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What's new in brew: Charlotte Craft Beer Week 

Pirates vs. ninjas, cats vs. dogs — some rivalries have been with us since time immemorial, and we've all got an opinion. Now, the early 21st century brings us another point of contention to contemplate: beer people vs. wine people.

Granted, one's preference for beer or wine has long come riddled with a host of assumptions. For some, like Charlotte Beer Club founder Darrin Pikarsky, the face-off is specifically between craft beer enthusiasts and wine connoisseurs. "Craft beer culture has so much passion at heart," says Pikarsky. "If you compare it side by side to the wine people, you see that people are a lot warmer, a lot looser."

Pikarsky founded the Charlotte Beer Club four years ago; three years in, the group began organizing Charlotte Craft Beer Week, a celebration cramming about 100 craft beer-centric events into just 10 days. The festivities count on strong local support; the club itself counts almost 1,500 "mem-beers."

"We've got people from every walk of life," says Pikarsky. "School teachers, attorneys, NASCAR engineers, brewers. A lot of people think it's a predominantly male organization, but it's about 50/50; we've had people get married and have babies in Beer Club."

Craft beer may be hailed as a community, rather than corporate, effort, but that doesn't mean it's a poor man's game. With five breweries already in Charlotte and a sixth, Triple C Brewing, set to open in spring, there's no doubt that craft beer has become synonymous with guaranteed business. NoDa Brewing is a perfect example: Just 120 days after opening, the brewery is "now able to produce 120 percent more than when we started," says President Suzie Ford. "You can find our drafts in over 80 restaurants, and we're participating in 15 Craft Beer Week events."

One of the events is the Common Market Brewery Alley Rumble, where breweries compete to have their beers put on CM's limited rotation of taps for the year. The South End location has declared it Freak Week and will host night after night of rare keg tappings, with everything from jugglers to a violinist providing entertainment. The week culminates with Freak Fest, which CM's Rob Rondelez promises to be "a lot of fun, with five different breweries featured, a live band, and even a burlesque show."

Pikarsky is eagerly awaiting the "Beast of the East" event, hosted at VBGB on March 24. "It's going to showcase big beers from the East Coast; the faint of heart should definitely stay home for this one." He calls the event "a great way for the East Coast to flex its beer muscles."

Charlotte Craft Beer Week extends from Davidson to Rock Hill, from Matthews to Gastonia. "We've got the whole region covered," says Pizarsky. "Anywhere people go, they're going to enjoy themselves." Those tempted to view the event as a 10-day exercise in hair of the dog methods should think otherwise. "It's not St. Patrick's Day for 10 days in a row. It's about educating people on the product and the culture." And, if he has his way, gaining converts to the craft beer cause.

For a complete list of Charlotte Craft Beer Week events, visit http://charlottecraftbeerweek.org/eventlist.

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