Good Hops Brewing is located just outside Carolina Beach State Park and down the road from legendary dive bar The Fat Pelican (voted one of America’s top 25 dive bars in 2015). This brewery represents the laid-back beach vibe that is Carolina Beach.
It is easy to build certain preconceived ideas based only on the name, logo and location of a brewery. I expected a disingenuous tourist trap, with a horrible luau décor and Ultra-Hoppy palate-wrecking beers. I was happily way off! The tap room was casual space where locals and tourist can sit side by side and enjoy a pint together.
Sitting at the bar you have a great view of the brewhouse where the magic is happening. The servers were friendly and available to answer any questions you might have about the brews you are enjoying. The brewery is dog-friendly, in fact the owner’s dog (Prada) who haunts this taproom, would enjoy the company. The outdoor seating area is sand covered (to remind you you’re at the beach) with a fire pit for evening visits.
Good Hops doesn’t serve its own food, however they do offer chips and crackers along with dips and spreads from The Veggie Wagon. (The Veggie Wagon has a great pimiento cheese that is a must try.) I enjoyed my first visit so much sitting in the comfortable taproom on Friday, I came back the next day to re-sample in the outdoor area. Saturday afternoon, Good Hops was packed with people (and their dogs!) taking advantage of an unbelievable taste-all-the-beers keep-the-glass for $10 promotion.
The beer was not what I expected. Located on an island I expected one of two scenarios: (1) light beers so lacking in flavor that they needed a slice of lime to make it drinkable or (2) IPAs so hoppy that you could swear the brewer is using his own lawn clipping to give the beer even more bite. Neither of these situations are the case at Good Hops; they are working hard to produce quality, balanced, low carbonation, English style beers. Good Hops doesn’t sell growlers but has 32oz mason jars they call “grumblers”. Flights come in sizes of 6 4oz samples or 8 4oz samples. There were a few standouts in the beers sampled.
- Donna Citra Ale is Good Hops’ best seller and the lightest beer I sampled and has a slight fruitiness that reminds the drinker they are at the beach. This is a good beer for catching some rays.
- Flip Hop IPA was my favorite beer sampled at Good Hops. Darker in color than a typical IPA, it is very well-balanced, drinkable with a pleasant hoppy flavor and a dry finish. This would be my personal go-to beer for Carolina Beach.
- Hoppertone Double IPA has a hoppy taste without the unpleasant bite. Darker in color because more malts added to balance the beer.
- Bravehop Scotch Ale was the one beer everyone in my tasting party enjoyed and included in their top three lists. It is a smooth malty flavor beer with enough sweetness to offset the bitterness. As with the previous beers balance is the key word.
Good Hops brewery is one of the many new North Carolina breweries that have started in the last year. It is already found in over 40 restaurants and bars in the Carolina Beach, Southport and Wilmington area. In talking to Rich Jones, the owner of Good Hops, I learned that the fact that the beer at Good Hops is low carbonated, it makes the beer less filling and popular with restaurants. While the brewery is new, this isn’t Rich’s first experience with brewing beers. It seems beer might run in his family’s veins (I might suffer from a similar condition). His son John Garcia owns and operates Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain, NC.
It seems that they are doing all the right things, and it is working well for them. I do have a few suggestions on how to make this good thing better: offer a few more selections of lighter crisper beers. I can’t believe this suggestion is coming from me because I love dark beers with a rich malty flavor. But many beer drinkers enjoy something lighter but still with great flavor when beaching it. I’d look at adding a cream ale similar to Duck Hook (Southern Pines Brewing) or Carolina Blonde (Foothills Brewery) or a Pilsner similar to Polished Pilsner (Bombshell Brewing). I think golden beers like these would be great additions to the great selection already offered. Also, I’m a big fan of the growler, adding a growler to take to the beach (hypothetically, of course, if compliant with all town ordinances…) with you would be tremendous.
Good Hops will be part of every visit I make to Carolina Beach. I would encourage you to stop in have a flight or pint or two and let us know about your experience.
Michael Cole lives in Sanford, NC, and loves great food and beer. His taste tends to favor malts over hops so he an avid fan of ambers and dark beers.