Quaffing in SEBC
If you want to find The PubScout in southeastern Brunswick County, these are a few of his favorite places to bend an elbow.
Bars, pubs and taverns have served as gathering places for convivial folks for more than 5,000 years. The allure of the pub is probably as firmly ingrained in the human psyche as the allure of the flaming hearth, which strikes an internal chord in all of us calling us to its glow. But most importantly, there are other people there with whom to interact. Even if it is just the bartender. Good bartenders matter, and not just because they can pour a good beer or make a good drink.
Let’s face it: If just drinking the beer was the goal, you could do it much more cheaply, not to mention much more safely, in the comfort of your own home. Going to a bar to “watch a game on TV” is pointless, unless you do not have a TV of your own.
There are some of the SEBC places I like to go. The list that follows is in no particular order, and it certainly does not purport to be a “Best of” list. I abhor those when evaluating anything — including beer.
This is just a collection of places in southeastern Brunswick County where I enjoy bending an elbow. Or bending the ear of the guy on the barstool next to me.
First, there are certainly more places than those described here. And many of them are great places to quaff. Secondly, the place to enjoy a beer is predicated on a variety of factors: your mood at the moment, the season of the year, the activity that prompted you to have a beer, the food that may accompany it and, finally, the vibe of the place.
The main ingredient of a good pub is very subjective and elusive. It has to have the right overall vibe — in decor/ambience, beer selection, bartender and the caliber of its clientele. That last does not mean the patrons have to be high-falutin’, pretentious, celebrities or even well off. In fact, the best clientele (in my estimation, anyway) is comprised of average, regular folks — the hoi polloi, if you will, of which I consider myself a charter member. If it serves good pub food, that is even better, but the food is not a requirement.
Let’s rock and roll.
Tap Time in Ocean Isle Beach
It has the vibe in every way: tremendous beer selection, great people behind the bar, solid patrons and owners who care about the beers — and the beer drinkers.
It has multiple events during the year that make it a fun place to be. Monthly Beer Skools, wine tastings, crazy parties (including a Mardi Gras party that is second to none) and a host of other happenings that make it a favorite spot of many.
It is also a bar that can get food quickly from either of two great food businesses that sandwich it — Amelia’s and Maya. And it’s the only pub that has the legendary Amen Corner. If you are a newbie, walk down to the corner where the geezers sit, and they will induct you post haste. That will give you the right to walk into any pub anywhere and get any beer you want. After you plunk a $20 bill down on the bar. Best of all, I can also walk there — or home — if I have to.
Tap Time, 1564 Market Place Boulevard, Ocean Isle Beach, taptimeoib.com
Fibber McGee’s in Sunset Beach
Some of my favorite pubs are equipped with snugs. One of the distinctive features in authentic Irish pubs, a snug is generally a space set off from the main pub that allows for privacy. Historically, snugs were where Irish women drank when there were societal restrictions on where they could enjoy a pint outside the home. Some snugs even had a “pass-through” window to the bar so one could order without prying eyes seeing who you were, which prevented wagging tongues from spreading stories about your business — regular or monkey. That business may have included “snuggling” with someone without the world — or your spouse — watching. The snug, therefore, was perfect for hatching nefarious plans or doing dirty deeds, as fans of the Netflix series Peaky Blinders may recall. But, really, it is just a simple, more private space in an otherwise public location.
Unless the entire pub is a snug, like Fibber McGee’s. Spacious, it’s not. But welcoming, comfortable, cozy and, well, snug, it is. And that’s just when you walk in.
Fibber McGee’s, 1780 Queen Anne Street, Sunset Beach, fibbermcgeesnc.com
The Oyster Rock Seafood Restaurant
Known primarily — and deservedly — as SEBC’s premier waterfront restaurant, this award-winning, upscale place is never busy . . . on Tuesday. Because it is closed.
Otherwise, it opens at 4 pm, and reservations are definitely required, unless you can find a place to sit at the bar. Its food makes it famous, but what many do not realize is that its beer list is nonpareil. Formulated by manager Patrick Legendre, whom the PubScout dubbed a “cerevisionary,” the list is not only lengthy, but the beers Legendre somehow finds to include on it are often rare. Sit at the bar (where you can order the same delicious food that goes to the tables), and if you get a chance to bend his ear about beer, you will be better off for it. As a bonus, there is not a single member of the waitstaff or bar staff who hasn’t read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
The Oyster Rock, 9931 Nance Street, Calabash, theoysterrock.com
Located right on Highway 17 in Ocean Isle Beach, Makai brewing is the brainchild of Hawaii-lover Lowell Puckett and his wife, Stephanie. The name means “crafted toward the sea,” so Makai’s location is most fitting. Puckett and his crew were hit hard by COVID, but they persevered and fought through it. The beers have been the beneficiary of such stick-to-it-iveness. Many beers that were just “acceptable” before COVID have now moved into the “remarkable” category. The Fire Knife Double IPA and the Kamanawanalaeya hazy IPA are two of my favorites. Clean and comfortable with a waitstaff that aims to please, Makai should be a must-try.
Makai Brewing, 5850 Ocean Highway W., Ocean Isle Beach, makaibrewing.com
Leland may not qualify as “deep” SEBC, but it is Brunswick County. And it IS booming with good beer places. Three of them follow.
Brunswick Beer Exchange
Shannon Sims and Monique Haslam have made the BBX a magnet for beer lovers, cornhole devotees and dog lovers. With an amazing array of more than 40 taps and a fridge filled with a hundred more, if you can’t find a beer you like at BBX, you’re likely a wine drinker. With regular entertainment, quality visiting food trucks and a solid “average person” clientele, the success of BBX surprised virtually no one. The connection the owners have with the patrons is unique — and very effective.
Brunswick Beer Exchange, 113 Village Road NE, Leland, bbxchange.net
Leland Brewing Company
Leland Brewing, the most recent entry into the beer wars, is a magnificent facility not far from Leland City Hall. Co-owner Chris LaCoe and his partners have added to Leland’s dream of being a destination just outside of ILM and are serving outstanding beers in their glistening, two-story emporium. Another locale with regular food trucks and outdoor fun available, any beer nut would enjoy what Leland Brewing has to offer in very pleasant surroundings.
Leland Brewing Company, 2115 Ale Avenue, Leland, lelandbrewing.com
Brunswick Beer and Cider
Speaking of glistening emporiae, Brunswick Beer and Cider, just a few months older than Leland Brewing, is packing them in. Offering a nice array of beers, and once linked to Wrightsville Beach Brewing, BBC is not content to make solid beers; the food that comes out of the kitchen has kept the customers — many from the mini-city of Brunswick Forest — pouring in. This huge facility, which has the largest kitchen you are likely to see and an unbelievable capacity for making LOTS more beer, also has an event room available. Intimate, it is not, so if you want a quiet night and a few beers upon which to reflect and meditate, don’t be surprised if you get caught up in the excitement.
Brunswick Beer and Cider, 1313 Dickinson Drive, Leland, brunswickbeerandcider.com
Adventures await in SEBC so get out there and enjoy them!