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BEER GURUPhotographed by Tom Henderson
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Your humble Beer Guru has been dropping beer knowledge on you for a year now. Hopefully you’ve picked up a thing or two along the way and are thirsty for more.
Though it takes years of “research” and experience to reach Beer Guru status, anyone can enjoy great beer and start exploring local beer culture. The greater Charlotte Metro and surrounding areas are a wonderful place to find great brews. Craft beer is becoming easier to find and there are no end of beer-related fun times to be had.
Charlotte is a fantastic beer city, with a few established breweries/brewpubs, lots of new breweries, and EVEN MORE on the way! These are great places to grab a FRESH pint with friends and even get a Growler of delicious beer to go.
Olde Mecklenburg Brewery 215 Southside Dr, Charlotte. Specializing in traditional German Ales and Lagers, Olde Meck serves up some of the best Session beers in town in true German fashion. They have an awesome Beer Hall with communal seating, great Brats, special events, and entertainment.
NoDa Brewing Company 2224 N Davidson St, Charlotte. NoDa’s only been open since October but has already made its mark on the local beer scene. Their beer portfolio includes great Session and Specialty brews, super hoppy High-Gravity brews, and a weekly release of their NoDable series EVERY Tuesday. That’s right, a new beer every week!
Four Friends Brewing 10913 Office Park Dr, Charlotte. These guys have been around for a few years and make great Artisan Ale in several styles including Irish Red Ale, Belgian Dubbel, Blonde Ale, English Brown, and their new I-77 IPA is fantastic!
Hops Grill & Brewery 9950 E Independence Blvd, Matthews NC. Once a large chain Brewpub with many locations, our hometown Hops is one of the few remaining and still the best. They make a good selection of Craft Beer, have a great food menu, and FANTASTIC beer specials. Their beer menu has some mainstays and many seasonals. Try the Oatmeal Stout!
In addition to our fantastic Breweries and Brewpubs, the Charlotte Area hosts countless bars and restaurants dedicated to bringing you the tastiest beer.
Flying Saucer Draught Emporium 9905 N. Tryon St, Charlotte. One of Charlotte’s original beer hot spots, Flying Saucer boasts 80+ taps, 150 bottles, and standard Pub fare. The staff is well-trained and new beers are tapped daily. They have daily specials and regularly host beer dinners. Join their UFO club, drink 200 beers and get a $100 bar tab on them!
Mac’s Speed Shop, multiple locations. Mac’s not only has some of the best BBQ in town, they also have an impressive selection of beer to pair with your Q. I like the Mac’s Steel Creek location, which has nearly 30 taps and 100 bottles. They often have rare and limited release brews which you won’t want to miss. I love all their food, but the Brisket is some of the best I’ve ever had!
Grapevine 1012 Market St. Suite 105, FT Mill, SC. Don’t let the wine bar guise fool you, Grapevine has some of the best beers in town. They have 11 rotating taps (plus Growler fills) and 150+ bottles with a focus on specialty, rare, and local offerings. It’s a bar AND a store, so you can enjoy a fresh pint while you shop. Don’t miss their bi-weekly Saturday Beer Samplers that include six, six-ounce pours of the finest beers for only 12 bucks! Try one of the cheese plates to go with your beer.
Duckworth’s Grill & Taphouse 4435 Park Rd, Charlotte. Flaunting 80 taps, 50+ bottles, AND the best cheese steaks in town. Duckworth’s has quickly established itself as a Mecca of great beer including lots of local brews, insane seasonal and unique beers, and special kegs so rare you may never get a chance to try them again! The menu is great with everything from ribs and steaks, to wings and pizza. Do yourself a favor and get the Philly Steak Supreme with hand cut fries.
Brawley’s Beverage 4620 Park Road, Charlotte. Though not a Brewery or Bar, Brawley’s is a Charlotte institution and a must-stop for any craft beer enthusiast. Don’t let the store’s diminutive size fool you, owner Mike Brawley packs in more great beer per square inch than anywhere else in town! You’ll find local, regional, and fantastic Belgian selections and an impressive amount of beer glassware for sale. Brawley’s has an affinity for stocking some of the rarest and most highly prized beers on the planet.
Your beer quest doesn’t end here my dear readers, for the Carolinas are home to some of the best beer festivals on the East Coast. For those who’ve never attended one of these delightful events, it’s quite simple. Buy a ticket (in advance, they ALWAYS sell out), enter the fest, and enjoy unlimited samplings of countless craft beers while enjoying music, games, and more. What could be better than sampling a few dozen (or hundred) great beers while enjoying our beautiful Carolina outdoors!
A few festival rules to keep in mind; start with lighter, lower-alcohol samples and work up to the heavies. Pace yourself, you’ll never try them all! If there’s a program guide of the beers, it’s a good idea to choose the ones you really want to try so you have a plan of attack. DRINK LOTS OF WATER and don’t forget to take in some tasty festival food.
Charlotte Oktoberfest, Sept 29, 2012 at the Metrolina Tradeshow Expo. www.charlotteoktoberfest.com
Beertopia, March 10, 2012 at Grapevine 1012 Market St Ft Mill, SC. www.shakeyourshamrocks.info
Hickory Hops Brew Festival, April 21, 2012 in downtown Hickory, NC. www.hickoryhops.com
North Carolina Brewers & Music Festival, May 12, 2012 at Historic Rural Hill, a historic site and farm about 15 minutes north of downtown Charlotte. ncbrewsmusic.com
Now that you’ve been well equipped to enjoy the finest beer culture our area has to offer, I give you one final tidbit to further your enjoyment; how to properly taste and evaluate beer.
Appearance. Examine the color. Is it clear, hazy, or too dark to tell? Notice the head. Does it last? Does it leave characteristic lacing on the glass? Looking at the beer should make you want to drink it.
Aroma. Stick your nose in the glass but don’t dip! Close your eyes and let your mind fill with the aromas. Relate what you smell to aromas you already know; bread, toast, flowers, citrus, pine, coffee, chocolate, caramel, smoke, fruit, etc. Are there any off-aromas like skunk, canned vegetable, wet dog, cat pee (yes this is a beer descriptor), or vinegar.
Flavor. My favorite part! To be broken down much like the smell. What flavor hits first? Is it sweet caramel malts or tangerine hops? How does the beer taste mid-palate? What is the finish like? Is it smooth and creamy or thin and astringent? Can you taste the beer a few minutes after swallowing or does the taste fade quickly? Is your tongue numb from hops or sweet from the malts?
Mouth feel. How does the beer feel in your mouth? Thin, watery, chewy, thick, or like used motor oil! Does the consistency hold the flavors down or lift them up? Is the body big enough to support the amount of complex flavors you taste? Mouth feel also helps determine drinkability. A great Imperial Stout can be viscous and thick, exactly the texture you want but you’ll probably only want one. Conversely, a well crafted Session beer like a Pale Ale or IPA should have just enough body to support flavor, and have the consistency that will have you wanting several pints.
So there you have it, Local Beer 101. There’s a world of great beer right at your doorstep. It’s time to hit the streets with your newfound knowledge and explore the diversity our local beer scene has to offer.
The Beer Guru