Take a journey down the rabbit hole with me to this fantastic brewery. One of my favorite quotes from Alice in Wonderland is “Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” Well there is no doubt this brewery knows who they are and fully commits to it. White Rabbit has fully embraced the Alice in Wonderland theme and is very successful in tying it into its aesthetics, decor, marketing, product development and identity. Why not? The book, Alice in Wonderland, has inspired more songs than any other book, other than the Bible, and I don’t think NC is ready for a Biblical themed brewery (Ah, but we do have Four Saints Brewery).
Angier is a small rural community, not the first place one would expect to find a brewery. After all it wasn’t too long ago that most of Harnett County was dry and didn’t allow the sale of alcohol. Now, the county is the location of one of the Carolina’s hidden gems. From the outside this brewery looks more like an insurance office than a brewery. It is a relatively small space in a strip-center business park. Only a single picnic table sits out front, acting as the outdoor seating. The taproom is an enjoyable space with a corner bar; the taps themselves are shaped like white rabbit ears to match the brewery theme. Prints of the original illustrations from the Alice in Wonderland adorn the walls. Our service was good and on the evening of our visit they were not very busy. However, I’m sure business picks up later in the evening.
We were fortunate to have the opportunity to spend some time talking to White Rabbit Brewing’s owner Kenneth Ostraco, who started this brewery three years ago. Kenneth’s strategy is to grow steadily and stay focused on keeping a consistent quality of brew. He also puts a lot of thought into making sure the names of the beers are consistent with the novel, but also are reflective of the beer itself. Kenneth had a story to tell about most of his beers and how the name came about.
Speaking of the beer, for $10 you get a nine-beer flight and there is a lot to like about this flight. Below are some of my favorites.
- Pale in the Park – Nice American Pale Ale, well balanced and mild. I think this would be a good choice for a novice to the craft beer world.
- Rabbit’s Nut Brown Ale- To me nothing says fall of the year like a Nut Brown Ale. I would have liked a bit more prominent nut flavor but that is a subjective preference and I still enjoyed this selection.
- Dunkin Dormouse Octoberfest- I really feel this is a good Octoberfest beer, good color and smooth, well-balanced beer. Very drinkable and would pair nicely with anything with a sharp cheddar essence.
- Cheshire’s Pumpkin Ale– Ok let me start by saying I think this is a beer that people will really like or really dislike. I don’t think a beer like this will have anyone say “it was ok”. I liked it, it was sweet forward with an odd finish, as strange as sounds I think I detected a citrus finish (“Curiouser and curiouser”). Like it or not, it is a fun beer to try.
- Dubble Trouble- This was my favorite beer from this brewery. Very good mouth feel, smooth and it has a clean finish. One of my favorite Belgian Dubbles made in NC.
- Walrus and the Carpenter- I have a confession to make: I often don’t like Scotch Ales. In part because I’m not a fan of Scotch. However every now and then I really enjoy a beer of this style. This is one of those times. I love the smoky flavor, mild and clean finish.
In talking with Kenneth the brewery’s owner about how he arrived at using Alice in Wonderland for the theme, it was revealed that it was at least in part, an opportunistic decision based on the fact that the characters and illustrations are all public domain. Alice in Wonderland is a story about Alice figuring out who she is and where her place is in the world. The popularity of the story might in some way be because we all can relate to such an internal crisis. These are the deep thoughts best discussed over a White Rabbit beer… Go try one and tell us what you think.
Michael Cole lives in Sanford, NC, and loves great food and beer. His taste tends to favor malts over hops so he’s an avid fan of ambers and dark beers. Follow him on twitter @barbqguy44