Now that Winston-Salem has basically become the craft/micro-brewery capital of North Carolina, you might be surprised to hear that a newcomer on the scene is punching above their weight to take on the establishment brews.
The new brewery, located on Trade Street, is called Fiddlin’ Fish Brewing Company, and it opened to its first customers just over a week ago.
A turn around the corner from Marshall Street will take you right up to the Big Winston Warehouse, a huge complex of local craft food artisans such as Black Mountain Chocolate and Chad’s Chai. Those familiar with area also know that Wise Man Brewing opened its doors right down the block just about one year ago. So why would the owners, Stuart Barnhart and David Ashe choose to move in so close to other craft-beer competition? Simply put, it’s because the place is marvelous.
Housing a walk-up bar and immense patio-style seating, the brewing company has made the atmosphere feel casual and fun. Whereas other brewers may come off as intimidating to the amatuer beer conneiseur, Fiddlin’ Fish presents a super simple menu for its patrons carved into wood for a modest, outdoors style. This outdoors style extends to the back wall of the huge seating area, where a mural depicting a guitar-shredding troubadour and giant fish gives a similar impression as public art. It is almost as if the brewery was built around the mural, the hip and folksy centerpiece of a hip and folksy brewing company.
The atmosphere continues to impress as patrons may sit with their beers and choose to watch a sporting event on a few of many flat-screen televisions. Social drinkers may also enjoy playing a board game or card game with their squad. The games are available for everyone to use in a communal style. The patio-style seating invites mixing and mingling with other customers, further contributing to the more-casual and overall less-intimidating vibe of Fiddlin’ Fish.
But, of course, there’s beer. Seven varieties, to be exact, which include five of the original brews plus a couple seasonal offerings and one-time treats. I tasted almost all of them, starting with the Ardmore Amber. This English-style amber ale is malty, with notes of caramel and hazelnut. It’s a great choice. Another offering that would satisfy your malt craving is the Black Mountain Chocolate Stout. Actually brewed with Black Mountain cocoa nibs, this beer has a smooth, creamy body that leads in with chocolate, but keeps you interested with hints of mocha and a slight bitterness.
As for beers that fall on the hoppy end of the spectrum, I would recommend the Double IPA for its bold hop character that went down with a surprisingly fruity aftertaste. This beer is meant to be savored as it is served in a 10 ounce glass rather than a 16 ounce pint. Sniff this one, as the hops are bright, fresh and floral. Also, given its 8.9 percent ABV, you will definitely want to take your time. On the other hand, if you are looking to enjoy a couple pints over a long evening of hanging out, then the Camel City Session IPA would suit you well. A “session” ale is just one with a lower ABV, and with the lower alcohol-content comes a lighter body that is as easy to drink as it is full of juicy pineapple and citrus flavors.
One should never drink on an empty stomach — and to that end Fiddlin’ Fish brings in several local food trucks offering a variety of cuisines, such as La Vie en Rose, Bahtmobile and Taqueria Luciano’s. I was blessed with the presence of Taqueria Luciano’s when I visited, who made some of the best-seasoned barbacoa tacos I’ve ever had. Their menu is incredibly large while their prices are modestly small. I would say more, but I feel as if a whole feature on just their truck alone would not do them justice.
With the support of local food trucks and of Black Mountain Chocolate, Fiddlin’ Fish has already begun on the right foot, or should I say the right fin, with Winston-Salem locals. Their casual atmosphere combined with their communal games and use of local products represent some of the best aspects of the Winston-Salem craft-brewery scene. And for that reason, I believe that the newest brewery in town should have no problem competing with the big fish in our little pond.