Triangle fans of English beers don't have to venture overseas, searching through waves of London fog for a place to drink. All they have to do instead is make their way to Cary to Fortnight Craft Brewery and Pub.
What they'll find is a small selection of brews made with hops and grains from England and Germany—"The only local ingredient is Cary water," said the host on a recent brewery tour. (Cary ranks second in the state in best-tasting tap water, according to the N.C. Water Works Association.)
The best-selling brew is the Blonde Ale, which has some ingredients grown in Germany. Thanks to its fruity flavor, the Blonde is likely to maintain its top status in the coming summer heat. It wouldn't be my first choice, in fact I prefer all of Fortnight's other styles, but it is easy to envision people grabbing a couple of Blondes for refreshment on a hot day.
The English Ale is a smooth-drinking brew. Flavorful and well-balanced, no one note dominates. Fortnight describes the ESB, a recent addition to the draft choices, as "English Ale's big brother." It's hoppier, a bit more complex on the tongue. And even though the B in ESB stands for bitter, there's no bitterness in the glass. It's more aggressive than the Blonde but still a highly approachable drink.
My personal favorite of their offerings is the Porter. Dark and lovely, it provides multiple flavors as you make your way to the bottom of the pint. It has a nice medium body, with a flavor palette that includes a hint of coffee here, a waft of chocolate there all wrapped in a nice toastiness. If you're lucky, a cask ale batch will be available for an even more authentic experience.
You can get a flight of four styles for $6. If you settle on a favorite, growler deposits are $5 and an additional $10–$14 to fill it. Half pints are in the $2.50 to $2.75 range while pints (the brew is English but the measurements are American) are generally $5–$6. You can show up thirsty and not go broke.
However, it isn't a good idea to show up hungry. Fortnight's food offerings consist of bagged snacks, examples of which are tacked to the wall, for a buck. If you want more than chips, pretzels, Chex mix or nuts you'll need to bring food or check the pub's website to see if a food truck will be parked out front. A truck shows up most evenings around at 5; the Humble Pig, Stuft and Mr. Taco are scheduled to be there this week.
The pub area is spare. A TV and a couple of dart boards hang on one wall. Three booths line the wall next to the entrance. There's a conversation-pit area of black overstuffed chairs and sofa in the center. Tall tables form a C-pattern around it with the open part of the C facing the bar. The staff is friendly and will happily explain the differences in styles and answer questions about what you're drinking. If you're unsure about English brews, the bartender will offer you a taste so you can order with confidence.
On recent visits the crowd has been varied. A running club meets there regularly. An older couple, just back from England, were looking for beer to savor and remember their trip. A couple of guys in their 20s, who had not seen each other in a while, were catching up and lamenting the price of airfare to the Caribbean.
At the bar sat a gentleman not quite up to speed on current events.
"Wow, Maya Angelou died. Did you see that?" his companion asked.
"Huh? Michelangelo? The painter?"
The common thread is an appreciation for a well-made English beer. If you have that, visit Fortnight. You won't even have to wade through fog or soccer hooligans to heft a tasty pint.
This article appeared in print with the headline "A new british empire."