The first stop on the Adventure With Coffee tour was Raleigh, North Carolina. While it isn’t too far from our home of Leland, North Carolina, it was surprisingly a place the two of us hadn’t been to together. We went up there for business this past weekend, setting up a booth at the Geek and Grub Marketplace at Fred Fletcher Park to sell books for our publishing company Tea With Coffee Media.
When we got there, we explored Raleigh and the surrounding communities. While we didn’t have the opportunity to take the RV (still waiting on those damn tags), we did still document our adventure. Here are our seven favorite finds from adventure number one in Adventure with Coffee.
The first brewery we stopped at on our Raleigh excursion was Trophy Brewing. The open space concept made the smaller inside building feel open and less cramped. We sat outside, though. Even though the temperature was chilly outside that day, the large overhead heaters kept the chill at bay and held the warmth close. It also helped that they were dog friendly.
Their food, artisan and specialty pizza, was delicious. Tyler ordered the Most Outgoing, a pizza made with fresh tomato sauce, brie, mozzarella, locally sourced mushroom, caramelized onion, and fresh arugula. It was definitely heavy on the arugula and Tyler wound up taking off the top layer of arugula less a few stems and leaves.
Gracie ordered the Local Celebrity, a fresh baker dough pie with Beer-BBQ sauce, smoked brisket, mozzarella, yukon potato, roma tomato, bell pepper, red onion, fresh parsley. Tyler not being a tomato fan had to take the roma tomato off the slice he tried.
Overall, the pizza was delicious. A solid 8/10 on the deliciousness scale.
Gracie was sober Sally for most of this and every trip. She broke out of her comfort zone to try (almost) every one of Tyler’s beers on this trip. Tried them. Not liked them. We want to make that distinction very clear.
For a moment, Tyler thought he was going to find his new favorite beer when he spotted the Milky Way, a 5.3% ABV salted caramel sweet stout. Unfortunately, it was quite a letdown. Not that the beer was terrible by any means. It was a delicious stout, but it lacked the caramel flavor he craved. Overall, it was a sweet stout with a nice bitter crisp at the end to cap it off.
The next beer, redeemed Trophy’s craft beer selection though. The Double Death Spiral, a 8% ABV double IPA brewed with local honey, was a wonderful IPA. It had a light hoppiness that cut through the sweetness of the honey. It was reminiscent of a hoppy mead.
Overall, the beer we had at Trophy Brewing was good. Not great, not bad. Just good.
After we stuffed our faces with some delicious artisan pizza and had some good craft beer from Trophy, we decided to find somewhere we could get a nice cup of coffee. It was chilly for our beach blood in Raleigh, so we wanted something that would warm us up. We didn’t want to just go to the first Starbucks or Port City Java we saw though, we wanted to find the local’s favorite spot. And boy did we find that spot.
Iris Coffee Lab was in a nice portion of Raleigh, located at the Glenwood South area of Downtown Raleigh. Started back in 2018, this small coffee shop took the initiative to serve the underserved area with premium and gourmet coffee. Both coffees we had, the Vanilla Latte and the Morning Bun Latte, were delicious. We’re suckers for coffee art too, so bonus points for that!
The vibe in the place was very cool. It was an open space with lots of places to sit and work and drink coffee. I imagine NC State students visit Iris regularly to do their work. I know I would.
Crank Arm Brewing
The second brewery on our tour of Raleigh was Crank Arm Brewing. This brewery looked like it used to be an old bicycle shop, and the decor matched. With a ton of bicycles hanging on the wall, a Michael Myers mask on a cyclist’s body, and more, the place really sold its namesake inside. The outside had a nice little patio that had fireplaces to keep you warm during the frigid nights of Raleigh winters and fall.
Gracie actually ordered a beer this time around! She didn’t finish it, but she still ordered it. Her beer, Cycle Zing, was a 4.6% ABV cherry limeade sour. It had a good sour bite to it. Gracie really enjoyed it, even though she didn’t finish it. Tyler liked it too, but they’re both big on sours and this had a nice sour zing to it.
Tyler chose to go a different route than normal and ordered Becky With The Good Bike a 5.7% ABV pumpkin pie spice ale. It had a hearty pumpkin flavor that made Tyler very happy. It wasn’t too heavy like a lot of pumpkin beers tend to be, but it was just right.
Videri Chocolate Factory
Videri Chocolate Factory was started by a group of friendly people who wanted to make great chocolate every day, from the bean to the bar. They’re a small chocolate factory in the heart of the city, and they source all of their ingredients with great care to guarantee ethically produced chocolate of the highest quality.
We probably did things a bit backward compared to how most people do it, but we decided to take the self guided tour of the factory first. It was a small factory and a five minute tour, but it was neat to see all of the interesting facts and tidbits that had hung on the walls and on the screens.
After the tour, we stopped at the front to partake in a chocolate taste tour. We tried eleven pieces of chocolate from various beans across the country and at various chocolate levels. Each of the chocolate was considered dark chocolate (thanks Hershey) because it was above 35% chocolate.
After the tasting tour, we got four bonbons. Earl Grey, Honey Caramel, Apple Caramel, and a salted Caramel one. They were good but small and a bit on the pricey side. Overall, the chocolate was sooo good. Definitely a ten out of ten on the deliciousness scale.
