Monday, August 10, 2009

NCBBBQ Tour Stop #2 : Raleigh

Date: May 16th 2009

Big Boss Brewery
Clyde Cooper's BBQ
Carolina Mudcats

Attendees: Harper, Allison, Paul, Lara, Joey, Caroline (eventually)

The second stop of the NCBBBQ tour was the capital city itself, Raleigh. Winston-Salem provided the ideal situation with beer, baseball, and BBQ all within a casual 15 minute drive of each other (well actually the real ideal situation would have all three within walking distance of each other but that doesn't happen outside of my dreams and the town of Harperville USA. It's a lot like Pleasantville before Toby McGwire and Reese Witherspoon turned it into a den of sin). Raleigh was more the typical situation. The BBQ was in downtown Raleigh, the beer a bit further out through city streets, and the baseball about a half-hour east of that, in a whole 'nother town with a name that sounds like an alien who came here to conquer Earth, Zebulon.

I could have certainly found a bbq place and a bar, maybe even a brewpub, in Zebulon, but I'm not looking to go any old place. For BBQ, I want to go to the more renowned BBQ places in the state. For beer, I was looking for places with operations large enough that I could possibly run into their beer elsewhere. What good would it be to know I liked a beer if I was never going to run into it again?

This time we started with the BBQ, specifically Clyde Cooper's. Cooper's is located in downtown and is an institution in the city. Having been here forever it has some old-fashioned quirks, like being cash only, but I like the feeling of sitting in a place that probably looked the same 20, 40, maybe 60 years ago. Here is a picture of some employees dealing with leaning tower of cups just to get a sense of the place.

The BBQ itself? Delicious. The chop was right and the flavor was so good I didn't need to add the spicy vinegar-heavy sauce (but I did anyway - I like sauce). Perfect. As for the sides, the slaw was "greener", less dressed in vinegar or mayonnaise sauces, than most and the hushpuppies received mixed reviews. Before I go on though take a look at the resistance piece in the middle of that table. That's right - HOMEMADE PORK RINDS. I've heard rumors that people of certain religions and philosophies of eating steer clear of Cooper's just to avoid the temptation of such gastronomical delights. With a few of those wrapped in a napkin in my pocket, we moved on.

After a long walk around an art festival taking place in downtown (stupid art!), and a bit of driving adventure, we eventually made it to the Big Boss Bar. Like most breweries, Big Boss is located in the middle of an industrial area of the city, where the big spaces come cheaper. So as you can see - not the best front of a bar that I've ever seen. Notice I said "bar" and not "brewpub". There's no food here, though they did scrounge up some pretzles for us. And like a true bar should be - it's real dark on the inside. Just a place to drink tacked onto the side of a brewery, it's like a dive bar from the imagination of rich people. (which is a good thing)

Big Boss is another brewery that tends to brew many types of beer, though I get the feeling they lean toward belgian brews. I started off with a Hell's Belle belgian blonde to cool me down and followed with a limited brew called a sour monkey. I really liked it though it wasn't a typical sour flemish ale I was expecting. More of a lighter belgian brew with a sort of non-sweet lemony sour taste added.

We only had time for a couple of brews and then it was off to the Carolina Mudcats game. The park is a good like 25 minutes east of Raleigh to get the suburbans that can't easily head the other way toward the Durham Bulls. Still it's a simple drive, or it would have been if didn't follow Google Maps like a electronic slot car. After an unecessary tour of downtown Zebulon, we reached Five County Stadium. I'm not sure what the 5 counties are. Let's say Wake, Orange, Madison, Orange again, and Brisco. The park itself was nice and clean (though pay for parking? Booo!) with a picturesque baseball water tower in the distance. Importantly there was beer! (and choices included a few microbrews)

The stadium itself is kind of unique. You've got two levels but only 5 or so rows in the bottom level. The top level is also kind of steep. It's kind of weird to look at but the end result is that everyone is pretty close to the field.

The weather was nice and the game was played much sharper than the last one. All in all a very good day.

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