the state look to see if Deep River will be there, they take their beer to over 50 events a year.

Establishments like Deep River provide a jolt to the social scene and provide a watering hole for local craft beer lovers. But, they also put Johnston County on the map for visitors to NC who seek out brewers, wineries, distillers, and the experiences and tastes they offer. Thank you to Lynn and Paul Auclair for taking a leap of faith. I can't wait to see how much deeper the river gets.

Catch you next time for Meet the Makers. Cheers!

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Broadslab Distillery Opens Tasting Room March 19

Broadslab Distillery Opens Tasting Room March 19

Experience the spirit of the south with moonshine from Broadslab Distillery at the new tasting room opening March 19.  Jeremy Norris, Broadslab owner and master distiller, uses a family-inspired shine recipe passed down over five generations. Visitors  can now take tours of the distillery and get "shine" samples in the tasting room.  Fee for the tour is $12.00 per person, and the gift shop on site offers Broadslab merchandise.

Broadslab VisitorsOn March 19, the Tasting Room Grand Opening will run from 12-6pm, and continue on Friday and Saturday for the same hours.  Visitors will learn about Jeremy's process which involves locally grown and milled corn and hand-made oak barrels crafted by Jeremy himself and used to age the Broadslab Legacy product to perfection.  Broadslab also produces a white rum, a spiced rum, and traditional moonshine which is the "real deal".

"Jeremy has converted his grandfather's home into a grand tasting room, just a short ride from the distillery, and its location four miles from Benson, I-95 at exit 79, will be very convenient for travelers," stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, President, Johnston County Visitors Bureau. "We wish him all the success in the world, and Broadslab will now become a stop along the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail in the county."

Visitors will enjoy meeting this master distiller who has preserved the legacy of this region, long known for the quality and quantity of home-brewed whiskey.   Jeremy learned his craft from his grandfather and offers a true "farm to the table" product, even growing corn used at the distillery on the family farm.  Broadslab is available for sale in ABC stores in North Carolina and is distributed in four states.  Jeremy has appeared on the Chef and the Farmer television series and has been featured in several promotions with the Johnston County Visitors Bureau and media events with Visit NC.

Broadslab is a member of the North Carolina Distillers Association and is a part of the North Carolina Distillery Trail. The tasting room is located just a few miles from I-95, at 4870 NC HWY 50 South, Benson, NC and will have regular hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 12-6pm. Benson is very convenient to the Triangle area, so if you're looking for things to do in Raleigh, check-out Broadslab. For more information call (919) 291-0691 or visit the website, www.broadslabdistillery.com.


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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

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Travel around the county to four award-winning wineries, two breweries and get a taste of brandy along the way!  Receive a Free $30 coupon book when you complete the trail.


Meeting Planners

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Johnston County offers conveniently located and affordable conference facilities for meetings, reunions, and unique destination weddings sites.  Why not select a historic home or horse farm for your next event?


Group Tour Operators

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Groups have discovered exits along I-40 and I-95 for outlet shopping, music theatre, museums and heritage sites.  Call today for custom itinerary planning.


Hotel Packages

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We have created several special hotel packages including a Girlfriends Getaway for outlet shopping, we know you need a break and great deals on shoes!  Click here to book your getaway today.


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Check out what other travelers say about Johnston County, North Carolina on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor
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