After playing Charles Towne Fermentory on Saturday I headed to Chapel Hill to take a few days off and just relax with family. Now I'm off on a tear of beach shows, six nights in a row, starting with Salty Turtle Beer Company in Surf City, NC.
Surf City is a small beach town between Topsail, and North Topsail... all located on Topsail Island. The island is only about ¼ mile wide, and about 20 miles long. You may recall that Wilmington got hit pretty good by Hurricane Florence last year... well the eye of that storm landed right over Topsail, and the community is still recovering.
When I first arrived on the beach in North Topsail I was shocked to see that there was very little beach to speak of.... the Atlantic literally was lapping up just feet away from the beach houses... and this was still a couple of hours before high tide, on a pretty calm day! The beach was only about 10 yards wide, and some of the houses had no protection from sand dunes, as the dunes were all blown away. As a result, I was told that only about 30% of the rental properties were currently open for business, the rest were still awaiting repair.
Salty Turtle Beer Company - Surf City, NC
Currently beers are available only through the taproom, with the exception of some kegs which are served in select regional drinking establishments. The taproom offers draft, as well as growlers and some cans.
That said, on this Wednesday night the community was bustling with it being more or less the first week of peak vacation season, and the festive crowd at Salty Turtle Beer Company seemed to be there for fun (and some were there to watch the NHL final game). I don't know how busy the brewery gets on a Wednesday in the peak of vacation season, but it seemed like a pretty good crowd for a Wednesday to me, by usual standards.
Salty Turtle is a fairly new operation, having opened just a little more than a year ago. It is located in a new building on the main land just before the bridge that takes you to Topsail Island, which seems like a perfect location to me. A patio out front greets you, and the taproom is cozy, consisting of a bar and a handful of tables, and pair of couches in one corner, and a bunch of games (including video games) to entertain the kids. Kids and dogs were both on hand earlier in the evening, but eventually the kids filtered out and more dogs shows up as the night grew later.
The room was a little boomy, and I struggled with my sound a bit throughout the evening, although the feedback from the crowd and staff was that it sounded good. It can be hard to tell when you're in the corner of a room with a lot of steel, wood, and glass... where I was I was hearing a lot of the low end and had to keep adjusting. I've prepped a whole bunch of news songs for these beach shows, but I didn't get to many of the new ones on this night, as there were several groups of Deadheads on hand, so I honored a good handful of Dead or Dead related requests instead. One of the groups was vacationing from the northern Virginia area, where I will be hitting the Dead & Company show at the end of this tour with two of my boys (one of which was catching them on this night in Indianapolis), and they mentioned they'd be part of a large party at that show, so now I have people to look out for, which is always fun.
Summer beach weather usually calls for a somewhat lighter beer, so I started my evening with the Bruturtle (6.9%) Brut IPA. I've been seeing more and more bruts emerge over the last 6 months or so, and I'm rather enjoying the trend. Typically a bit dry and not overly hopped, they can be quite thirst quenching and refreshing without seeming too overbearing or bloating on a hot day. In some ways (beyond the term “brut”) they do remind me of a sort of cross between beer and a sparkling wine or champagne. This one was just a little more yellow in color than a champagne, with a fair amount of carbonation, crisp delivery and finish, and rather dry. And not to overstate the comparison... they do still taste like a beer, albeit not a particularly hopped-up one, and with a rather unique dry finish unlike other beer varieties.
On my setbreak I moved to the Hey Zay (6.7%) New England style (hazy) IPA. Another variety that has just exploded in popularity over the last year, and I'm still enjoying them quite a bit! Brewed with Citria, Mosaic, and El Dorado hops, Hey Zay delivers a nice full-bodied IPA just exploding with tropical juicy and floral flavors, with a little bit of bitterness and just a hint of pine. Not powerfully bitter, but just a little more than perhaps your average haze... which actually balances nicely with the floral overtones. Sessionable, with medium to light body and a pretty fizzy level of carbonation. The pour is a hazy golden yellow, with a thinner white head. Another refreshing drink for the climate, and a good beach beer for sure.
Manila Mango (5.9%) is a very smooth Milkshake IPA (made with lactose for a little extra creaminess). It seems some people have an aversion to the term “milkshake IPA”, I think because the knee-jerk reaction is to assume it's made with ice cream or milk or something. People, ya need to get past the name, as we're usually talking about a nice creamy beer in the sense that like a Guinness is creamy.... but when we're talking about adding that creamy body to a beer that has perhaps some fruit (in this case, mango) along with the floral and/or fruity traits of an IPA, that little bit of lactose really helps to add a little body to the fruit flavor that is otherwise missing and can leave your fruited beer coming off as a bit thin (which can itself be a good thing.... but there are other times when the creamy body just works better). I'm not a huge mango fan, but luckily for me this brew was rather understated when it came to the mango, so it was just enough to give your tastebuds something extra to ponder without blowing you off your stool with too much fruit flavor.
My final drink of the night was Barnacle Bill's (5.7%) Brown Ale. Another in a recent streak of really fine brown ales, I thought this one was quite good. Everything you want in a brown ale, the flavor was roasty and bold, yet the body was medium weight and the drink nice and clean and crisp. I left for the night wanting another one, so that's a good thing.
Salty Turtle was a fun hang, the staff was very friendly and informative, and I had many great conversations with the patrons. I was told by a few usuals that the brewery really seems to focus on bringing good music in, and that they regularly have good string groups, etc. that are worth coming by for. The beer is obviously another good reason, as I didn't have a single one that I didn't enjoy thoroughly, which is saying something.
I'd definitely come through here again, and if you are either heading to the Topsail Island area, or perhaps making the the roadtrip north of Wilmington to Morehead or the Outer Banks, this would a very worthy stop.
Next stop.... Waterman's Brewing in Wilmington, NC...