By Guest Blogger Matt Spey, Beer Enthusiast, Dad of three, Mall Employee
The Crabtree Beer Garden is my new beer oasis, it’s a great spot for anyone that appreciates having friends in low places, especially friends who make delicious spicy candied bacon. Providing people with local craft beers and tasty bacon strikes me as an ideal business plan and makes the Crabtree Beer Garden a great new addition to the mall.
For me, the preferred pairing of food and beverage at the Crabtree Beer Garden has to be the Pint of Bacon with a pint of Dunkelkong beer. Five strips of thick cut crispy bacon evenly candied and sprinkled with enough spice to provide heat with every bite but not enough to overpower the bacon and brown sugar chased with a locally brewed German dark wheat beer. Dunkelkong is the house beer for the Crabtree Beer Garden, brewed locally by Carolina Brewing Company in small batches sold exclusively by the proprietors. Dunkelweizens, dark wheat beers, are traditional German Hefeweizen (wheat beers) with the addition of dark malted barley. Including the barley gives the bear a deeper flavor palette incorporating hints of malty caramel with the smooth toasted bread flavor of the wheat and makes the hybrid beer stronger bodied than an ordinary wheat beer. With an ABV in the 4.5-5% range Dunkelkong is a great smooth beer that is light enough to be enjoyed in the heat of a North Carolina afternoon without sacrificing great beer flavor.
Staying on the topic of delicious pork appetizers the Crabtree Beer Garden’s fried bologna is another one that I would encourage people to try. A generous slice of pan fried bologna accompanied by a heaping pile of homemade pickles and a side of spicy mustard matches my idea of good bar food with Southern flair. The frying of the bologna brings out its flavor without needing to add any seasoning which also makes it a great vehicle for the mustard. The pickles are not to be overlooked, they retain good pickle texture and include jalapeno slices and onion that add some spice and kick to the bread and butter style pickles. I brought a small sample of the pickles home to my daughter who loves pickles with the bright eyed effortless obsessiveness of a kindergartener and she rated them an enthusiastic thumbs up.
While the food is good the focus of Crabtree Beer Garden is unabashedly put on the beer they serve. They have dozens of local craft beers on tap which makes it the perfect place for trying out new brews. I’m happy to support local businesses and have a lot of respect for brewmasters that are passionate and dedicated to their craft which makes trying out a flight of beers really enjoyable.
Brown ales are another beer that I enjoy; it’s an ancestral beer style that dates back to the earliest history of breweries. English brown ale is a popular style with its malty, nutty, caramel and bready flavors. Northern England brown ale has become easy to find here in the US and an excellent example of the traditional brew is Big Boss Brewing’s Bad Penny dark brown ale. Bad Penny is a smooth beer with a slightly sweet caramel and dark fruit finish that pairs well with the Crabtree Beer Garden’s menu. I would heartily recommend Bad Penny to anyone looking to try new brown ale or to anyone who hasn’t had brown ale as it’s a great example of what a brown ale should be. Brown ale is also a very adaptive brew and there are plenty of local breweries that put their own twist on the timeless classic. Nickelpoint Brewing Company’s Pecan Nut Brown Ale has roasted pecans added to provide nutty tones to its sweet and roasty malt flavor profile. Pecans are delicious no matter how you pronounce their name and they were a tasty addition to the beer. Crank Arm Brewing’s Oat Wheel Brown Ale is an English brown ale that adds oats to the mash and lactose to the boil to create a smooth creamy finish. The Oat Wheel is definitely a smooth easy drinking beer that would make any social occasion or leisure time more enjoyable.
The burger melt has always been a popular choice when I’ve gone out to the Crabtree Beer Garden with a group of friends. A grilled patty topped with extra sharp cheddar cheese and caramelized onions on a toasted bun with a side of crispy potato pieces the burger melt is good comfort bar food. The crispy potato pieces are a nice change from classic French fries, they’re a bit of a cross between steak fries and hash browns. The potato pieces are of varying sizes, have the skin on and there are always some nice crunchy little pits in the pile and they’re all seasoned with coarse salt. The burger melt isn’t complicated it’s just tasty and goes well with beer.
A key attribute to the Crabtree Beer Garden is the inclusion of its own bottle shop. The bottle shop offers a selection of hundreds of beers that can be used to mix and match your own six pack or stock up on your favorite brew. Having the ability to bring home a beer that you just discovered is a great way to introduce others to it and to have it available for yourself for any social occasion. The fine assortment of local brews on tap can also be brought home in 64oz glass growlers.
The Crabtree Beer Garden is an oasis of beer (and bacon) that’s the perfect escape for you and your friends when you’re weary from trekking through the desert of the workday.