Mill Whistle Brewing: I'd Let That Lonesome Whistle Blow My Blues Away
After Friday's epic day of beaches, breweries, and celebrity chef restaurants, we headed a little north to Beaufort, NC. Let's stop right here for a second... there is a Beaufort, SC and a Beaufort, NC.... the one down south is BYOU-fort.... the one up north is BO-FIRT. It is extremely important to the people of each town that we get this right.
Beaufort, NC isn't as much of a beach town as it is a place full of marinas, boat shops, etc. On this weekend the town (along with nearby Morehead City) was hosting the finale of the 61st annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, so the town was overflowing with awesome oceanic fishing boats and deep sea fishing gear (and the associated fishermen/women). Todays gig at Mill Whistle Brewing was a weekend late-afternoon show, so we grabbed a little lunch before heading to the brewery, and while there we saw on the local news that the current leader was a 588lb blue marlin. That is a BIG fish. What's even more amazing is that a 914lb marlin brought in later in the day took the top prize (see photo below). I couldn't imagine the fight that it took to bring a 914lb Marlin on board! The world record Blue Marlin, BTW, was a 1382 lb monster caught in 1982.
Mill Whistle Brewing - Beaufort, NC
Beer currently available exclusively at the taproom, and on tap at a few restaurants in town.
In this almost year of touring craft breweries I learned pretty early on not to make any assumptions about the breweries or how their size or location will relate to how fun the crowd and show will be. I've played in multi-million dollar taprooms where the crowd was about as dull and self absorbed as a sports bar, and I've been in tiny rooms where the energy level was so high you'd think the roof was ready to blow off. And I've been in great big rooms that were awesome, and small rooms that were pits. And large pits, and small little slices of heaven.... so you can never tell.
When I rolled into Mill Whistle in Beaufort I had no expectations, other than being told by someone at Salty Turtle that it was a small nano-brewery. When I opened the door to the taproom, I was puzzled, as there was literally a small bar, some shelves full of brewery merchandise, and about enough room for 8 people. Luckily it turned out to be more of a campus setting, and I'd be playing in a converted warehouse just down the driveway, what was in the midst of improvements for sound and supporting the showing of films.
This room turned out to be perfect, as it was a gorgeous day, and opening the bay doors on each end of the building created a perfect cool breeze that blew right through the room. The room was decorated with original artwork that was mostly dedicated to the brewery (some were originals of the artwork from their labels), and many had social messages subtly worked into them (common theme being embracing diversity). The stage area was on one side of the building, and nice large varnished picnic tables filled the rest of the room, with a patio with additional tables outside, and the volume being sufficient to be heard (I'm told) at the tap room and its adjacent little patio up the drive.
It being a hot day and me playing sort of outside I decided to go for the lighter and refreshing brews, and started with the Beaufort American Princess (5.7%) fruited sour. This sour has been aged over raspberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges and pineapple. With a color very similar to cranberry juice, but with a light pink head, this was a light to medium bodied, medium carbonated sour that had a healthy, balanced mix of berry flavors up front, and a reasonably sour finish on the backend. It was delicious, and I would have had another if not for my mission to try a variety....
My next pour was Ron's Saiswanson (6.3%) Farmhouse Ale. Made with 60 pounds of wildflower honey, this Millfest Homebrew Competition winner, is a wonderful representation of a classic Belgian-style Farmhouse Ale. Brewed with a traditional Saison yeast, the aroma conjurs up apple and pear, with cherries and almost peppery gulp toward the end. Another very refreshing brew for a sticky day, and I enjoyed this one very much as well.
My final brew of the night was a porter, but I'm not sure if it was the Graveyard Sister Baltic Porter or the Ebb Toyde Porter... as someone else brought it to me during my second set. Either way, it was a nice change from the trend of the previous two beers, this time getting a bit darker and heavier, with roasted overtunes and the combination of roasted oats and nuts further back. A very good pick to end with.
The vibe of the Mill Whistle was great... a little hippie (many of the brewery t-shirt designs were tie-dye and worked in some Dead elements, like the smiling bears and dancing skeletons. The crowd was extremely diverse, and it was no trouble getting them to sing along. Much to my surprise it turned out that a party sitting just outside on the patio had followed me to Beaufort after seeing me the night before at Mother Earth in Kinston. That was very cool... and they're requests were very Deadcentric.
We all agreed it was a fun day, and this is one that I'd definitely love to revisit if I head back this way again towards the end of the Summer.
Afterwards we headed back to downtown Beaufort, walked the docks looking at the boats, and had dinner in a great little place near the water called Aqua (not related to the one in Duck, NC.) I slept like a rock that night, and when I woke up headed to the Outer Banks, for a stretch of shows in Corolla and Duck before heading up to Virginia.....