Sunday, October 12, 2008

Big Boss Brewery tour...

This Saturday, I went on a tour of the Big Boss Brewery in Raleigh.

My company had put together a "company outing" to the brewery, and a friend and I took advantage of the opportunity. It wasn't like a special exclusive company thing, since the Big Boss tour is open to the public, but it was a good opportunity to meet a lot of people at my company that I'd never met before, and the organizer did a great job of making sure people met each other (and free beer is hard to pass up at any time).

Big Boss is different from most of our local breweries, since their regular line up of bottled beers does not include a pale ale or an IPA, rather going with varieties that are a little off the beaten path. So instead of the "normal" beers, Big Boss sells a belgian blond (the "Hell's Belle"), a kolsch (the "Angry Angel"), and a brown ale (the "Bad Penny").
The tour included two free beers, and I went for the Hell's Belle both times (I'll admit, the 7% alcohol attracted me, but the taste won me over). It's a good beer, with an interesting flavor profile that's hard to describe (I'd say it's smooth, with an almost raisiny undertone).

Once we'd all had a beer, the tour started, with the usual "here's where the mash happens", "here's fermentation", etc. It was a good tour (even though if you've been on one brewery tour, you've been on them all), and the staff was friendly and eager to answer questions. One thing I thought was interesting was that all the beer names come from WWII nose art. There really is a bomber named "Hell's Belle", another named "Angry Angel", etc. I think the brewery is missing a beat, though, since there's no information in any of the marketing material about that tie-in.

After the tour ended, everybody gathered for another beer, and the tour kind of started to break up. Fortunately, the brewery has a "tasting room" (ie, a bar) upstairs, and that was pretty cool. I can't say I've been to a lot of bars lately, but I can say I haven't been in a lot of bars that look like someone's basement. The folks at Big Boss have definitely crafted a neat bar, with the space broken into small rooms, with couches, ping pong tables, etc. It was nice, and evoked more of a "frat party" atmosphere than a bar. Maybe that's the way bars are now. Having kids has a way of bringing "going to bars" to a screeching halt.

When I was in the bar, I had their rendition of a pale ale, and it was pretty good, with a nice balance of malt and hops. I like a lot of hops, and I can't say that it was "super hoppy", but it was tasty.

After my pale ale, I decided to call it a day, since I had other stuff planned for the day, and any more beer would've left me pretty useless (although I guess some folks would say I don't need beer for that!), and I ended up having to take a nap on the couch afterwards anyway.

All in all, a good time. I'll go ahead and post my blurry pictures below (I don't know how people take good pictures with an iPhone):

Obviously, with a line this long, it's a popular tour.

My shaky-cam in action. This was the beer line, where we got our free beers (and when I took this, I'd no alcohol at all)

The introduction by (I believe) one of the brewers, and the sales director. (But I could be wrong).

The mash stop of the tour.

A big crowd...

I got bored during the mash stop of the tour and took these two pics of the brewery. It's a big space, larger than the Carolina Brewing Company (interestingly, a friend told me that their tour is all you can drink. I think I know my brewery tour stop....).

Fermentation room. It's not obvious, but there are what I think are cooling jackets on the fermentation vessels to keep them cool, and the room was pretty chilly.

A crappy pic of my Hell's Belle.

And that's pretty much all I've got on Big Boss. It's a good brewery that makes great beer. The people I talked to from the brewery all seemed really nice, and I'd definitely like to spend some time in the tasting room. If you're in the Raleigh area looking for something to do, you could do alot worse than to take their tour.

Also, if you're looking for a good blog to read, check out this. My new friend Ross (from whom I almost bought a pretty nice Triumph motorcycle) just bought a Honda Ruckus scooter, and he's started a blog about it. So check it out, and give him some hits.

And go Rays.


Ian Sunshine said...


my name is Ian Sunshine and i have started back home brewing after a long sad departure. My freind and I just brewed a pale ale and a double Ipa this past weekend. It's fermenting so not sure how it will taste but it smells good. i was wondering where you get your repieces and have you ever mail ordered your hops

thnak you Ian Sunshine

Dave Mackie said...


Thanks for checking out the blog!
I've never ordered my hops by mail, but I think both American Brewmaster ( and Homebrew Adventures ( sell hops by mail. Both of these are local to NC.
I get my recipes from a variety of sources, including Joy of Homebrewing (Papazian), and The Homebrewer's Recipe Guide (which I can't recommend enough).
A good place to check out brewing books (and cookbooks in general) is the library. Since you can usually check something out for a month or two (with renewals), that's plenty of time to get a feel for whether the book's any good.
I don't use Zymurgy or any other beer magazine, mainly because right now I do alot of extract and partial grain, and the magazines didn't seem to cater to that demographic in the past.
Keep reading the blog! Tell your friends!

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