If you’re a fan of North Carolina craft brews, chances are good you’re familiar with Lonerider, one of the state’s more successfully distributed brewers. You can find Lonerider’s popular Shotgun Betty hefeweizen or Sweet Josie brown ale or Peacemaker pale ale at venues ranging from Durham Performing Arts Center to the Lincoln Theater to Carolina Railhawks soccer games, and of course in your local supermarket.
So it seemed fitting that Lonerider’s tasting room — the Hideout at Lonerider Brewery in Raleigh — feels like a glorified screened-in porch tacked onto the back of a warehouse in an industrial district not far from Highway 70, and you park your car next to a fleet of delivery trucks in the gravel parking lot. The distribution operation is central to Lonerider’s business model, and the taproom felt secondary — but there are some very good reasons to round up your posse and track down the Hideout.
Actually, maybe don’t bring a posse — Lonerider frowns on those. The brewery has some fun with the lone cowboy ethos; one poster on the wall in the Hideout features a female outlaw with a gun slung over her shoulder and the slogan, “Posses are for posers.” (As a big fan of Glengarry Glen Ross, this play on the famous Alec Baldwin line won me over instantly.) Lonerider’s slogan is “Ales for Outlaws,” and a number of its beers feature creative plays on the outlaw theme — “The Hops You Rode In On” session IPA and “Hoppy Ki Yay” American IPA were two of my favorite names.
Virginia and I visited on a Monday afternoon in late June, and the Hideout provided sanctuary for a smattering of refugees from the 9-to-5 world, including one gentleman pecking away at his corporate-issued laptop while sipping a beer at one of the room’s several picnic tables. I imagine this room gets hopping (ahem) on a Friday or Saturday night during the summer, but we really want to make a return visit on a Wednesday night. That’s because every other Wednesday is “funky infusion beer night” at Lonerider. On those occasions, they introduce one keg of one of their mainstay beer infused with some special ingredient, tap it at 6 p.m. and offer half-pints only for $3 apiece. Some examples include Peacemaker Pale Ale with Jalepeno Peppers, Sweet Josie Burning Brown Ale with Red Tag Bourbon & Chipotle Peppers, Sweet Josie Cask Aged on Chocolate And Raspberries, or Shotgun Betty with Raspberry.
July 18 marks Lonerider’s five-year anniversary, and they’ll celebrate by tapping a blueberry basil blonde, created just for the occasion. They’ll also release their Magnificent 77 IPA — crafted with 77 hop varieties from 7 different countries, added during the 77-minute boil. After fermentation, it is dry-hopped by adding a different variety each day for 7 days, followed by 14 more varieties for an additional 7 days. (Incidentally, comes with 7.7% ABV and 77 IBUs.) Lonerider says this is the first beer in the world with this many hop varietals — a bold undertaking. I wasn’t familiar with Lonerider’s experimental proclivities until we visited the Hideout, and the discovery made me want to keep coming back to sample their new concoctions.
You’re probably already familiar with the brewery’s staples, so I won’t spend much time on those, and I didn’t sample them on our visit to the Hideout — but I will say that Sweet Josie is one of my go-to beers when I’m out at a concert or other event where it is offered. It’s a very nice chocolate brown ale balanced by some gentle hops.
On our visit, the first beer we had to try was Tres Vaqueros barrel-aged Belgian trippel (9.5% ABV), a good, strong Belgian. You get some of the wood flavor from the barrel, and it is very drinkable — just be careful because this baby packs a punch.
Nitro Peacemaker pale ale adds a nice creamy head to the classic pale ale. If you’ve got a beard like I do, be prepared for a Guinness-like foam mustache. American and European hops with a mildly bitter finish make this a very balanced beer.
Madame raspberry wheat has a strong fruit nose and a gold color with a blush tinge. We aren’t usually fans of fruity wheat beers, but this is drinkable, not overpoweringly fruity. It gets a little sharper in the front, finishes sweet. I probably wouldn’t go for a full pint of this, but I can see why some folks would.
Eve American amber (4.2% ABV) is one of Lonerider’s year-round beers, but I hadn’t tried it before. This is a nice malty amber, but refreshing on a hot summer afternoon. They aren’t reinventing the wheel here but it’s a very solid example of the style.
We also tried the BreWit Forward saison, which came in a tall boy 16-ounce can and wasn’t available on draught. This was our favorite beer of the afternoon — really floral hops nose, with a tart citrus fruit finish, nicely layered. A real standout beer.
Aaron Fitt is fortunate to live halfway between Hillsborough’s Mystery Brewing Co. and Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery — his two favorite haunts in N.C. His tastes range from brown ales to pale ales to porters to ambers to sours to Belgians to … OK, he just likes beer.