Bombshell Explodes on the Brewery Scene


Bombshell is a great place to hang out on a Saturday afternoon.

Bombshell Beer Company in Holly Springs is one of the few women-owned breweries in the state, but the women owners really seem to know how to create a brewery experience that suits everyone. We tried two of Bombshell’s brews at a recent NC State University Club event, and were so impressed we decided to pay a visit.

The tasting room and brewery are right off the main drag in Holly Springs in an industrial complex that also includes a daycare center, right next door. The brewery offers a regular food truck schedule and tours on Friday and Saturdays (no charge, but reservations encouraged).

Here’s a nice touch at the brewery that speaks to the influence of women owners – there are some really good snacks by the Veggie Wagon for sale in the brewery – fresh pimento cheese, salsa, black bean and garlic hummus, with an assortment of chips and crostini. A great idea for those of us who have to be careful of how much we drink between meals.

And for those who aren’t beer fans (is that possible?), Bombshell also offers a selection of wines and cider. Or bring your own bottle of wine, for a $5 corking fee.

We visited on a recent Saturday, when one of the tours was underway. With our five-beer flight, we enjoyed a container of the black bean hummus, along with tortilla chips.

Bombshell cans some of its beers, and we came away with a six-pack of Starlight Ale to take to the pool. A really good choice!

Holly Springs is getting to be a happening place. Home to one of NC’s oldest craft breweries, Carolina Brewing Co., it is in a good neighborhood for craft beer. And the town even has a minor league baseball team now – look up the schedule for the Salamanders and plan a visit to Bombshell to coincide with a game.

Bombshell Beer Co.
120 Quantum Dr.Holly Springs, NC


Six pack of Starlight Ale, a good summer beer.

Six pack of Starlight Ale, a good summer beer.




Baseball goes better with beer

beer taps

Carolina Brewing Co. is one of the featured breweries at the Salamanders ballpark.

Nothing is more American than summer baseball and the beer that goes with it. In the Triangle area, baseball pairs perfectly with great local beer.

Last year, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park debuted their own brewed-in-the-park beer, Bull Durham Beer Co., which is the only brewery in a minor league baseball park. The beer is good – I’m partial to the Lollygagger Kolsch – and their fill-from-the-bottom cups just get me every time I see them.

There aren’t as many different beers now at the DBAP. Used to be there were concessions from Carolina Brewery of Chapel Hill, Natty Greene’s of Greensboro and Foothills of Winston-Salem. The first time I ever tried a Foothills beer was at the DBAP, and I think you can still find it there. When Natty Greene’s still had a Raleigh brewery, they offered round trip bus rides to games at the DBAP, complete with beer.

You can still find Carolina Brewery beer at the park. Bullpen Pale Ale is brewed in honor of the Durham Bulls, and Sky Blue is a favorite among those who prefer really lite beer. We found a White Street Kolsch at one of the vendors recently.

I think the food concessions at the park have sort of lost their way, and friends have said the same thing. The barbecue sandwich is pretty good, if you can find your way to the stand high above right field. As long as you can find a good beer to wash it all down, you will be fine.

The Holly Springs Salamanders are college players getting in a little practice over the summer, and they have a really fancy little park for a small Wake County town. The local Carolina Brewing Co. is a major sponsor, and you can certainly find lots of their beer for sale there. But Salamanders’ park also offers some drafts from Draft Line Brewing Co. of nearby Fuquay-Varina, which opened two years ago, and from also from Holly Springs’ own Bombshell Brewing Co.

A pretty good beer lineup for a small ball park. I was pretty happy to find the Bombshell Strawberry Crème Ale on draft, having recently visited Bombshell. Try any of these local beers – they will knock one out of the park every time.

Ponysaurus brings fun and good beer to Durham

server pouring from tap

Many beers on tap at Ponysaurus.

Despite our best efforts, bloggers can sort of let the breweries get away from us. Because, you know, the fun part is really visiting the breweries – trying the beer, hanging out with friends, playing giant Jenga. But the photos and the unposted reviews start to back up… Yikes! So Tarheel Taps &Corks is at least making an effort to go back through the last few months brewery and winery visits share some places that were great to visit in winter. Just imagine how much more fun they will be this summer!

Ponysaurus Brewing Co., Durham

When I grew up in Durham, but there were just some part of town that, well, we never actually saw. And the Ponysaurus Brewing Co. at Ramseur St. and Fayetteville St. was one of those places – industrial, near the tracks, off the beaten path. But today, beer lovers are beating a path to the Ponysaurus in this neighborhood that is experiencing new life.

We visited back in March during the ACC tournament, and the night was warm enough to sit outside at one of the large community tables. There were so many beers to try that we ordered two flights.

The outdoor experience at Ponysaurus Brewing Co. is what it’s all about. In fact, there’s really not that much seating indoors, so I can’t really imagine what it would be like there in winter. But when the large garage doors are open, there are lawn tables, two upper deck seating areas and covered tables with screens right outside the taproom. Seems to be kid-friendly and dog-friendly (and even Duke-student friendly, but what can you do?) There are food trucks on the grounds also.

And here’s a fun summertime thing to do – you can reserve a grill at Ponysaurus, choose your meats and sides, arrive to have your picnic waiting for you. Grill and enjoy your dinner, throw your trash away and head home when you’re done. What a great idea!

