Ocracoke Island has been a strategic region in various wars; it's housed a Civil War fort (destroyed in 1861 and rediscovered in 1998), and during WWII you could see German U-Boats surface off shore. One U-Boat sunk British ship HMT Bedforshire in 1942, and Ocracoke Island has a special British cemetery for the sailors who washed ashore.
Because of its isolated location (today it can still only be reached by boat or plane), Ocracoke residents have developed a local dialect known as Brogue, and a distinct local culture has developed.
In 1979, liquor hadn't been sold on Ocracoke for 50 years. The Howard's Pub opening was a big deal. In a way, the opening of Howard's Pub ushered in a new wave of restaurant establishments on the island, and initiated a new phase of island tourism. Though the pub has changed ownership, it's still an important place today-- the bartenders are long-term, seasoned employees. You can get fresh-shucked local oysters and either eat them or drink them in the famous 'oyster shot' (oyster, hot sauce and beer). The menu mentions how little filler is in their meaty crab cakes (in the Outer Banks a "good" crab cake has almost no filler, and crab cakes full of "filler" are rip-offs). The decor is what places like TGIFridays try to copy but never quite succeed in making it feel authentic (bumper stickers, license plates, college flags, and items of local significance cover every inch of the walls). The main dining room is lively and the service is fast and sassy. There is patio dining with huge tables for big groups-- you almost feel like you are in a beer hall.
Howard's Pub has the greatest beer list on Ocracoke Island by a long shot. (Perhaps tied with Zillie's for bottle selections). They carry local selections from North Carolina, several microbrews from around the US and the world, and a small selection of the larger beer brands.
I tried a few of the local beers from North Carolina:
Foothills Brewing "Carolina Blonde" (Winston-Salem, North Carolina)
This is a classic blonde, enjoyable, medium-light bodied, golden in color. And in case you forgot you were in the Outer Banks, the lighthouse on the label will remind you.
This was a delicious beer-- it smelled like salty ocean air and fresh rising bread. The flavor was yeasty and saline, medium bodied, really fine mousse.
Highland "St. Terese's" Pale Ale (Ashville, North Carolina)
This was a bright, fruity beer. It smelled like wheat, apricot, and pineapple. This was both rich and bright-- it had a rich body and texture, but a high acid, tart finish.
This is a rich, dark, flavorful brew. Not quite a porter or stout, but definitely meatier than the pale ale.