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The Weeping Radish: North Carolina’s Oldest Microbrewery

The Weeping Radish: North Carolina’s Oldest Microbrewery

Over the course of the past decade, the popularity of craft beers concocted by small, local breweries has grown exponentially. Small, local breweries have begun to spring up in towns across America, with the latest figures estimating the number of craft breweries operating in the United States at 5,234 as of the end of 2017.

According to the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, when it comes to the number of craft breweries, the Tarheel State—which boasts 230 craft breweries within its borders—is home to more craft breweries than any other state in the country. Although dozens of craft breweries have opened their doors and begun developing unique brews over the course of the past few decades—Raleigh and its surrounding suburbs alone are home to 25 craft breweries—only one can stake its claim as being the oldest microbrewery in the state: the Weeping Radish Brewery.

Originally founded by Bavarian native Uli Bennewitz in the small waterside town of Manteo on Roanoke Island, the Weeping Radish Restaurant and Brewery first opened in 1986 in an annex adjacent to The Christmas Shop on Highway 64. Bennewitz, who had emigrated from Bavaria to the United States in the 1980s, wanted to open a microbrewery similar to the ones he’d left behind in his homeland. At the time, however, only 100 microbreweries existed in the entire United States, and North Carolina law had declared it illegal for a brewery to sell beer directly to consumers.

Photo: Weeping Radish

Determined to succeed in opening his microbrewery and undeterred by the challenges presented by local laws, Bennewitz worked diligently with state politicians to have the law changed—eventually winning the opportunity to open his brewery on the Outer Banks and ultimately paving the way for hundreds of other craft breweries in North Carolina to do the same decades later.

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

From the beginning, the beers brewed by the Weeping Radish have been concocted according to the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot Purity Law of 1516. In addition to stating that no chemicals, preservatives or additives may be used in the beer-brewing process, this law also requires the brewmaster to use only four ingredients in the process: hops, malt, yeast and water. The beers brewed by the Weeping Radish grew in popularity among both locals and visitors to the Outer Banks, and Bennewitz eventually decided he needed a larger facility to keep up with the increasing demand for his products. In 2007 the Manteo location closed its doors and the operation was moved 35 miles away to Grandy in nearby Currituck County.

Photo: Weeping Radish

Four years later, groundbreaking began in Grandy, and in 2005 the new location—which featured a larger brewery, as well as a restaurant, farm and butcher’s facility—brewed its first batch of beer and opened to the public once again, this time as the “Weeping Radish Farm Brewery.” With the larger facility up and running and ready to offer craft brews to those in search of local breweries on the Outer Banks, Bennewitz took on yet another challenge: applying the Reinheitsgebot principles he had applied to his beers for nearly two decades—refraining from the use of chemicals and additives and working hard to ensure the finish product received minimal processing—to the food he served in his restaurant.  

Photo: The Redhead Riter

With the goal of reducing the current average distance food travels before it gets to the consumer from 2,000 miles to 200 miles, Bennewitz brought on Gunther Kuhle, a German master butcher, and set out to produce “Reinheitsgebot food” for locals and visitors to the area taking an Outer Banks vacation. The Weeping Radish Farm Brewery operates a 14-acre farm where organic vegetables are grown, and also works with area farms to source only free-range pork and beef for the charcuterie and sausages it serves in its popular restaurant located just 20 minutes from Kitty Hawk on the northern Outer Banks. From sauerbraten, beer brats, sausage samplers and pork schnitzel to burgers, soups, salads and sandwiches, the farm-to-table food served at the German-inspired Weeping Radish Farm Brewery has received such positive reviews it was featured on The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri in 2013. 

In addition to offering a spot for Outer Banks locals and tourists to sit down for a delicious lunch, dinner or just a tasty craft brew, the Weeping Radish Farm Brewery also features a retail counter where a variety of products ranging from sausages and pastrami to bacon and beer can be purchased. Guided tours of the on-site brewery are also offered to the public, so those interested in the brewing process behind the popular Outer Banks beers Bennewitz worked so hard to bring to the area can witness the inner-workings of the facility that put microbrewing on the map of the state of North Carolina more than 30 years ago.

