Editor's Note: Our beer writer is embarking on a self-imposed Charlotte brewery tour, visiting one a month. Here's his second report. In January, he checked out Olde Mecklenburg Brewery.
A funny thing happened after my February visit to Sycamore Brewing: I lost my notebook with my writeup. I then became engrossed in sketching out an upcoming article, so I’m just now getting back over there. As an act of contrition, I will now insert this carnivorous earwig into my brain. Or, better yet, I’ll double up and turn in two brewery reports this month to get back on schedule.
Let’s cut right to it: there’s beer to be found at Sycamore (2161 Hawkins St.). On this visit, I’m counting 12 different in-house beers on tap, plus three wine varietals. That’s down from the 16 beers available during my last visit. Of these 12, four are brand-new to my eyes. Obviously, rotation is the word of the day here. Alcohol content runs manageable too, which seems to serve the ping-pong-playing, pitcher-drinking crowd just fine.
Beer styles on offer skew slightly British, but not exclusively so; Germanic wheats and Belgian strongs feel at home here. I’m fighting the urge to order the hits, like Peak Farm Double Pale or Southerly Oat Pale. No, it’s a Deep Cuts kind of night, and I’m opting for what I might otherwise skip in order to expand my own horizons.
I could barely tell you the last blonde ale I’ve ordered, and finding one I’ve actually enjoyed is even harder. Southern Girl here is no slouch, and I had to stop and ruminate on this fact: I’m actually enjoying this blonde. The beer menu offers a hint to this solid malt presence; an heirloom Scotch malt is utilized, giving this offering a fuller body versus a style that’s typically made as forgettable as possible.
I don’t see Sycamore “out” on the town as much as I’d like. Judging by the Sunday afternoon crowd, I can hypothesize why: Neighborhood folks keep demand on this 10-barrel system high, to the point that kegs don’t stand much of a chance to leave these four walls.
Like many breweries in town, the building itself has a history. This one in particular was converted from an old auto garage. Poplar wood is everywhere, giving the place a natural air. Two windows flank the bar area, offering patrons a glimpse into the actual brewing area. There, the shiny stainless brewhouse and fermenters offer a reminder of how close-by your beers come from.
Perhaps it’s best my original writeup was lost; I now have an excuse to come back and enjoy my last pint: the Winchester ESB. It’s not the widest-known style; most people get scared away by the B-word in Extra Special Bitter. This caramelly, biscuity, English-hopped beverage pairs well with my pen and paper, and I’ll go home to check the level on the other keg I have on tap in my kegerator, to see if I can snag a Winchester reasonably soon.
I commit to my computer as soon as I get home. Another brewery report isn’t disappearing, not on my watch. I’m sure my editor will be pleased. Now, it’s time to reach into my hat (yes, an actual hat) containing slips of paper bearing the names of every local brewery, and draw one to determine where I’m to visit next. We have a winner: NoDa Brewing, I’ll see you shortly.