Tag Archives: charlotte breweries

GABF 2016: What I Learned This Year

There is a history of writers going to other places in order to write clearly about their home.  The physical distance provided by leaving allows the writer an emotional distance to see his subject clearly and truthfully.  Leaving also allows the writer to look at his new home in comparison to his old one.  That comparison allows the writer to see his subject’s warts, dimples and all.

So, what did I learn about the Charlotte craft beer scene after spending 4 days in Denver?  The Charlotte beer scene is like a kid who just got drafted out of college to the NFL and Denver is the 10-year veteran playing the same position.  You can see all the potential in Charlotte, but it is nowhere near mature enough to think it can usurp Denver.

The Denver craft beer culture is as old as American craft beer culture.  Charlie Papazian and Charlie Matzen started the American Homebrewers Association in Boulder in 1978, two years after homebrewing was legalized, which would be the engine in the creation of craft beer.

Craft brewing didn’t come to North Carolina until “Pop The Cap” was passed and signed in 2005.  That is a 27-year head start for Denver and it shows.  Denver’s craft beer culture has a maturity and confidence that only comes with time.

The only way I can describe it is that each brewery in the Denver area has a confidence in itself.  Each one is unique.  That goes for the beer they brew and the style and ethos they project.  They each know what they like to do and they do it with little regard to what other brewers are doing across town.

I think a lot of the Charlotte breweries, particularly the newer ones don’t know who or what exactly they are yet. They are eager and they are testing boundaries every day to see what they like and what they are good at, but they are not there yet.

This isn’t meant as damning criticism.  It is meant as a reminder of how far Charlotte has to go to reach its full craft beer potential.  Just in the 2 years I’ve been around, I’ve seen a huge change and lots of growth in the number and the quality of breweries that are opening.  The future is bright because the potential is there and obvious for everyone to see.

What I don’t want to see happen is the scene in Charlotte becoming insular and closed off to the rest of the beer world.  People in Charlotte are rightfully proud of the progress made in such a short time, but that sometimes leads to an attitude of not acknowledging that there are other good breweries in North Carolina outside of Charlotte or Asheville. One only needs to look at the NC Beer Cup and the GABF results to prove that.  There are times I think some breweries coast on size and reputation and not the quality of the liquid in the glass.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 1/28/16

The week moves on and Thursday is here.  This has always been a weird day to me.  The week is almost over, but not quite.  You still have to work the next day, but you know the atmosphere is a little more relaxed.    Anyway, with legislative sessions around the country getting started this month, there is a lot of movement in the beer law front. To continue yesterday’s theme, here are a few articles on beer and alcohol laws around the country.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 1/21/16

Sunny and frigid. It looks like it is a wonderful spring day from my window.  Then I look at my phone and I see it is 28 degrees.  I’m better today. Funerals aren’t for the dead, they are for the living.  They allow the living to move on and find some form of closure in one of the few parts of life that actually has closure.

Taste Test: 2015 Up All Night and 2015 Up All Night Bourbon Barrel Aged

One of the trends that has taken hold in craft beer over the last few years is barrel ageing beers. They have become so ubiquitous that the Beer Judge Certification Program, the primary style definer of American craft beer, has two new categories for the 2015 edition of the style guide.

I find barrel aged beer interesting because they are usually a version of another beer the brewer already makes.  How the ageing changes the beer via the time spent in the barrels and the properties the barrels themselves provides the beer are both fascinating.  Depending on the type of barrel used, i.e. bourbon, gin, rum, scotch, tequila, or wine, what the barrels provide the beer is different each time. Bourbon barrels provides additional sweetness and caramel and wine barrels provide tart or buttery notes depending on the wine.

Despite the common misconception, the ageing does not provide more alcohol to the beer.  There are two reasons why this misconception persists.  The first, many times the beer aged in the barrels is a high ABV beer in order to stand up to the ageing.  The second is the beer usually takes on some of the taste characteristics of the liquid that was originally in the barrels.  The taste of bourbon often makes people think of alcohol.  I make a bourbon pound cake that people swear gets them a little drunk even though the alcohol cooks off as the cake bakes.

20160113_101339Weighing in at 10% the Triple C Up All Night and Up All Night Bourbon Barrel Aged start off big and flavorful.  Let’s begin with the Up All Night.