Holiday Happenings on the Outer Banks

The holiday season is officially upon us, and when it comes to feeling festive, there’s no better place to find a variety of events than the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Regardless of whether you’re a native of the region or a vacationer in search of some holiday spirit, the following activities and attractions should not be missed if you’re planning to spend some time on the Outer Banks this December.

  • Colington Harbour Boat Parade

Nothing says “Christmas on the coast” like sailboats decked out in strands of bright-colored lights and holiday décor as they weave through the waterways on the west side of Kill Devil Hills. Colington Harbour—a scenic waterfront community situated along the edge of the Roanoke Sound on Colington Island—will hold its annual Christmas boat parade this Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, at 5 p.m.

During the Colington Harbour Yacht Club’s Christmas Boat Parade, visitors and residents of this community—which comprises a series of meandering canals—will gather at the Colington Harbour marina parking lot (1000 Colington Drive in Kill Devil Hills) for front-row seats to watch the brightly lit boats make their way out of the nearby canals and then circle around the harbor playing Christmas music and waving at the crowd.

Keep an eye out for Santa Claus, who is frequently spotted on one of the boats, and be sure to grab a complimentary cup of hot cocoa to keep warm while you listen to popular Christmas tunes and watch the beautifully decorated boats go by.

  • The Outer Banks Christmas House

The holiday season is not complete with a tour of some of the town’s best Christmas light displays. Because the barrier islands are primarily a vacation destination and the vast majority of homes here are weekly rentals rather than permanent residences, you probably won’t find as many neighborhood light displays when you’re visiting the Outer Banks as you would in your own year-round community. There are, however, several places that put on quite a show each season—and one in particular has truly earned its spot at the top of the “must-see” Outer Banks Christmas lights list.

Featured in years past on both HGTV and NBC’s “Today” show, the Outer Banks Christmas House has become an Outer Banks tradition that locals and visitors alike look forward to all year long. The Poulos family begins setting up their epic holiday attraction a whopping 12 weeks before the first day the array of lights are plugged in for the season and light up their residence on West Ocean Acres Drive in Kill Devil Hills. In addition to taking three months to assemble, the display costs the Poulos family as much as $3,500 in energy bills each month just to transform their property into a winter wonderland. The incredible lights display at the Outer Banks Christmas House can be viewed nightly from Nov. 24, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2017.

  • New Year in the New World

Photo: Matt Lusk Photography

The shifting sandbars of the Outer Banks are as famous for their rich history as they are for the sun, surf and sand that have made them into an incredibly popular vacation destination over the past half century—and few parts of the barrier islands have such as storied past as the town of Manteo on Roanoke Island. Birthplace of Virginia Dare, the first English child, and the site of the infamous Lost Colony that vanished from the island without a trace in the 16th century, Roanoke Island attracts thousands of history buffs to its soundside shorelines and charming downtown area every season.

In honor of the island’s prominent place in history, a brand-new holiday event—“New Year in the New World”—will be held in Manteo this year. Scheduled for 3 p.m. until midnight on Dec. 31, 2017, this inaugural event is designed to be a festive family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration. The roadways throughout downtown Manteo will be closed, and Outer Banks residents and visitors are invited to a street fair featuring live music, shopping, an early ball drop at 8:30 p.m. and events for the kids, and local vendors selling food and drinks—as well as the largest fireworks display in the state of North Carolina, which will also be choregraphed to music. If you’re visiting the Outer Banks for the holidays, you won’t find a better place on the beach to ring in 2018 than New Year in the New World!

Experience a Winter Wonderland at the Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island

If you’re visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina during the Christmas season this year, there’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit and start feeling festive than taking a tour of the Winter Lights display at the Elizabethan Gardens.

