Discover Chatham Beverage District: Best Drinks in Pittsboro

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Photo by Dathan Kazsuk

Discover Chatham Beverage District: Eat, Drink, Play at The Plant



Embark on a 40-minute drive down Highway 64 and discover a captivating world of beverage producers and local business owners, all living by the invigorating motto of “Eat. Drink. Play.” 

This is the Chatham Beverage District, housed in “The Plant”—a one-of-a-kind adult playground with a myriad of attractions including hemp clothing producers, food, ax-throwing and a plethora of libations.

Located on Pittsboro’s east side, the 17-acre eco-industrial park houses the unique Chatham Beverage District. Here, you can start your journey through the world of mead at Starrlight Mead, the first stop on your adventure. 

There you’ll find owners Ben and Becky Starr, who took their hobby of mead-making to the next level by establishing Starrlight Mead in 2010. In their original location, they converted a historic train depot in downtown Pittsboro into their meadery and tasting room, creating a space for mead enthusiasts to gather and savor their creations.

Over the years, the duo has garnered numerous awards and accolades for their meads, earning them a loyal following of local mead aficionados and recognition as one of the top meaderies in the United States. 

With success, the business needed expansion, and Starrlight Mead built its current meadery and tasting room from the ground up at the entrance of the Chatham Beverage District—and became a pillar for the District’s business community. 

Starrlight Mead produces mead (aka honey wine) at its Pittsboro location. Photos by Dathan Kazsuk.

“Chatham Beverage District is a vibrant community of beverage producers,” says Becky Starr. “From beer and mead to coffee, ciders and mixed drinks, we offer a diverse range of libations in one place. What sets us apart is our spirit of collaboration. We love working together, and that’s what makes this group so special.” 

In the past, Starrlight Mead has joined forces with Vortex Roasters for a coffee mead and partnered with Bite My Cookies (BMC) Brewing for a braggot, which is a hybrid mead-beer beverage.

Even though Starrlight has been around for a lot longer than places such as BMC Brewing or Fair Game Beverage Co., the Starrs admit that, for the most part, people come into The Plant for beer and spirits—but some are eventually led to try mead as well. “More [locals] know about BMC or Fair Game, so those people are brought to our meadery,” Starr says. “[But we also] have a customer base that’s a little more statewide. And we tell them about the other local beverages being made here [as well].”

John and Carmen Rice are the owners of BMC Brewing. Photo by Dathan Kazsuk.

BMC Brewing offers some of those beverages. Brewmaster Carmen Rice and her husband, John Rice, are co-owners of the brewery, and their arrival in 2021 made them the newest libation buddies to pull up into The Plant. 

Located near Starrlight Mead, BMC’s slogan is “Serving Chatham County One Pint at a Time,” and you can visit BMC Brewing for anything from a light pilsner to a heavy stout. 

The brewery has 16 beers on draft at any given time and also features beer cocktails, cider, wine, and “bloodies,” like the Cubinata and Micheladas.

John Rice continues with other collaborative projects beyond the braggot with Starrlight Mead. “We collaborated with Mark Stover of Vortex Roasters to choose the perfect blend of coffee we used in our Mug Shot Coffee Cream Ale,” he offers as one example. (Mug Shot, by the way, is a must-try.)

Explore all the different libations at the Chatham Beverage District. Photo by Dathan Kazsuk.

Rice and Starr affirm that The Plant is a destination for everyone—adults and families alike. “With 17 acres of land away from traffic, The Plant offers expansive spaces to relax and enjoy quality time with your loved ones. 

You can savor cider, beer and mead made in small batches right on site,” Rice says. “Whether you’re seeking a peaceful spot to work with a beer, enjoy live music with friends, or celebrate the end of a long week, Chatham Beverage District is your haven.”

After you enjoy a glass of mead or a pint of beer, you’ll find other enticing options inside The Plant. You can peruse Hempsmith Clothing Co., where you’ll find stylish clothing made from hemp—T-shirts, socks, beanies, lounge pants, shorts and much more. 

Founder Zafer Estill created the Hempsmith brand in 2015 at the age of 18 and tragically lost his life just a year later. His younger brother Arlo has been carrying on Zafer’s mission to bring comfortable, stylish clothing to the world. 

Hempsmith features events such as The Hemparoo, which features live music, hemp vendors, guest speakers and a panel discussion. You can also visit Oak City Hemp, where you can find quality hemp tinctures, smokeables and topicals. 

Cross the “midway” and make your next stop at Fair Game Beverage Co., where Fair Game’s “ringmaster,” Lyle Estill, has made his little niche inside The Plant well worth visiting. 

The beverage company’s small-batch malt whiskeys, apple brandy, Balancing Act Gin and popular Flying Pepper Vodka are all good on their own, but they’re even better when the bartenders mix them into drinks like the Bloody Local, Flaming Flying Pineapple or Macie’s Marg (a take on a margarita using apple brandy instead of tequila). 

Enjoy a cocktail or tasting flight while you peruse the beverage company’s stock of fine North Carolina specialty food products. Fair Game also offers an assortment of local North Carolina wines available for purchase, to save you a trip to Yadkin County’s wine region.

By now, you might be ready for some food. It’s available inside The Plant with Lilly Den Farm and Kingston 99 Kitchen. Lilly Den Farm is a farm-to-fork food truck location near the rear of the main strip. 

With a focus on smoked meats and the smell of barbecue in the air, Lilly Den has become a popular place to grab a sandwich or loaded mac-n-cheese and pull up a seat on the communal park benches outside. 

Grab a cocktail at Fair Game Beverage Company. Photos by Dathan Kazsuk.
Fair Game Beverage Company is a perfect place to end your visit with a cocktail. Photo by Dathan Kazsuk.

At Kingston 99 Kitchen, meanwhile, you’ll find authentic Jamaican food like jerk chicken, Jamaican coco bread, braised oxtail and butter beans—all perfect for accompanying a cocktail, pint of beer or glass of wine. 

With The Plant’s plethora of experiences, there’s something for everyone. Vortex Roasters is a coffee lover’s dream. For those who appreciate the art of candle-making, there’s Essence Candle Boutique, and for plant enthusiasts, there’s Rachel’s Native Plants. If you are seeking a unique thrill, check out Chatham Axes, where you can test your ax-throwing skills.

Whether you come for the spirits or The Plant’s other diverse offerings, a visit to Chatham Beverage District will not disappoint.  

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