The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery
The Skylight Inn
Attendees: Harper, Bobby, Joey
It's a shame really. When it comes to NC BBQ the classic divide is East v West, but unfortunately there isn't much going on baseball or beer (or let's be honest - anything else) wise east of Raleigh. Part of me worries that the style is going to come across as underrepresented. The other part of me says, "It's your own fault Eastern NC. Get some damn breweries and baseball teams going!"
I think I agree with the other part.
The only team that lies East of the Raleigh suburbs is the Kinston Indians. Kinston though, has no breweries (or more precisely had no breweries then. Mother Earth will demand a revist) nor any iconic BBQ places to visit. That meant heading on a little bit of a tour, hitting Farmville first for the brewery, then over to Ayden for the BBQ, then finally to Kinston for the baseball. Map it - this is quite a bit of driving. Especially with someone who doesn't have a great sense of direction (in my head all roads are on a grid pattern - I can follow maps very well though). So considering this was going to be quite the little jaunt, I had my reservations. Could the triumverate of beer, baseball, and BBQ be good enough to overcome hours in the car?
Ah the beautiful Duck-Rabbit brewery. As I've said before - nondescript warehouse breweries are common place, but Duck-Rabbit takes the cake in the "Is this it?" category. It's a large shed in the corner of a small town. This is "Aim for depression and keep on till morning".
Despite the locale, this brewery in NC has been around for a while now brewing exclusively dark beers and doing a damn good job of it. I love dark beers and Duck-Rabbit is my go to brewery for dark beers. The brewery doesn't officially offer tours but if you make a call or email and if they're around when you're in town, they'll offer up a little look around. Totally sweet, right?
Here's our private tour in action
This was really interesting because everything is in this big room - storage, brewing vessels, bottling, and the packs ready to go. Really appreciated the tour.
Sadly we had to go - but the next stop was also a nice one. A genuine classic North Carolina BBQ local, the Skylight Inn in Ayden.
Not quite sure it's the "Bar-B-Q" Capital of the world (nor that Ayden is as far east as their primitive map would have you believe)
Your choices are limited to sandwichs and trays. Cornbread and slaw on the side. No chicken. No fancy sides. Just Eastern NC BBQ heaped in a pile. Notice also in the bottom left of the pic the cash money. How just like the old days is this place? No cash registers. Just a pile of cash. A pile of cash next to a pile of meat. That's a beautiful sight.
I order the tray. If you don't notice - I always go tray over sandwich, why lose some delicious pork flavor to some non-descript bread? Nope, what I need is a side of slaw and some cornbread. The BBQ, as you would expect - was fantastic. Splashed heavily in some spicy vinegar based sauce, I kind of wish I had some now. Love the Eastern style. The other sides, not so good. The coleslaw, while tasting fine was chopped super fine. It was almost a coleslaw sorbet. A little off putting. The cornbread was flat and dense, not how I like it. Of course these are the sides, the complements, the Titos and Ringos. They can tweak the enjoyment of the meal but not determine it. The main course was great.
There was time for a little stop before the game, so we hit up a beer store in Ayden called Cinderine's. It was fantastic. An amazing selection of beer, friendly staff, fridges with cold bottles to purchase, and a couple local beers on tap. There were a few tables so you could sit down and enjoy. This was the equivalent of finding a Picasso in the middle of a corn field. I cannot speak highly enough about this place. I am legitimately angry it is so far away.
When the owner heard we were off to the Kinston Indians game - he even gave us free tickets. If you are ever withing an hour of this place, stop by. Get some beer. Patronize in a good way.
Time for baseball and the Kinston Indians (and their ridiculously racist logo) have a very nice little stadium a little drive from the downtown. If you've been to one relatively new minor league park, you've been to this one, but that's meant to be a complement as it hits all the notes it should. Nothing really special to talk about but like an umpire sometimes you know the best work done is work that goes unnoticed.
After great BBQ and two great beer experiences perhaps it was too much to expect a great baseball experience too. Perhaps it would have been too much for my tiny mind to comprehend. I think I needed the everyday minor league game to bring me back down from that cloud.
The trek was long and a bit tiring but there can be no doubt about it, it was totally worth it. Eastern NC delivered in a big way.