Photo: North Beach Sun

From November 25, 2017, through January 20, 2018, the hedges, trees and plants that line the series of pathways that wind through this popular attraction on the northern tip of Roanoke Island are covered with string after string of bright and colorful lights, resulting in a spectacular display that every visitor to the barrier islands of the Outer Banks must experience at least once in their lifetime.  

Photo: Outer Banks This Week

Situated on the shores of the Roanoke Sound within the confines of the historic town of Manteo, the Elizabethan Gardens first opened to the public on August 18, 1960, the 373rd anniversary of the birth of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America. Since their gates first opened 57 years ago, they have welcome tens of thousands of people vacationing on the Outer Banks each season who year to enjoy more than just the sun, surf and sand during their stay on this slice of island paradise. The gardens—which comprise an area of more than 10 acres—are home to more than 500 different and unique species of plants and flowers that bloom at various times throughout the year, as well as several one-of-a-kind statues, sundials, bird baths, an ancient Italian fountain and so much more.

Photo: OuterBanks.com

Although the Elizabethan Gardens receives the vast majority of its visitors from Memorial Day to Labor Day, when the beaches are busy and tourist season is in full swing, the two months from Thanksgiving to late January each year—when the meandering walkways are decked with holiday décor and loads of spectacular light displays—are a highly anticipated time for locals and vacationers alike.

Photo: OuterBanks.com

From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on select evenings each week, visitors to the Elizabethan Gardens’ Winter Lights display will be greeted by a winter wonderland unlike any they’ve ever witnessed before. The garden pathways that weave through this Outer Banks landmark that has enchanted adults and children alike for more than half a century are illuminated with awe-inspiring lighting that is draped over the hedges and wrapped around the tree trunks, extending out to the tips of their branches. 

Photo: Outer Banks This Week

A fire crackles on the great lawn, marking the perfect spot to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa after touring the gardens and taking in all the scenery during your stroll through along the garden grounds. Holiday décor ranging from child-size gingerbread houses and lighted reindeer displays to colorful candy canes and life-size nutcracker cut-outs can be found along the walkways, providing the perfect opportunity for photos with friends and family, or for simply gazing in awe at the magical world that surrounds you in this stunning scene. 

Photo: Outer Banks This Week

Whether you are a local who has lived here for years, a first-time visitor to the area or you’ve been spending the holiday season vacationing on these beautiful barrier islands for decades, the Winter Lights at the Elizabethan Gardens is one winter tradition on the Outer Banks you won’t want to miss this season! For more information on the Winter Lights display or to purchase tickets, visit ElizabethanGardens.org.

 

 

 

Discover the Island Farm on Roanoke Island

On the northern end of Roanoke Island lies a secluded spot few tourists vacationing on the barrier islands of the Outer Banks have ever been. Situated just west of U.S. Highway 64 in historic town of Manteo, the Island Farm is a unique destination for both visitors and locals, offering a slew of adventures and a wide array of activities for attendees of all ages. If you’re searching for a place to spend a day on your vacation well off the beaten path, a stop by this historic living site is well worth the trip.

When you first set foot on the grounds of the Island Farm, you’ll feel as though you’ve taken a trip back in time to 1847. The site sits on a slice of the Etheridge farmstead, a chunk of land where one of the area’s earliest settlers, a man named Adam Etheridge, built a house and established a farm with his family centuries ago. Today, the Island Farm comprises a period restoration of the house—including several 19th century furnishings, many of which were original to the property—as well as a dozen other buildings, such as a reconstructed slave cabin, smokehouse, cookhouse, dairy, corn crib, outhouse, woodshed and blacksmith shop.

Historical interpreters clad in period-specific attire can be found working inside and around the various buildings constructed on the Etheridge farmland, giving visitors a chance to witness what daily life would have been like on the Outer Banks in the middle of the 1800s. Throughout the year, interpreters perform a variety of tasks that bring Roanoke Island history to life. Here you can watch a blacksmith create his wares, help a farmer hoe a row of corn, assist the cook in making plates of corn cakes, or stroll along the fences of the pasture that houses animals ranging from a cow and an ox to several sheep and two banker ponies. Several free-range chickens also roam the grounds of this often-undiscovered island attraction.

