Top of the Hill enjoys continued success

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

As far as locations go, Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery sets a standard.

Not only does Top of the Hill sit in the most prime of locations on Chapel Hill’s famed Franklin Street, but it also is an essential gathering spot for students, faculty and staff at the University of North Carolina.

With that type of clientele visiting the restaurant on a daily basis — especially on fall football Saturdays and big home basketball games throughout the winter — Top of the Hill has been able to maintain relevancy.

It began brewing beer in 1996 and is the eighth oldest brewery in the state. Despite the current climate of breweries opening shops and distributing beer, Top of the Hill — known to locals at TOPO —  only distributes to one location in nearby Carrboro.

If you want their good beer, you’ll just have to deal with grabbing a glass and taking it to their famed rooftop overlooking Chapel Hill.

“That’s the biggest draw,” Top of the Hill Brewmaster Aaron Caracci said. “On a nice day, you can’t beat it.”

The beer is excellent, too, and if you want heavy 9 percent AVB-type beers, this isn’t the place.

Freshmen and sophomores don’t drink those, so at TOPO, you’ll find craft beer on the more affordable, less gut-filling end of the spectrum than you might in other locales.

“Most of our clientele are students who are 21-22 years old,” Caracci said. “We want them to have 3-4 beers, and you can’t do that when you are drinking heavy AVB beers.”

TOPO gives a nod to UNC with its popular Kenan Lager (4.2 AVB, $4.50, 10 oz.), the Belgian-style Old Well White (6.0 AVB, $4.50, 10 oz.) and the Ram’s Head IPA (6.9 AVB, $5, 10 oz.)

The fall 2018 Session Series beer features “Bees get Degrees,” which is a honey ale (5.0 ABV, $4.50, 10 oz.).

Caracci, who is originally from Pennsylvania before saying he “dumb-luck” stumbled into his current position, said that TOPO continues to kick around the idea of introducing hazy and milkshake IPAs to keep up with the latest crazes.

They recently introduced an American stout that had not been on the menu.

Overall, TOPO goes through 1,500-2,200 barrels of beer per year and even has had a cask beer program for the past six years where unfiltered beers are served at cellar temperatures.

Caracci said it is an acquired taste, but it often is a hit with UNC professors.

TOPO tries to hit everyone’s taste buds, and the plan is to continue not only its relevancy by location, but by glass.

“We want to keep our signature beers but also expand to something different to drink and different to brew,” Caracci said. “We are certainly university-forward.”