460 W Franklin St
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Visited lots 2013-?
The first time I sat down in Carolina Brewery in downtown Chapel Hill, I wasn’t expecting much. The only offering I’d had of their wares was the blonde, which is basically a Bud—tough to judge a brewery’s worth from that American staple. I shared a couple of samplers and went home, not blown away, but certainly not disappointed either.
Fast forward a couple of years and I’m not living in Chapel Hill and Carolina Brewery is the closest brewpub to the place I call home. Needless to say, I’ve been back several times since moving in, and although this isn’t saying much because I keep living in tiny town, it is the best brewpub I’ve ever been able to call a home spot.
First of all, I enjoy the variety they provide. There’s always six staples on tap and at least another six seasonal or small-batch brews available as well. And to make things better, most of those rotating handles are high gravity. Double pilsners, strong Christmas ales, Belgian triples, and even double wheats fill their taps. And they’re all very good, though few come close to what I would consider great.
One of those that does, however, is their Hell’s Bells Dopplebock. It extremely potent and extremely rich and smooth – it is, in short, everything that I want in my favorite style of beer. I came back often while they still had this one on tap.
Next on the list of strengths is the location. It’s right downtown on the better side of Franklin Street, and there’s a ton of space inside. It’s a bit modern for my tastes, with a lot of metal and railings and stairs and what not, but it is clean and not over decorated. Although why they have an upstairs is beyond me – I’ve never even seen the downstairs full. And the television situation could use some improvements; they have plenty, but they don’t have a bunch together in one spot.
As for the food, I’ve only eaten there once. It was their late night menu and limited, but still looked pretty appetizing. The end result didn’t quite live up to the promise of the menu’s description. It certainly wasn’t bad, but it also was not something I would ever crave. If I’m there for some drinks and I’m hungry, I wouldn’t hesitate to order some grub, but the food by itself would not draw me on the premises.
Finally, the service doesn’t suck, but they don’t seem knowledgeable about beer, either. And I’m not just talking about their own beers, I mean beer in general. A lot look like college kids who are still hammering home the Beast on the weekends.