Discover the Spirit of Johnston County
Spend a weekend on the Beer, Wine & Shine TrailBy Renee C. Gannon
Located just east of Raleigh, many of us cross through Johnston County traveling to the mountains and the coast along I-40 and Highway 70, or to Virginia and South Carolina along I-95. Beyond the guardrails, you will find vibrant communities for which the county offers a unique way to visit via its Beer, Wine & Shine Trail. The list of wineries, breweries and distilleries along the route offer visitors an entryway into the county’s communities while introducing them to locally crafted spirits.
Deep River Brewing
Clayton | deepriverbrewing.com
Located in downtown Clayton, this “first legal brewery” in Johnston County is housed in a former cotton spinning mill. The brewery kept the 100-year-old mill’s wood and brick atmosphere, and uses the open space to create a family friendly hangout for locals as well as those adventurous enough to cycle up to 20 miles from Raleigh along the Neuse River Greenway, which runs through downtown. Its most popular beer is named for the mill’s heritage, Cottontown Lager; and another favorite, JoCo White Tater, uses local white sweet potatoes in its brew.
Double Barley Brewing
Smithfield/Wilson Mill | doublebarleybrewing.com
Situated along Highway 70 in an unassuming white brick building dating to the 1960s, Double Barley offers a different atmosphere than Deep River, a little more upscale and modern retro deco, though its roots show in old moonshine equipment on display — mementos found in a local barn. The brewery has a limited menu along with 10 beers on tap plus seasonal offerings, most of which are high-velocity craft beers. The brewery focuses on creating 100 percent natural beers and incorporates ingredients such as coconut, wildflowers, vanilla, pumpkin and various fruits into its brews.
Hinnant Family Vineyards
Pine Level | hinnantvineyards.com
The smell of sweet grapes wafts into your car just beyond downtown Pine Level as you approach this 150-acre vineyard. The vineyard has been in operation since 1971, with the winery starting in 2002. The vineyard grows 16 grape varieties, and the winery produces 35 different wines, from grapes grown only at Hinnant. Also offers pick-your-own grapes in season. Tastings are held in the gift shop, which is surrounded by grapevines, with tobacco fields just beyond.
Angier | gregoryvineyards.com
Located on 135 acres of farmland, Gregory is a one-stop shop, offering vineyards, a winery, a restaurant and pick-your-own grapes in season. Tastings and tours of the farm offer a glimpse of what goes into making muscadine wine in North Carolina.
Benson | broadslabdistillery.com
Located a few miles off I-95, Broadslab offers tastings, a tour and a history lesson in the state’s bootlegging past. Owner Jeremy Norris grew up listening to his grandfather’s stories of his moonshining, in which his family had participated for generations. The farm has been in the family since the 1840s, and Norris grows the non-GMO corn and barley used in the shine — a true farm distillery, seed to whiskey. He and his grandfather built and opened the legal distillery in 2007. The whiskey produced from his grandfather’s simple, four-ingredient family recipe hit the market in 2012. The distillery produces five craft brands: Legacy Shine, which is strictly the family recipe; Reserve Whiskey, an aged version of the original; and Apple Shine; as well as two rums.
Other JoCo hits
Barbeque abounds in the county, with more than 20 spots offering plates and sandwiches, such as at Redneck Barbeque Lab in Benson (TheRedneckBBQLab.com). JoCo also offers a Beer, Wine, Shine and Dine Tour (claytonfoodtours.com). Visitors could spend a few hours, a day or even a weekend hopping along the trail, tasting, eating and learning a bit more about the roots of Johnston County.
Know before you go
For more information on the trail, places to eat, things to do and where to stay, go to johnstoncountync.org, where you can also download the Beer, Wine & Shine trail guide that includes discounts on tours, food and merchandise.
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