If you’re not content to sit back and watch 19th century island life unfold before your eyes, you can take part in a wide array of hands-on activities and demonstrations. From woodworking, cooking and blacksmithing to garden planting, and harvesting, you won’t find a lack of things to do when you visit the Island Farm on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Once you’ve exhausted your list of daily “chores” on the farm, climb into an on-site wagon for an ox-drawn wagon ride around the premises, or embark on a self-guided tour of the farm and farmhouse.

The visitor center provides historical context via a series of educational exhibits on such topics as fishing, farming, boatbuilding, island culture, slavery and the locally famous Freedmen’s Colony. A family graveyard on the property allows visitors to pay respects at the final resting place of Adam Etheridge as well as many of his immediate family members and descendants. A large oak tree referred to as “Crissy Oak” marks the final resting spot of Crissy Bowser, a longtime resident and worker on the farm.

Whether you’re looking for a way to take a break from the beach during your Outer Banks vacation or you want to add a history lesson or two into your trip, you’ll find all that and more during your visit to the fun-filled Island Farm on Roanoke Island.  

*All photos courtesy of TheIslandFarm.com

 

 

History of the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

Photo: Dan Waters Photography

The Outer Banks of North Carolina are home to several historic lighthouses that have aided mariners sailing along the treacherous coastline for centuries. While most visitors to the area are familiar with the well-known beacons, such as Buxton’s Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Bodie Island Lighthouse located in South Nags Head, far fewer vacationers have paid a visit to the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse in downtown Manteo.

Photo: Courtesy of Lighthouse Friends

Constructed in 1877, the original Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse was a screw-pile structure situated at the southern edge of the Croatan Sound, halfway between the village of Wanchese and the North Carolina mainland to the west. Like its counterparts that illuminate the coastline on the ocean side of the Outer Banks, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse served as one of many such screw-pile structures throughout the sounds that separated the barrier islands from the mainland. The lighthouse emitted a beam of light that helped sailors to orient themselves as they ventured from the sea lanes of the Atlantic Ocean and through shallow channels in the sound on their way to inland ports along the eastern portion of the state.

Photo Courtesy of VisitNC.com

Outfitted with a Fresnel lens built in France that measured 2 feet 4 inches in height and weighed 200 pounds, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse was operated by the U.S. Coast Guard until 1955, when it was deemed no longer necessary due to the advent of more modern navigational aids and subsequently decommissioned. The lighthouse was sold to a private owner, and an attempt was then made to relocate the structure to private property further inland, but it was damaged so severely in the process, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse was ultimately destroyed and lost in the sound.

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

For decades, the lighthouse that once lit the waters of the Croatan Sound was all but forgotten—until 1999. At that time, the Town of Manteo was planning its centennial celebration, and residents came up with a plan to reconstruct a replica of the original Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, this time in the Roanoke Sound. Designs for a full-scale exact replica of the 1877 structure were drawn and approved; however, a slew of issues ranging from lack of sufficient funding to the devastating effects of 2003’s Hurricane Isabel forced the project to come to a temporary halt. Nearly half a century after the original lighthouse in the Croatan Sound was decommissioned, the brand-new version of the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse was completed in September 2004.  

Photo: Pinterest

Today, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse can be found at the southeast corner of downtown Manteo in the waters of Shallowbag Bay. A long, wooden boardwalk stretches from the Manteo waterfront into the sound, where the square-shaped, white structure with a red roof and black shutters stands guard over the shoreline. Visitors to this area of the Outer Banks can tour the inside of the replicated lighthouse to learn about the maritime history of Roanoke Island via an assortment of education programs and exhibits. After taking a self-guided tour of the structure, guests can sit back and relax on one of the benches or picnic tables that line the decking behind the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse to watch boats and paddleboarders passing by and to take in a picturesque view of Roanoke Island Festival Park, downtown Manteo and the neighboring coastal community of Pirate’s Cove.

