How does one graciously respond when you ask the waitress what style a beer is that you’ve not heard of and you’re trying to pick a pitcher for three people and her response is, "it’s an ale." All I could think was that doesn’t help me and I ordered it anyways.
This scenario would never have happened at one beer store/bar I discovered on my brief vacation. Tucked along the waters of the Cape Fear River just off the beaten path in historic downtown Wilmington, NC sits Cape Fear Wine and Beer, a tiny eccentric beer and wine store/bar boasting the largest beer selection in Wilmington - click on the image for a bigger map. The majority of the store is taken up by three large coolers and shelves filled with beer and wine. The rest of the small space is occupied by a small bar that seats about six and about four armchairs. With one beer on tap, the bartender’s choice of tunes (in our case punk covers and german beer hall music) and only a handful of people the hole place breathes of intimacy and a bit of funk. After browsing the selection of German, Belgian, and British imports as well as American microbrews you’re free to either enjoy your beer at the bar in the appropriate glassware or straight from the bottle if you see fit, or you can take it back to your home, hotel, or cooler.
With the ability to split up six packs of anything besides their one selection of macro brew this bar offers a great opportunity to sample beer that the price of a six pack has kept you from trying before. While there I was able to sample, the Aventius Eisbock a thick rich banana filled beer, a Doppel Hirsch (a Bavarian doppelbock) a thick chewy malty tobacco tasting beer, a Rochefort 6 quite possibly the best beer I’ve ever tasted, a nice balance of fruitiness and malt, and a Stille Nacht a wine like beer that I did not fully appreciate. The bartenders are friendly, knowledgeable, and happy to give recommendations. More than likely the owners will be around either working or drinking after work with their friends and coworkers giving the place a community feel. Whether or not Cape Fear Wine and Beer has the largest beer selection it is certainly an excellent place to enjoy some conversation and beer sipping.
[Alan here: that looks like an interesting spot but the reviews on RateBeer and Beer Advocate are all over the place. One guy on RB says its half beer store, half bar and a little tattoo parlor. That sounds good to me.]