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Friday, May 8, 2015

What's hoppening at Unknown?

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2015 at 2:16 PM

Editor's Note: Our beer writer is embarking on a self-imposed Charlotte-area brewery tour, visiting one a month. Here's his latest report.

Most of the time when I plan visit a brewery for these reports, it's either at the end of the month and I'm running out of time, or it's just a regular day and I felt like going. There's never a raison d'etre for my field trips until now: Unknown Brewing (1327 S. Mint St. in South End) was to hold its inaugural Improper Glassware Night today, and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity.

A bit about the theme, before I jump headfirst into the operation and the offerings: Bring in the craziest thing you can come up with that will hold liquid, and they'll fill it (up to 24 ounces), with a free growler prize going to the contest's winner. Entries so far have ranged broadly, from the pedestrian (liquid measuring cup), nerdy (erlenmeyer flask), sacrilegious (OMB stein) and stomach­-turning (a Fleshlight: "I swear it's been bleached first").

Of all the Charlotte-­area breweries I've been to, Unknown seems the most eager to show off its back ­of­house area: A giant wall of glass comprises the taproom's rear, offering unfettered visual access to what's brewing. Today, and I mean right now, they're mashing in the day's third batch of Over The Edge IPA, while five brewery workers man the canning line (cans being filled: also Over The Edge). There's a lot of room in the brewhouse, which really comes in handy for the shindigs that Unknown is known for hosting.

There's almost as much metal in the taproom as there is in the brewing equipment, from the polished steel of the bartop, to the 6-­foot-­tall chrome hop cone chandelier hanging over my head. Underfoot, a nearly garish shade of lime green coats painted concrete.

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Today, Unknown has 10 beers on offer. I lead off with a sacrilegious stein of Scratch 'N Sniff, a 4.7 percent Session IPA. It pours a slightly ­hazy amber that seems to glow from within, perhaps from all the late hop additions. It's borderline hop tea, but sans overwhelming bitterness. Sessionable offerings are designed for replayability, and this beer is certainly full of that.

To prove a point, and to avoid being boxed in by giant pours of but a few beers, I opt for a flight next. Small glasses of four readily­ available varieties, coming right up ... starring Pre­Game Session Ale, Over The Edge IPA, Battle of the Shirts Scotch ale and Silverback Stout.

Admittedly, Pre Game isn't my favorite; the body is a bit thin, and I'm flavorly sensitive to a hop variety utilized. Over The Edge is a great save though, with bright hop notes in the middle into a gentle grassy/citrusy finish. I continue my Scotch ale winning streak, which began with my visit up to D9; Shirts has more caramel notes, barely excessive hop profile, and wonderful bready finish. Not to be outdone, Silverback offers a great balance of roasty/coffee/chocolate notes, without weighing too heavy on the tongue.

It's no secret that Unknown initially stumbled out of the gate when they started brewing their own beer, but it's nice to see they're finding their feet. There's a garage­ door­ protected hole in the taproom where a wall once was, leading to where a "badass patio" will soon be. There's certainly room for growth in the brewhouse, plenty of real estate available for future fermenters. If they keep down the path they're on, they'll happily find these open spaces full.

For the first time, I write this article completely on­site versus relying on notes and memory later; I'd like to thank my last two cover stories for affording me a new toy purchase. But, before I left the house for here, I was sure to pull the name of my next place to visit from my hat: Heist Brewery, I'll see you in June.

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