Tap Station Brewery
Once we picked up our friend and business partner, Kelsey Anne Lovelady, from Raleigh-Durham International Airport, we had to find dinner for the three of us. We stopped at Tap Station in Apex, North Carolina, which we thought was just another restaurant. This place was packed out on a Friday night and we had to park down the road, which made us know that it was going to be the place for us. The place looked like an old auto shop that had been renovated to a restaurant. The tap station was really cool, reminiscent of a car axel. We also had the best bartender we had all weekend here.
While Tyler wasn’t that hungry after drinking beer all day, he ordered the veggie egg rolls. We know what you’re thinking. ‘Egg rolls from a bar?’ They were some of the best egg rolls he had ever had. They were perfectly crunchy and filled to the brim with veggies. The sweet chili sauce that came on the side was the chef’s kiss.
Gracie ordered the Carolina Dog. While it was a good hot dog, it didn’t do anything to separate them from the bunch of other Carolina Dogs across the Carolina’s. Her tater tots, though, were amazing. Some of the best tots we’ve ever had. We don’t know what made them so perfect, but they were crunchy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside with a good hearty flavoring mixed in. Overall, the food was a 8.5/10 on the deliciousness scale
While we didn’t realize we were walking into a brewery until we walked in, we were impressed by the choice of drinks. They not only had beer on draft that they made, but also beer from The Mason Jar Lager Company, their sister brewery.
Tyler’s first beer here was the Nuts & Bolts, a pecan brown ale. It was the first time Tyler had tried a pecan beer, and it didn’t disappoint. It had a hearty nut flavor to it that paired well with the heaviness of the beer and the bitterness of the hops.
His next beer was the Raspberry Roadster Stout. A heavy stout, the raspberry flavor was prominent in this one in both aroma and taste. It almost reminded him of some of the chocolate bars we tried at Videri.
Gracie ordered a beer here and drank more of it than she had any other beer she ordered over the weekend. She had the Autumn Drive Pumpkin Spice, a delicious pumpkin ale that hit you in the face with pumpkin spice. Gracie said it was almost like drinking an iced pumpkin latte.
Clouds Brewing was our Saturday lunch stop before hitting the Geek and Grub Marketplace. This place was tucked away in a corner, but when we walked in we were greeted with a nice open space. Again, another old auto shop, this one had a beautiful mural painted on the wall that instantly attracted us. If you look closely, they made the air vent into a beer tap. So cool. They were also dog friendly, which is always a bonus for us.
We got here in time for their brunch menu and Gracie took full advantage of that, ordering a classic southern staple, chicken and waffles. They were delicious, moist, bite-sized pieces of waffle with juicy, crispy chicken and sweet maple syrup. While they were really good chicken and waffles, we’ve had better. Shout out to Metro Diner for the best chicken and waffles we’ve had.
Tyler ordered the Bratwurst Hoagie. Grilled bratwurst topped with peppers, onions, and beer cheese, how can you go wrong? It was a good handheld sandwich. The hoagie was toasted perfectly, with a nice crunchy exterior but soft and chewy inside. The beer cheese was delicious, not too spicy and just the right amount of beer to cheese ratio.
Overall, the food here was a solid 8.5/10 on the deliciousness scale.
Since we had a marketplace to attend and get setup at, Saturday was not a big beer day. Tyler did try the Wheat The People, a 4.9% ABV Grapefruit-Passionfruit Wheat. Tyler is a big wheat beer drinker and loves passion fruit, so it was natural that he was attracted to it. The grapefruit and passion fruit paired well in this wheat beer, giving a sweetness from the passion fruit to cut through the bitterness of the grapefruit. It was sweet, but not ‘I’m going to have a headache tomorrow’ sweet. Also, a portion of the beer goes to the League of Women Voters of Wake County, so bonus for supporting women’s rights.
Aviator Tap House
The last stop on our tour of the Raleigh area led us to Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina to visit Aviator Tap House. Now, Aviator was an interesting brewery. With three spots to choose from-Aviator Tap House, Aviator Smokehouse, or Aviator Pizzeria and Beershop– they’ve got pretty much any good choice you could want. We stuck with the original Aviator Tap House. It had very old-school gastropub vibes with some old-school military plane decor. There was live music going on outside, but since we had been at the marketplace for the last six hours, we decided to skip that.
Tyler ordered a prime rib Philly cheesesteak. The cool thing about this place was that instead of a side you could get a beer included in your meal. Tyler hadn’t finished his food all weekend but was definitely finishing the beer. Naturally, he went with that option. The sandwich itself was very good. The beef was tender and the cheese was abundant and melty. The peppers and onions were cooked damn near perfectly for Tyler, with a little crunch left to the bite but not much.
Gracie ordered a classic B52 Chicken Sandwich. It was a great sandwich with moist buttermilk chicken. The pickles were crunchy, tomato’s juicy, and bun toasted just perfectly. It wasn’t the best chicken sandwich we’ve had, but it was near the top for sure.
8.5/10 on the deliciousness scale.
Tyler tried yet another wheat beer on this trip, this time the Mad Beach, an orange wheat beer. Topped with a fresh orange wedge, we highly suggest squeezing the fresh OJ into your beer. It added an extra, natural sweetness to the beer to cut through the bitterness. It had a nice wheat flavor to it and was very aromatic.
You can find the rating for this and the rest of the beers we tried on the trip on Tyler’s UnTappd.
While this list is just some of our favorite places we visited this past weekend, it surely isn’t a comprehensive list of the best places to spend time at in Raleigh or best breweries in the area. We had a blast while we were out of town and got to explore a town Gracie and Tyler never explored together before.
This was the beginning of Adventure With Coffee.
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