Friday, September 9, 2016

Cruisin’ For A Brewsin’: Operation Morganton, NC

My man Todd Steven Boera of Morganton's Fonta Blora Brewing makes some of the best beer in America. Let him prove it.
Along with the Morganton Heritage Festival, this is one North Carolina city worth visiting for some necessary woosah!

Ready to hit the road? Let's roll!

Since this site features awesome cities and “hidden” gems that should definitely deserve your presence, I had the pleasure exploring the charming city of Morganton, North Carolina and had a blast! I love painting a picture with actual photographs of what will be available for you to enjoy if you’re lucky enough to take a breather—an extremely fresh one here—and see what this Burke County attraction has to offer.
From hosting one of the best breweries in the nation—Fonta Flora—to State Park hiking trails, delicious eats, top-shelf whisky, kayaking, and trekking the Appalachians, this town of about 17,000 natives is an awesome escape from big city living. Did I mention beer?
Anyway, enjoy these pics, my commentary, and ultimately consider this escape just a few hours in the car from Atlanta, GA and other major cities in the Southeast! And to really go all the way, hit up their annual Historic Morganton Festival this Friday and Saturday, September 9 and 10, 2016.
Here we go!

Things To Do…
Thermal Valley Hang Gliding
I am not going to lie, there were some serious jitters and hesitation when considering hang gliding was on my itinerary but I manned up. I made an awesome decision going for it. Owned and operated by the charming Pearson family on the Foothills Regional Airport grounds, I was instantly comforted with their years of expertise and gentle persuasion to live life to the fullest.
Pulled by a small, one-man aircraft called a “Dragonfly,” I was encased in what resembled a bulletproof sleeping bag horizontally secured on top of Craig, a life-loving, down-to-earth gent who helped me enjoy every one of the dozen or so minutes I was in the air for. There was no engine once we were detached about two minutes in. Just some wings, wheels, and the wind currents making everything unforgettable over a hilly, majestic landscape. It was an “I’m on top of the world” moment for sure, and I have the HD Go-Pro video to prove it (which they provide). I’d definitely do it again.

Waldensian Trail of Faith in Valdese
I learned a lot about the history of the Waldensians and the eventful, often horrific journey from Italy’s Alpine Valleys to America—especially their 1893 settlement in the small town of Valdese just outside of Morganton. Guests take in their way of life authentically thanks to this site complete with the original headquarters, schools, house of worship and other attractions described by a passionate tour guide and staff. They even prepared bread in a handmade oven the way they did more than a century ago.

Get your nature on!
My brother Lamont  and I cold chillin' in front of High Shoals Falls.
South Mountains State Park
To relieve some stress, appreciate North Carolina’s amazing natural environs, and walk off anything consumed in excess the night before, this is where to go. I was lucky to have a smiling Ranger guide me, but everyone has access to the South Mountains Park  including the picturesque 80-foot-tall High Shoals Falls.

Lake James State Park
I also enjoyed kayaking on the gorgeous waters of the Lake James State Park. It was absolutely gorgeous out there, the weather was perfect, and the waters were steady. Hiking trails and other activities are available and renting the equipment was amazingly cheap.

root & vine
You haven’t eaten right until you indulge in a gourmet dinner at root + vine based on the corner of a happening block in downtown Morganton. They take pride in making everything from scratch including my favorite dish, crab cakes, plus seafood, steaks, and other mouthwatering selections. Craft beer, wine and cocktails are available to wash everything down on the spacious patio or the always happening, chic indoors. This was instantly one of my favorite stops on the trip.

JD’s Smokehouse
My first stop was the revered, homey JD’s Smokehouse for some prize-winning barbecue. The people were charming, hospitable and the walls were adorned with car-racing themed décor. This place is always packed and for good reason: The food was good!

King Street Cafe
It’s like eating at a local’s home and that’s a good thing. Owner and Chef Peter Chan takes pride in using only the freshest, locally sourced ingredients to create French-influenced cuisine, seafood, and housemade desserts served up in living room settings by a classically garbed waitstaff.

