Not long ago, Kinston was just a drive-by on the way to the North Carolina beaches. But today, this small Neuse River town that tobacco forgot is getting new life from several local businesses, including Mother Earth Brewery. Just an hour and a half drive from Raleigh, Mother Earth offers a really upscale taproom, excellent beers and a great brewery tour.
Mother Earth was developed by two hometown buddies, who set out to brew beer “close to the Earth” and to bring a little economic interest to downtown Kinston. The brewery, built in what the tour guide called “the ugliest building in Kinston,” became the first LEED Gold certified brewery in an existing facility. Sustainability features include solar panels on the roof, a cistern to collect rainwater for a vegetable garden, solar tubes to heat water for brewing.
The brewery includes a bottling line and a canning. Mother Earth also distills spirits – gin, bourbon and run – sold in ABC stores. Favorite winter brews include Dark Cloud Munich-Style Dunkle and Porter; good summer choices include Weeping Willow Wit, Endless River Kolsch and Sunny Haze Hefeweisen. The Kolsch recently won accolades at a craft beer event in Washington, DC.
After a beer and brewery tour, be sure you have a reservation at nearby Chef and the Farmer, another new great thing about Kinston. The restaurant is featured in the PBS series A Chef’s Life starring Chef Vivian Howard. Make your reservation at least a month out to enjoy the blend of seasonal flavors that Howard creates. Not up for white tablecloths? Try the Boiler Room, sister restaurant of Chef and the Farmer, which features oysters and burgers.
There’s also a new downtown music venue, the Red Room, which features “the best local musicians as well as the stars of tomorrow.” There’s also an interpretive center for the CSS Neuse Ironclad, Civil War battleship, and a nature center on the Neuse River, near downtown.