Team: Down East Wood Ducks
Affiliate: Texas Rangers (Class A Advanced)
Ballpark Basics: The second oldest ballpark in the Carolina League.
Ballpark Breakdown: Most recently renovated in 20016, this park first opened its doors in 1949. A classic covered grandstand covers majority of the seats. However, the seats immediately behind the baseline have been divided literally into “boxes” and with the help of folding chairs, serve as box seats for anywhere from 2-6 or even 8; which can be purchased for the season At the time of our visit, every single one was taken – mostly by local businesses. There is a set of bleachers down the third base side that offers general admission seating.
The team name comes from the colorful duck that is found in the surrounding area. The team has included trivia regarding the ducks around the ballpark (Did You Know: Wood duck boxes are constructed by Boy Scouts and 4-H Groups all across Down East. This helps to increase the wood duck population).
Best Spot for Beer: Mother Earth Brewing is a major major contributor to the local economy and this extends to the ballpark where they have their own dedicated stand on the concourse behind home plate as well as the Mother Earth Brewing Pavilion in right field. Here you will find multiple options that were brewed less than a mile away.
The town of Kinston lost one MiLB team when the Kinston Indians moved up to Zebulon in 2010. The Down East Wood Ducks brought baseball back to Kinston in 2017 and the locals seem very appreciative. The fans were invested (and vocal) throughout the game.
We first visited Kinston in 2009 and fell in love with the small town feel and the historic ballpark. When they lost the team we were worried Grainger Stadium’s days were numbered. Just like the locals, we are thankful that Minor League Baseball is back in the Down East.
Mother Earth Brewing Company
Brew Basics: Surprising, delicious, friendly and green
Overall Rating: Home Run!
The last thing we expected to find in the middle of rural North Carolina (and we mean rural!), was a modern building housing a progressive and earth friendly brewery, but that’s exactly what we found at Mother Earth; a brewery that takes up a city block, and runs entirely on solar power. Greeted by small town southern charm, we were able to sample some beers at the bar before going along on the (free) tour, where they let us taste the hops, enter the barrel room where their Bourbon Barrel Stout Tripel was curing, observe the fermentation and bottling processes, and even climb on the machinery for photo ops. Our only complaint was that there wasn’t a beer refill station along the tour route.
The tasting room is new renovation in an old building, and mainly done with light wood and large windows that let in a ton of sunshine, and a view of their large courtyard. Tables and couches run along the sides of this room, while a rectangular metal bar with seating on all four sides is the centerpiece of the room. We met a bunch of great people from the friendly bartender and welcoming locals, to one of the brewmasters who arrived in Kinston by way of Hawaii, Chicago and Savannah, basically for the love of beer, and taught us step by step the process of brewing – from recipe to warehousing.
Update: Since our first visit in 2010 things could not have gone better for this brewery and the town they call home. Mother Earth has expanded their operation significantly and branched out into distilling as well. The town is experiencing a bit of a revitalization, with and Peabody award winning chef Vivian Howard bringing serious culinary talent to not one, but two restaurants in town and thanks for Mother Earth also branching into other realms of hospitality, there’s even a motel that, like other parts of this town, has seen a complete transformation and looks like something you’d expect to find in Chicago or Seattle rather than small town North Carolina.
Brew Breakdown: Even if you drink it out of the glass, be sure to ask for the bottle – each label is as unique and creative as the beers themselves.
Endless River (4.9% ABV) – A wonderful summer beer! Kölsch style, so it’s light and smooth with a citrus finish, similar to a Hefeweizen, but without the haze. Unlike many we’ve had, this light golden beer had solid flavor, and without the pronounced banana taste that neither of us like. Endless River is perfect anytime, but absolutely great on a hot summer day, like the Saturday we stopped by.
Weeping Willow Wit (5% ABV) – a classic wit beer with the spicy orange zest and haze you expect, but Mother Earth’s recipe includes coriander which gives it a tangy twist. Another great option to cool down a steamy summer and a full flavored option that’s lower on the hop scale.
Dark Cloud Munich Dunkel (5.1 ABV) – Manages to be dark and malty without filling you up. It’s aged three times as long as any of the ales they concoct, but comes out of this with a lower ABV which makes it solidly, sessionable. On tap at one of our favorite spots in Nags Head (Tortuga’s Lie) as well, we are sure to get several of these every time we’re at the beach!
Sisters of the Moon (7% ABV) – A traditional IPA, with strong hop notes across all bouquet and palate fronts. All the hops in this light orangey- golden brown beer are grown by local farmers. By no means a palate killer, the hops in the Sisters are well balanced and notable without overpowering.
Tripel Overhead (9% ABV) (update: no longer in regular production but occasionally makes an appearance) a Belgian Style Tripel with a bourbon barreled twist. This one comes with a comes with a very bourbony (…yes, that’s a word) aroma and possibly because it’s a bourbon barrel tripel instead of a stout, the bourbon flavor is very distinct, and VERY strong. Jim fell in love with this one, and apparently the head brewmaster has too because he describes it on the Mother Earth website as “…quickly emerging as my preferred Mother Earth product.” This beer alone makes it worth the trip to Kinston, but isn’t for the faint of heart.
Park Day Pilsner – (4.9%) Like the rest of their lineup, the Park Day is brewed with a nod to traditional styles. In this case, a Bohemian Pilsner. Pale in color, mostly floral in the nose, the Park Day is clean and very light. Nothing crazy here, but solid and well balanced with slight hops in the end.
311 N. Heritage Street
Kinston, NC 28501