No one yelled "Norm!" as I walked into Draft Line Brewing on a recent evening, but when I left a few hours later the 1980s TV theme song "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" was running through my mind.
Of course, the famed bar Cheers was found in Boston while Draft Line occupies former warehouse space for a hardware store in Fuquay-Varina. That—and the fictional vs. reality thing—aside, there is a strong neighborhood hangout vibe shared by the two.
A half dozen people sit at the bar when I arrive around 6, and another half dozen or so are at picnic tables outside in front of an open garage-style door. Almost everyone there seems to know everyone else. A gentleman in a Pinehurst golf T-shirt talks on his cell phone, reporting who was still present and who had just left. Conversations touch on work and travel. "You'll see things you'll wish you hadn't seen," one guy tells another in a chat that I had originally thought was about Vegas but then wondered what Hostel-style travel experience he was talking about. A couple reminisce with the bartender about a previous evening, and when the wife expresses puzzlement the husband gently reminds her, "You were there, sweetie. Remember? Martinis."
Two men discuss how the building appears to be wired. A couple of others sip beers with the mien of self-employed businessmen who decided to knock off early for the day. There is a zebra print dress and there are leopard print shoes, not on the same person, thankfully. A woman returns from the restroom, announcing to her companion, "I feel so good."
Midway through my visit a father and son walk in, pass the bar and head for the open area between the vats and brewery's offices to take advantage of the corn hole board that is set up and also the Ping Pong table in the middle of the space.
Adding to the neighborhood feel, a PA announcer's voice drifts in from the soccer field across the way as he intones "Goal by Megan Reed" along with the sound of cheers.
Beers on tap can be found listed on a blackboard hanging high on one wall. If you're hungry, a sign on the opposite wall touts a local pizza place that delivers to the bar. Oscillating fans stir the air.
The beer, brewed a few feet away in silver vats looming tall behind the bar area, is good. There's a bit of fruit in the Graf Pale Ale. The Riversteam Scotch Ale is smooth-drinking while The Deep Plunge Porter is dark and complex (and probably my favorite of their offerings). Draft Line also brews a pilsner and a wheat ale and often has a weekly limited release. On March 17, for example, Draft Line had Red Velvet Chocolate Cherry Stout. The week before that was a German black lager, which was preceded by a maple pecan porter the previous week. If you're not near Fuquay-Varina, you can find their brews at several establishments across the Triangle. (They also offer growlers and kegs.)
Their output is solid and consistent. But the beauty of going to Draft Line is how relaxed and comfortable it is. As I left, I overheard a conversation about a woman who, a week or so earlier, had pulled into the lot, apparently to nap without coming into the bar. "She was fuuuuucked up," said one person.
To me, there are few compliments greater for a bar than one that feels so much like your spot that you're as likely to go there to sleep it off as you are to drink. That's a neighborhood bar to appreciate.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Home sweet bar"