Judge’s Barbecue
Besides scrumptious barbecue, there is an eclectic menu to keep everyone happy, including sandwiches, seafood and even a couple of beers to choose from. What I loved most about this place is it is set along the Catawba River to provide optimal scenery while dining. The locals love this spot.

Sip, Sip, Hooray!
Fonta Flora Brewery
When I say Fonta Flora is one of the best breweries in the country, I mean it. Every beer “Double F” makes is gangster, boasting sustainable, locally sourced ingredients with the mission to make the most extraordinary beers available. Using everything from beets to dandelions and carrots from nearby farms, Flora’s selections regularly receive the prestigious seal from the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. Look for a feature on Fonta Flora on this site soon including the homey, co-founder and brewer Todd Steven Boera (serving us a brew above). My most recent visit included live music, 90s hip hop (Boera’s a fanatic of the genre), a down-to-earth staff, and a happy crowd of craft sippers toasting glasses throughout the evening. This is a must-visit destination.
By the way, I got a sneak peek of what their future location will be; it’s going to be amazing!

Catawba Brewing Company
One of the biggest and oldest operating breweries in the area that has been around since 1999, Catawba is pouring numerous brews daily including the White Zombie Belgian Wit, Mother Trucker American-style Pale Ale, Farmer Ted Cream Ale, REDiculous west-coast style IPA, and the Astral Bootie Beer session IPA to name a few. Guests are entertained with tours, an indoor/outdoor bar, large HD televisions (plus a huge projection screen), and pumping music often served up live. This is one of the most happening spots in Morganton, with two other tasting rooms located Asheville.

Brown Mountain Bottleworks
Super hip and laid back, Brown Mountain Bottleworks is not only a happening spot to buy the most revered, hard-to-find craft beer in the city, but it’s also the spot to chill out, eat some locally sourced snacks, and hang out with the locals. There is no doubt you will find the perfect brew to treat your palate with eight taps (and soon 12), more than 350 bottles, and almost 100 cans to choose from. You want to step your beer game up? Go here. (A great selection of wine is also available.)
I left with a four-pack of one of my favorites, the Hop, Drop n Roll IPA out of Charlotte. Yaaaasss!

Blue Ridge Distilling Co.
With surroundings naturally decorated by the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Blue Ridge Distilling Company is renowned for their award-winning Defiant Whisky. Find out why while listening to the founder, Tim Ferris, describe in detail the hard work it takes to be among the best in the whisky game while tasting the product. Sourcing water straight from the Blue Ridge Mountains and “putting the barrel inside the whisky” using White Oak for a special flavoring technique, a bottle of Defiant Single Malt is sure to join you on the way home.

Morganton Events You Can’t Miss…
My gracious host Craig Distl and I getting our sip on at the State Of Origin.
The State of Origin Beer Festival
An awesome fest held in the center of Morganton headlined by the aforementioned Fonta Flora. The common theme celebrates beers made solely in North Carolina using the prized state’s resources for ingredients. If you want to learn about the Carolina beer scene, this is a must.

It’s the 35th annual Historic Morganton Festival
Here is the official invitation to the biggest festival in Morganton every year:
Head to downtown Morganton Friday and Saturday, Sept. 9 and 10, 2016 and enjoy the 35th annual Historic Morganton Festival! The festival is open Friday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Hundreds of vendors will fill the streets selling their crafts and other wares; the kid and teen zone will offer entertainment and activities for youngsters; and plenty of festival food will be available for visitors to enjoy, along with the beer garden located near the Coors Light Stage. 
Check out the lineup and latest updates on what’s happening at the Fest at

Oh! And for lodging, consider the Hampton Inn due to its central location. I stayed there and it did the job!

I hope you enjoy Morganton and keep Cruisin’ For A Brewsin’ with me.



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  Whaddup?! What I consider one of the best beer companies in the Southeast, Three Taverns , is celebrating a decade of brewing excellence...

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