It's no secret that Charlotte has several great spots to grab a craft beer. Bars like Taco Mac and Duckworth's have been supplying high-quality draft options to the Queen City for several years, while local bottle shops like Brawley's, Salud and Good Bottle are well-known for their retail selections. That said, there are plenty of fantastic places worth checking out that are either a little off the beaten path or simply don't get the hype that many of the more well-established spots enjoy. If you are looking to broaden your horizons, or maybe you don't live in Charlotte proper and would like to find a quality beer closer to you, here are four locations that are definitely worth checking out.
Belmont: The String Bean
The String Bean is an all-in-one deli, restaurant, bar and bottle shop right in the heart of historic Belmont. For those on the south side or with easy access to I-85, this place is worth the drive. While its tap selection isn't huge (just three), the bottle selection is by far the best in the area at over 200 options, ranging from standard lagers and ales to harder-to-find Belgians and other imports. Food items like duck fat fries and artisan sandwiches make for great pairings; the options are limitless. 106 N. Main St., Belmont. 704-825-3636. www.stringbeanmarket.com.
Matthews: Custom Home Pubs/Sankey's Taproom and Grille
For those in the bar industry, Custom Home Pubs has been a staple in the Charlotte beer scene for many years. These guys sell, service and build draft systems for both commercial and residential clients. They also have a small bar with eight taps and a solid bottle selection. While this has been enough to keep me a regular customer in the past, the addition of their new restaurant and taproom, Sankey's, makes this a true beer destination in Charlotte. Sankey's features another 10 taps, all dedicated to North Carolina breweries, and a solid lineup of sandwiches and salads. One really cool thing about Custom Home Pubs/Sankey's is that because the guys there sell a lot of kegs, both through retail sales and draft pours, they are often able to get their hands on some really rare offerings from the country's best breweries. If you are having a hard time finding your favorite seasonal release at other major retailers in town, call these guys. 11416 E. Independence Blvd., Suites K and L, Matthews. 704-847-0464. www.sankeysgrille.com.
Rock Hill, S.C.: Millstone Pizza
Rock Hill, while technically in South Carolina, is essentially a southern suburb of Charlotte. Home to Winthrop University, this small college town is slowly growing a very respectable craft beer scene of its own, with places like Earth Fare already providing an impressive bottle selection. If it's draft beer you're searching for, however, you definitely need to check out Millstone Pizza and Taphouse. Opened in 2012, Millstone features handmade New York- and Chicago-style pizzas, using fresh, farm-to-table cheeses and specialty meats, along with 40-plus craft beers on tap. Their slogan is simple: "Beer and pizza, the perfect combination," and it fits. Their draft selection includes beers from highly regarded national craft breweries like Allagash and Ballast Point, along with several local options as well. These guys also have one more really cool thing going for them: Because they are located in South Carolina, they get beers from breweries like Westbrook and Coast that are not distributed in North Carolina. 121 Caldwell St., Suite 103, Rock Hill, S.C. 803-980-2337. www.millstonepizzaandtap.com.
Davidson: Davidson Beverage Company
Davidson Beverage Company opened its doors in 2012 to a community in serious need of a local bottle shop. A vibrant, beautiful college town, Davidson is a growing market for craft beer. With 300-plus bottles and half a dozen drafts, you could spend an afternoon browsing the impressive selection while happily sipping your favorite craft style. Want to impress the crowd at your next campus party? With some advanced notice, these guys can provide you with a keg of craft beer that will surely stand out amongst the traditional fizzy yellow fare. These guys are a great addition to a community that clearly has yet to satiate its desire for quality beer. 442 S. Main St., Suite 100, Davidson. 704-255-6232. www.davidsonbeverage.com.
Cam Heiliger is a freelance writer, homebrewer, educator and overall craft beer geek. He works in marketing and distribution at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, where he runs social media, gives tours of the brewery and ensures that Charlotte has the cleanest OMB beer lines around.