Up All Night is a breakfast porter, which means it is brewed with coffee.  Using a strong taste like that as your base for a bourbon barrel aged beer is important.  The bourbon tastes can overwhelm the beer taking away its unique qualities.  A

After pouring a nice dark brown with a good fluffy head, you get the clear aroma of coffee when you take a sniff.  There are also hints of vanilla and honey once it warms a bit.

When you taste it, its big coffee flavor matches the aroma with notes of honey on the back end.  As a fan of both coffee flavors and honey, I enjoy this beer immensely.  For a beer with as big an ABV and use of honey, it is still a porter which makes it comparatively light on the tongue and dangerously easy to drink.  High ABV beers often have what is termed a boozy taste, meaning the taste of the alcohol is present and honey often gives a beer a cloying heavy taste.  Neither is present in these beers.

The bourbon barrel aged version differs slightly.  As it should.  It is a little inkier and thicker in appearance.  That may be the psychological effect of knowing it is a bourbon barrel aged beer.  The aroma also changes in that the coffee is shunted to the background by bourbon and hints of caramel.  It isn’t as light on the tongue and has a more velvety feel on the tongue.  Interestingly, to my palate, the roasted nature of the coffee is more pronounced and give it a little more bite. Again, that is why coffee is a good match for barrel ageing, it is a strong flavor that stands up to the bourbon, in this case.

The bourbon barrel Up All Night does what a barrel aged beer should do:  It adds different flavors and highlights ones already present in the original version.  Both Up All Night and Up All Night Bourbon Barrel Aged are well worth your time if you can still find them.

Here is another cool thing, this time, next year, I will do a vertical tasting of 2015 and 2016 bourbon barrel aged versions.  I’m already looking forward to it.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 9/2/15

The Five Articles are here a little late (blame laundry and breakfast).  Two other things to bring up before the links.  First, go over to Gravity Magazine and read about NC craft beverages, including a couple of things by yours truly.  Second, real football starts tomorrow when my alma mater takes on a sports program which has two nicknames owned by other schools (USC and Carolina).  The loser tomorrow won’t be able to use Carolina for the next year.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 8/27/15

There is a definite North Carolina slant to the Five Articles today with 3 coming from North Carolina and one coming from Upstate South Carolina.

Beer Counselor Special: South End Charlotte Brewery Tour, August 2015

Last week, I decided since I had my first Sunday off in 6 months I would use that time to do something special: Drink beer.  You may ask, “Don’t you do that every day.” Why yes, yes I do.  However, this time I wanted to make a full day of it in Charlotte (my once and future home) and do a brewery tour.

So, I texted Lankford, “What are you doing today?”

“Nothing, just cleaning house and laundry.”

“I’m going to Charlotte to drink beer, want to come along?”

“What time do you want to leave?”

“11:30”

“I’ll text you when I’m on the way.”

Thus began the South End Brewery Tour of August 2015.

20150802_131409We arrived at Olde Mecklenburg around 12:30 to an already packed house.  I decided to start off with something slow. I choose the barrel-aged Fat Boy Baltic Porter.  I say slow because this is a great sipping beer.  It’s dark, heavy, and flavorful.  You don’t want to rush a beer this good.  It is even better in a setting like OMB. The best way to describe it, to craft beer drinkers who haven’t been is a mini version of the Sierra Nevada brewery in Asheville.

20150802_133617Next, we went across the street to Sugar Creek.  This is a smaller, more intimate space.  We sat down at the bar this time and I had the Saison, which I love, and Lankford had the award winning Dubbel.  This was another pretty full house and like Olde Mecklenburg and the other places we would visit that day, there were a lot of families there.  This is one of the things I like about craft beer.  It is trying to build a community and become just a regular part of people’s everyday lives.

20150802_145555We left Sugar Creek and headed to Triple C passing by Doc Porter’s Distillery, which looks to be coming along nicely.  We settled in at Triple C and ordered up the Smoked Amber.  This is a good introduction to smoked beer.  It isn’t heavily smoky but it does have a distinct smoked presence that if you like you can expand upon with other smoked offerings out there.  There was another nice crowd at the bar and families with kids and dogs scattered throughout.

20150802_154010We were both hungry at this point so we took a quick pit stop at Fuel Pizza on South Blvd. for a couple of slices and garlic knots.

20150802_162123Our next stop was Wooden Robot.  I parked over at Craft and we walked the two blocks or so to get to another packed house.  Lankford did comment that everywhere we went there seemed to be a good crowd.  Here I had the first beer of the day I had never had before, the rye saison.  This provided an interesting taste as the rye provided an intriguing addition to the light spiciness of the saison.