 

Explore the Past at Roanoke Island Festival Park

Whether you’re a tourist planning an upcoming Outer Banks vacation and want to explore all the historical attractions the area has to offer or you’re a local looking to take break from everyday life on the beach and start exploring your own backyard, one spot you won’t want to miss is Roanoke Island Festival Park. From a representation of the 16th Century ship that brought English settlers across the Atlantic Ocean to the settlement site where some of America’s earliest settlers set up a permanent colony for England on U.S. soil in the 1500s, this historical Outer Banks attraction offers something for everyone in the family.

aerial
An aerial view of Roanoke Island Festival Park (Photo: RoanokeIsland.com)

Sail Back in Time Aboard the Elizabeth II

If you’re searching for a unique way to take a step back in time on your next Outer Banks vacation, look no further than the shallow waters that surround downtown Manteo on Roanoke Island. Here, history buffs will find a replica of the Elizabeth II, a famed English merchant vessel that sailed the sea centuries ago, transporting colonists and supplies from England to the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina during Sir Walter Raleigh’s voyages to the New World. Situated on the southwestern edge of Roanoke Island Festival Park, the 69-foot-long ship that is safely anchored in Shallowbag Bag annually attracts thousands of visitors who venture aboard the vessel and get a taste of what life was like for colonists who made the long and treacherous journey on the high seas during Sir Walter Raleigh’s 1585 expedition.

roanoke island elizabeth II
The Elizabeth II sets sail in the Roanoke Sound. (Photo: RoanokeIsland.com)

Costumed sailors in 16th Century attire invite tourists to help set the ship’s sails, swab the decks and explore the lines and rigging that make it possible for such a ship to set sail on the open water. Children and adults alike will have the opportunity to help raise the ship’s anchor, scope out a representation of the original vessel’s tiny living quarters and to search for surprises in a series of boxes and barrels stashed onboard the boat. The ship is also staffed with several interpretive guides who provide answers to visitor inquiries about the historic Outer Banks vessel, its passengers and crew, and the incredible voyage its namesake made across the sea more than 400 years ago.  

elizabeth II seaside
The Elizabeth II, anchored in Shallowbag Bay. (Photo: Seaside Vacations Outer Banks)

Roanoke Island Settlement Site

The Outer Banks may best known for housing tens of thousands of temporary visitors to its beautiful beaches in the spring and summer months each year, but the barrier islands’ most famous residents were those who braved the long and arduous journey from England to Roanoke Island to start brand-new lives in the New World. To honor these early English settlers and educate Outer Banks vacationers about some of the first people to inhabit this stretch of sand in the center of the Roanoke Sound, Roanoke Island Festival Park boasts several unique attractions for adults and children of all ages to enjoy.

roanoke island woodworking
Woodworking exhibit at Roanoke Island Festival Park (Photo: RoanokeIsland.com)

Throughout the Roanoke Island Settlement Site, you’ll encounter a series of costumed interpreters whose exhibits will enlighten guests and explain what life was like for North America’s earliest settlers. Stop by a blacksmith’s station to watch him create unique iron wares, or try your hand at traditional woodworking alongside an interpreter within another nearby exhibit. Kids—or adults who are kids at heart—can play games that were popular during Elizabethan times, try on costume armor that members of Roanoke Island’s military settlement would have worn in centuries past and attempt to perfect an English accent with the aid of the settlement site’s interpretive guides.  

roanoke island blacksmith
Blacksmith exhibit at Roanoke Island Festival Park (Photo: RoanokeIsland.com)

While the Outer Banks of North Carolina are best known for recreational activities ranging from surfing and standup paddleboarding to kayaking and kiteboarding, if you’re embarking on an Outer Banks vacation, make sure you don’t miss the wide array of unique historical attractions at Roanoke Island Festival Park that pay homage to some of the earliest individuals to call this pristine island paradise their home.

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