Spirits of N.C.: The brews and more of Rocky Mount Mills

By on July 13, 2018

Inspired by our recent trips across North Carolina, this series samples the beer, wine and spirits being made in all corners of The Old North State as the industry fills the gaps left with the departure of manufacturing and textile companies in many towns and cities.

In Rocky Mount, a business incubator is focusing on one of America’s fastest growing economic sectors — craft beer.

Joining us on the Rocky Mount Mills excursion was Matthew Haskett of Kitty Hawk, head of North Carolina Wesleyan College’s four-year degree program at College of The Albemarle – Dare and an instructor for both.

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A beer aficionado and home brewer, Haskett also plays in the punk rock band, The Clawbacks, and has written reviews of local breweries for The Voice.


Matt Haskett hard at work sampling. (Russ Lay)

The Incubator

Planetary Elixirs, Scott Meyer

Thai Tie
Like many on the Outer Banks, I grew up eating regularly at the Thai Room restaurant. As a result, I absolutely love the flavors associated with Thailand: lemongrass, ginger, basil, and lime.

The Thai Tie reminds me of broth of the famous Thai coconut soup Tom Kha Gai, only a little less smooth. That’s most likely due to the lack of coconut milk rather than the carbonation, which doesn’t overwhelm you.

Scott has been a vintner and brewer for a long time, and it’s clear that he knows how to dial in just the right amount of carbonation to match the spicy nature of the drink. It’s a pleasant and unique beverage that I would love to try alongside a serving of Thai Curry or Pad Thai. Additionally, it would certainly work well as a gin or rum mixer.

Jamaica Roselle
The Jamaican Rosella is based on the Sorrel drink. I was not familiar with it, but this punch-like soda is inspiring.

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It’s less volatile than the Thai Tie in that the flavors don’t nibble at your tongue. Instead, it’s more of a soothing tickle coming from this delicious blend of hibiscus and ginger.

Unlike the Thai Tie, I didn’t imagine using this as a mixer. This drink is so full and satisfying by itself. It would work well served alongside a cold-cut deli sandwich.


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Hopfly, Cameron Schulz

Milk Stout
Hopfly’s Milk Stout is one of the smoothest stouts I’ve tasted. The roasted coffee nose is pleasant and mild. On the pallet, there is an excellent balance between the mild lactose sweetness and the dark malts.

I’ve always wondered why Milk Stouts have lacked popularity compared to other styles, but beers with dryer characteristics have been picking up popularity.

Because the mouthfeel of Hopfly’s is less rough and aggressive than some other offerings, it may hook newcomers to the style.

American IPA
As the name suggests, this IPA isn’t exploring any radical ground. Clocking in at 5.9% abv and 45 IBU, Hopfly’s IPA is statistically similar to other beers in this category, but the numbers are hiding the tremendous hop profile contained in the nose of this brew.

Between sips, the sensation of sitting in a field full of hops never left me, and I was never stuck with an overly bitter finish. If you are a fan of good IPAs, give this one a shot when you see it.

Juice Box
New England IPAs have continued to gain popularity over the past year or so, but I’ve mostly avoided them casually.

As beer styles go, they seem to vary wildly in flavor, bitterness and carbonation levels, so unless one has a glowing recommendation, I tend not to go out on a limb and order one.

Hopfly’s Juice Box is one I’ll happily recommend.

The reason for the name of the beer is obvious at first sniff as you encounter the pleasant smell of a freshly punctured Capri Sun juice drink.

This particular brew uses dry hops and has a very low level of bitterness, but just enough to give the drinker a full floral hop experience.

If you order one for the first time, be aware that the Juice Box has the same hazy unfiltered nature associated with other New England IPAs and is not something to be turned off by.

It’s actually quite eye catching and fun when compared to other ales you’ll see around the bar.

Jalapeño Saison
There is so much to talk about here. Yes, this beer is spicy and at 7.1 abv, it’s strong, but you should not be intimidated and skip this libation.

Certainly we all have different tastes, but it is with confidence that I offer to you that this is one of the best beers I’ve ever had the pleasure to drink.

Beers brewed with peppers are uncommon but certainly not unknown. I’ve had several, but they rarely get the balance right in the flavors. Some are fine, but others are just terrible.

But one of Hopfly’s signature skills is perfecting balanced flavors, and this Jalapeño Saison hits the mark perfectly.

You’ll first notice that the floral banana smell associated with the yeasts used in saison-style beers is muted and replaced by the juicy characteristic smell of fresh-cup jalapeños.

Once you stop sniffing and imbibe the thing, your mouth will fill with a perfect balance of bitter hops, sweet fruit, and spicy pepper.

There will be a burn going down, but it is pleasant and painless. It’s a fantastic and refreshing experience that is difficult to replicate with any other beer I’ve encountered.


BDD Brewing

Monkey-Man Saison
It feels like it’s been awhile since I’ve had such a low-strength saison. At 4.2% abv, this is a light and unassuming beer that is brewed with ginger and tangerine.

Everything is quite subtle here and both the nose and taste offered me only hints of the tangerine, but I was able to catch some ginger occasionally.

This would be a good option for a saison fan looking for a summer beverage, but it’s not enough to pull anyone away from another style.

I’m Squatchin’ You Pale Ale
The light carbonation level of this beer caught my eye, but it wasn’t an issue and was very smooth. Otherwise, this 5.9% abv ale is a straightforward drink and not hiding any further tricks.

Should pair well with most warm American lunches.


Other breweries at and around the Mill

The author talks with TBC staff.

Tarboro Brewing Co.

Seed Spitter
This watermelon gose tastes exactly how I imagined it would. The salty and sour characteristics work well with the watermelon.

The overall mouthfeel is very similar to taking a bite from a watermelon: wet and sweet. There is virtually no bitterness here, which is expected with this style of beer.


Koi Pond Brewing

10 Coin Day
This strong Belgian Ale clocks in at 10.6 abv and packs an aggressive bite. Everything is standard in the nose, but once you take a sip this beer shows its true colors.

It’s far sweeter on the tongue than you might expect and strikingly warm going down. Belgian ales are often overly delicate, but this beer takes you on a ride. Fun, but be careful because that abv will do you in quick.

Koi Pond Brewing/Facebook photo

Opening Day
Cream Ales are something most microbreweries don’t experiment much with. I assume it’s because consumers don’t know what to expect, but they are worth a try.

Cream ales tend to be difficult to replicate, which is one of their most enjoyable features. Koi’s attempt is light, but the bitter hops are still noticeable.

I was impressed with the head retention and carbonation levels. It’s a great alternative to a pale ale, and would go great with most any meal.

Voodoo Wit
I spent more time smelling this beer than drinking it. The Voodoo Wit is brewed with blood oranges and spices and the outcome is fantastic.

Witbier have yet to gain as much popularity as their bitter brothers, which is a real shame.

I just loved how the smooth citrus smell blended with the bright Belgian fruity characteristics. Put down your Blue Moon and grab one of these if you get the opportunity.

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