We finished up at Craft where we went to hang out and harass Dana and Julio before heading back home.  It was a good relaxing day filled with beer and friends.  I need to do this more often.  The next time I’ll change up the breweries and hit Sycamore, Lenny Boy, and Unknown.

Growler Taste Test: D9 Brewing Froggy Night IPA

20141107_093756When I was in college and my craft beer education was beginning, I purchased a book called America’s Best Beers:  A Complete Guide To The More Than 350 Microbreweries and Brewpubs Across America.  I happened upon this book last night looking for something else and started flipping through it.  The section on North Carolina contains, 6 breweries (none of which are Weeping Radish, NCs oldest craft brewery started in 1984).  Of those only one still exists and that is Spring Garden Brewing Company which now goes by Red Oak.  By the way, I actually went to Spring Garden when it was a brewpub on Spring Garden Street in Greensboro.

Anyway, a lot has changed in craft brewing, particularly in North Carolina, since this book was published in 1994.  Depending upon your definition of the Charlotte area, Charlotte has 21 breweries alone.  One of those is D9 Brewing which began in 2009.  D9 has a full line up of beers and now has its brewery tap room in Cornelius about a 25 minute drive north on I77 from uptown Charlotte.

20150608_162832The D9 Froggy Night IPA pours with a good pale golden color and off-white fluffy head.  The aroma comes across as fruity particularly grapefruit and pineapple and a bit piney.  There is also a mellow malty sweetness to the aroma.

The taste starts with a medium body and mild alcohol flavor. Again the hops come across as citrusy and piney.  You also get a nice malt sweetness mixed with a pineapple flavor.  This is a very balanced IPA with the hops at the forefront but not overly dominate.

Froggy Night is an easy drinking American IPA. It isn’t quite at the low ABV officially to be a session IPA, but it is very drinkable and at 6.5% you can have a couple or three pints and not get into too much trouble.

Did you think this play list was going to start with any other song?  We are going deep 70s soft rock.  We have your organs, fuzzy bass lines, and the most un-bluesy guitar solos in the history of music.  Behold and enjoy. This is simultaneously the best and worst playlist I’ve ever created.   I’m going to go and watch WKRP In Cincinnati now.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 5/21/15

There were almost too many links today to choose from. From a great video on Beer Geek TV about how the smaller craft breweries are beginning to get crowded out of shelf space to brewery news from Greenville/Spartanburg.  I decided to concentrate on a question I get a lot at the bar and news from Charlotte, Asheville, and around North Carolina.

I was one review short this week, so my goal next week is to get an extra review or some other type of post completed for Monday.

Growler Taste Review: OMB Hornet’s Nest

“…a hornet’s nest of rebellion…” Bald-Faced-Hornet-Nest

Lord Cornwallis spent all of 16 days in Mecklenburg County in 1780 before being chased out of town by the rebellious residents.  That part of the Charlotte’s history is why the name of the basketball team was so important to many people.  Also, because George Shinn and the rest of the team’s ownership group was so onerous in how they took the team and left town.

In short, if you are from Charlotte and you invoke the use of the phrase “hornet’s nest” you do so at your own peril.  You better step up and use it wisely for something really good. Fortunately for Olde Mecklenburg Brewery with The Hornet’s Nest they have created a nice light summer hefeweizen that does honor to the name.

20150506_132238The Hornet’s Nest weighs in at 5.9% ABV which is a little strong for a hefeweizen, but more than acceptable to me.  It pours with a nice straw color and leaves a big fluffy off-white head with the characteristic haze of a hefe.  On the nose you get the yeast aromas of bananas and cloves and a hint of floral hops.

It has a nice light feel on the tongue and a little bit of dry finish.  It has the classic hefeweizen taste of bananas and cloves.  It may be a little sweet for some, but it seem just right for a summer day on the porch listening to insects buzz around you.

OMB specializes in German style beer adhering strictly to the Reinheitsgebot or “Bavarian Beer Purity Law” that restricts the ingredients used in beer.  It can be rather limiting in what beers you can produce, but those limits also make brewers work harder to make their beers distinctive through quality and taste.  Sometimes it is good to not have the option to put whatever you want in a beer.  It forces the brewer to concentrate on standing out by making good beer and not by adding the craziest ingredient possible to garner the most buzz.

Do I like The Hornet’s Nest?  Yes.  It is a seasonal beer and will be available only through the spring and early summer, so find it and enjoy.