This Oktoberfest, raise a glass to Raleigh, the humble North Carolina city with lofty beer credentials.
Where would you imagine you’d find the world’s biggest beer garden? Munich, perhaps? Or maybe Portland, Oregon, the country’s hub for craft breweries? Not even close. The easternmost point in North Carolina’s Research Triangle took the beer world by surprise when it unveiled the Raleigh Beer Garden this summer. This three-story beer behemoth opened with a world-record-breaking 366 unique draft taps; today, thirsty visitors find a whopping 378. This October 7 through 11, the venue will celebrate its place at the top with jubilant Oktoberfest events ranging from live German music and dancing, to yodeling contests and beer tastings.
It wasn’t long ago that the property on which the Raleigh Beer Garden sits was a grove of pecan trees in the city’s newly resurgent Glenwood South neighborhood. Today, those trees have been milled and turned into the place’s bars, tables, and countertops. The first floor of the beer garden is dedicated to North Carolina beers—144 of them, including Raleigh’s own Crank Arm Rickshaw Rye IPA, a North Carolina Brewers Cup winner.
Climb the stairs to the second floor, and you’ll find 222 drafts from everywhere else, including the hard-to-find Zum Uerige Doppelsticke from Dusseldorf. The rooftop bar features 12 rotating drafts; a recent night showcased San Diego’s popular Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. For the beer averse, however, craft cocktails and wine are served in the front bar, which is shaded by a 40-foot indoor tree. There’s also a menu of upscale bar food, including pork belly cheese fries and locally sourced grilled sausages.
Raleigh’s beer scene extends far beyond its namesake beer garden; the area is home to an impressive 21 breweries that together form the Raleigh Beer Trail. Meanwhile, Beltline Brew Tours offers two distinct itineraries showcasing popular spots like Gizmo Brew Works and Nickelpoint Brewing Company.
Allison Entrekin is an executive editor with Southbound Magazine and the Georgia Travel Guide. She covers the Southeastern United States beat for Travel + Leisure. Follow her @aweissentrekin.