A Few of the Best Beers To Try in Durham This Summer

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Make the right draft selection at these four bottle shops and brew houses, voted some of our readers favorites!

pouring a draft beer at beer study

By Renee Ambroso | Photography by John Michael Simpson

Summertime, and the drinkin’s easy. At least, the fine folks at these fave spots for draft beers endeavor to make it so! Kick back and relax with their top recs:

Beer Study
Local, national and international brews populate Beer Study’s 40 rotating taps. Beverage Director Kerri Hoffman says that Starpoint Brewing, which operates a production facility inside Beer Study’s location at Rockwood Shopping Center, typically claims anywhere from 10 to 15 taps. The rest are devoted to a mix of established industry veterans as well as small-scale and up-and-coming brewers which, Kerri says, “have quality stuff that people should pay attention to.” Enjoy a saison or hoppy India Pale Ale (we’re partial to Starpoint’s year round “Surfin’ Buddha” West Coast IPA) with a BLT, burger or bowl from The Boot Room – the adjoining soccer pub that offers comfy leather sofas.

Draft Beer
“New Zealand lagers have started to pop up a lot more recently – it’s going to be a trending style this summer,” Kerri says. Charlottebased HopFly Brewing Company’s “All Times” New Zealand Pilsner (5.5% ABV) is “made as a traditional lager but uses hops from New Zealand, which have a specific flavor profile that’s known to be floral, tropical and have flavors of stone fruit,” she says, making for a crushable summertime brew to quench your thirst.

Growler Grlz
“Our philosophy is to make sure there’s a beer [available] for everyone’s tastes,” says Growler Grlz co-owner and founder Karen Poulsen. Brown ales, sours, stouts, lagers, IPAs and more all have a home on the blackboard tap list at the Hope Valley Road bar and bottle shop, which celebrated its ninth anniversary in May. Karen says she’s spent the bulk of that time working alongside co-owner and beer buyer Mike McRoberts, who joined Growler Grlz in 2018, to develop excellent relationships with many North Carolina breweries. “I believe a big part of why our selection is so good is because of our relationship with [each brewer],” she says.

Draft Beer
Beat the heat with Twenty-Six Acres Brewing Company’s “Reptar Juice,” a hazy New England IPA (7.2% ABV) and fill up one of Growler Grlz’s 32- or 64-ounce growlers, or bring your own to take home.

“Our collection of beers is constantly rotating,” Karen explains – as soon as one keg kicks, a different brew of the same style replaces it. This allows for exciting new options across Growler Grlz’s 42 taps nearly as quickly as distributors can deliver them.

“We try to look for top-quality beers with a balanced flavor profile [that fulfill] what customers are looking for,” Karen says. “When that person comes in who is an IPA drinker, they don’t just have one or two to pick from – they’ve got 11. They can come in four days or a week later, and most of that beer has rotated.” Growler Grlz maintains four taps devoted to cider, ginger beer and nonalcoholic root beer as well.

Tobacco Wood Brewing Company
Female- and veteran-owned Tobacco Wood Brewing Company originated almost five years ago in Oxford, North Carolina, where it operates a production and bottling facility and 16-tap brew house. Its Durham taproom off Meridian Parkway features double the number of taps, allowing for about half of those to be filled by guest beers, which rotate weekly.

“It allows us to pay it forward to the breweries that were kind enough to put us on tap when we were starting out,” says Tobacco Wood President Mara Shelton. The majority of those options come from North Carolina producers. “We have great beers here,” Mara says. “We’re one of the fastest growing beer states in the country.”

Tobacco Wood keeps up a lively production schedule of its own, releasing about four seasonal brews per month. “As far as our beer goes, we don’t specialize in one [style] or the other,” Mara says, meaning there’s usually something on draft that’ll suit anyone’s tastes. You’ll always find cider and seltzer options, served from dedicated lines that have never come into contact with beer, for gluten-sensitive customers. Stop in for a summery seasonal release like “Pull the Pin” pineapple pale ale as Tobacco Wood celebrates its second anniversary in Durham this June.

Draft Beer
Tobacco Wood Brewing Co.’s “False Motivation” New England Hazy IPA (7.3% ABV) “is our bestselling beer,” Mara says. “It’s really citrus-forward.” Tobacco Wood developed the recipe for its debut New England-style IPA during its first year in operation. It’s available on tap year-round as one of six core beers. Mara’s tip for warm-weather drinking? “It makes a great summer shandy with a little bit of lemonade.”

Der Nachbar Bottleshop & Taps
This bar and bottle shop is an oasis for beer lovers in northwest Durham. Neighbors Gert Blüschke, Erin Blüschke, Eric Cannon and Laura Cannon met mid-pandemic and found themselves seeking a watering hole near their Westwood Estates homes that would eliminate the need to trek downtown. The couples set forth to open their own spot that they dubbed Der Nachbar, which means “the neighbor” in German. Gert grew up near Munich, so “there was a German influence that came in naturally,” Erin says. “Gert has a lot of ties to brewers near his hometown.” A portion of Der Nachbar’s European cooler and several of its 20 taps feature imported German beers.

“We hear a lot from our customers that we fill a gap in the area,” Eric says. Patrons can find German mainstays like Radeberger Gruppe’s Radeberger Pilsner Zwickel and a traditional hefeweizen on tap alongside rotating local and regional brews from Fonta Flora Brewing, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Durham Magazine readers’ favorite brewery Fullsteam, among others. Erin says taking into account their customers’ preferences is foundational to the draft selection process – if guests request a specific beer or varietal, it may very well end up on tap, like the Morland “Old Speckled Hen” English pale ale that a regular suggested. “People loved it so much that we left it on continuously,” Erin says. Der Nachbar also stocks wines, offering them by the glass and the bottle, plus nonalcoholic beer, sparkling lemonades and limeade, and Boylan Bottling soda.

Draft Beer
Erin says that Der Nachbar’s permanent No. 17 tap, Radeberger Gruppe’s Sion Kölsch (4.8% ABV), has a unique floral note that’s especially enjoyable during the dog days of summer. “There’s a very distinctive flavor of beer brewed in Cologne, Germany, which is the origin of the name [kölsch].” Drop by for a pint, and enjoy it on the pet-friendly patio paired with a Guglhupf (another Best of Durham winner!) pretzel, available Friday-Sunday.

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Renee Ambroso

Renee Ambroso is the editorial assistant of Durham Magazine. She was born and raised in Durham and attended UNC-Asheville to earn a degree in literature, food systems and culture studies.
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