Ponysaurus Brewing Co. Taproom
Corner of Ramseur and Fayetteville Streets, Durham

flight of four beers

Get a flight to try as many beers as possible.

NC State University supports beer innovation in NC

Compass Rose Brewery shines new light on N. Raleigh

two glassses of beer

Compass Rose Saison and Coffee Porter.

While downtown and west Raleigh have long been blessed with many great breweries, north North Raleigh (double “north” is intentional) has not really had a brewery to call its own. While Wake Forest’s White Street wasn’t far away, it wasn’t actually Raleigh after all.

So Compass Rose Brewery has filled the void with a location off Gresham Lake Road, just north of I-540, where no brewery has gone before. As you drive down Northside Drive, you’ll wonder where you are going — is there really a brewery tucked back in this industrial complex? At end of the road, you’ll see Compass Rose, in its beautiful new location with lots of windows.

The taproom is large, with a bar and many tables. For warmer weather, there is a nice patio outside with long tables. And there is usually a food truck back behind the brewery.

Inside or outside, Compass Rose is dog-friendly, even providing water for dogs (who don’t like beer…) and “leash hooks” to keep dogs near their owners. Though the human customers seem to get along well, there is an occasional bru-ha-ha between the canine clientele. (Fortunately, there’s plenty of space for every dog to have his own table.)

The brewery itself is behind glass walls just beyond the tasting room, with plenty of room for expansion. There are lots of activities in the tasting room too, from darts to corn hole to Jenga and other games. Or draw your finest artwork on the chalkboard walls.

The website describes the brewery’s intention of creating a number of different international beers, including an Agave Cream Ale (maybe I was ruined because I had just gone to a mescal tasting, but I didn’t really get any agave from my taste). The Saison was good, as well as a Coffee Porter. Would have sampled more with a flight, but all the “flight boards” were out that afternoon.

Compass Rose Brewery
3201 Northside Drive, Suite 101 Raleigh, N.C.
919-875-5683 / 919-872-2276


Taps at Compass Rose


Big, open taproom


Dog friendly, for friendly dogs…

How to build a bright future for NC wine: Collaboration and tourism


Dessert at the winegrowers awards banquet: Riesling Poached Pear, filled with mascarpone, house-made almond brittle, and red wine and berry compote. (Almost too pretty to eat!)

To grow the wine industry in North Carolina, wineries need to work collectively, expand their markets beyond the tasting room and create an experience that will draw in tourists. At the recent NC Winegrowers Association conference, wine producers heard from experts on creating the tasting room experience, branding their products and using social media and optimized websites to bring in customers.

Winegrowers President Mark Friszolowski encouraged winegrowers to work together, across the state and including all types of wine, to promote North Carolina’s wine industry in the state and beyond.

“We represent all of North Caroline wine,” Friszolowski told the conference. “Our strength is working together.”

Though consumer wine preferences are trending more toward red than white, Friszolowski said, there is still a huge consumer preference for sweet wines, which outsell dry wines 4:1.

Enhancing the quality of NC wines is important for future of the industry, as well as gaining acceptance by getting North Carolina wines on restaurant menus and educating wait staffs about the wines the state has to offer.

In an effort to educate the public about North Carolina wine, the state’s wine industry will partner with WUNC-TV’s NC Weekend to produce a 10-show series on the history of NC wine. The series is in production now.

Enhancing the tourism experience of the state wineries was also a theme of the conference. Virginia Tech’s Tony Wolf explained how tourism had helped grow Virginia’s wine industry from, “you can’t grow wine grapes here,” to more than 250 wineries and 3,500 acres of grapes. “Tourism is and always will be integral to the growth of the Virginia wine industry,” Wolfe said.

Other conference breakout sessions focused on the tasting room experience and marketing

  • Hiring the right tasting room staff was the focus of a presentation by Thomas Salley of Raffaldini Vineyards and Erin Doby of Raylen Vineyards. Both described attributes they look for in hiring employees, including a background in retail sales and a strong commitment to customer service. They also talked about setting work expectations for employees.
  • Erick Byrd of UNC-Greensboro talked about a tasting room employee training program under development by the university’s Bryan School of Business. (Byrd presented remotely because the icy roads prevented him from making the drive to Winston.) A four-module online training program will be released later this spring. (Byrd and his colleagues received the “Member of Distinction Award” from the association Saturday evening.)
  • The NC Wine Guys, Joe Brock and Matt Kemberling, explained to winegrowers how social media and blogging can help them connect to consumers. Consistent engagement on social media, using hashtags and photos can help turn social media followers into visitors.
  • Susan Dosier of DK Communications Group shared how search engine optimization – using trending and searchable words – can help businesses to make sure visitors can find their way to their website. She talked about using tools like (WordPress plugin) and Google trends to increase traffic to your website.

At the Saturday evening awards dinner, John Ryan of Sanctuary Vineyards received the “Grower of the Year Award.” The dinner was excellent, especially paired with wines from Morgan Ridge Vineyards.

A Sunday morning “coffee discussion” on branding allowed winery owners – including several who had bought existing wineries – to explain how they rebranded their operations to strengthen their position in the marketplace. All in all, it was a very good conference.

Read more about the 2016 NC Winegrowers Association conference.


Saturday night awards banquet

Ryan accepts award

John Ryan of Sanctuary Vineyards is named Grower of the Year at NC Winegrowers Association meeting.