Friday, January 30, 2015

Taking in the Olde Mecklenburg ambience

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 11:51 PM

It’s Wednesday, and the after-work crowd has arrived at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Twenty or so folks populate the bar, with another 40ish at long community-style tables. Switch the music from the current Lake Street Dive and feed me some more Fat Boy Baltic Porter, and I’ll have a hard time knowing what country I’m in.

Former carpet-warehouses shouldn’t feel like they’re carved from innenstadt Dusseldorf. Dark-kilned irregular-shaped brick forms the perimeter walls. Rich wood hugs on the perimeter. A soft glow flows overhead from spartan chandeliers and the same lighting temperature permeates through wall sconces. I lack only a fireplace in January.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Experts share how to do Queen City Brewers Fest right

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 2:25 PM

As a girl who would rather drink a vodka-infused cocktail than a thick stout, the idea of hundreds of beer guzzlers huddled in a sports arena brings me back to my semester in Ireland, where I snubbed Guinness and tolerated Bulmers cider.

Kicking off another year of #cltbeer, almost 1,000 beer enthusiasts and hops newbies will unite for the fourth annual Queen City Brewers Festival at the Bojangles’ Coliseum Jan. 31.

With an abundance of local specialty brews at your fingertips, a beer festival can quickly — for folks like me, at least — become a confusing frenzy of novelty ales versus high gravity porters. So we turned to some experts to share insight for drinkers eager to partake in the first beer fest of the year.

Queen City Brewers Fest 2014
  • Courtesy Nils Weldy
  • Queen City Brewers Fest 2014

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Monday, December 8, 2014

A fine brew grows better with age

Posted By on Mon, Dec 8, 2014 at 5:43 PM

We’ve all heard the idiom: “Like a fine wine, you grow better with age.” But what if I were to tell you that beer could be aged as well? No, I’m not off my meds, it’s true. You can have the same aging experience with certain beer styles, and achieve greater results in less time.

First off, don’t start looking at that leftover Miller Lite can in the back of the fridge with delusions of grandeur. Only certain beer styles will undergo a fascinating transformation; others will just get increasingly worse.

Why age beer, though? Well, think of it as an experiment in chemical composition over time. Or, if you prefer, just consider it a tasty and easy science experiment. It interests me to see how some existing tastes will fade away, only to let a new flavor profile emerge. For example, an alcohol-forward beer may see that booziness drop off and get replaced by molasses or caramel. Coffee notes may give way to brown sugar. Sherry aspects may suddenly appear out of the ether. Basically, I age beer to see how it changes over time, and if you’ve lost your sense of wonder then this practice just isn’t for you.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

OMB stands tall in national competition

Posted By on Mon, Nov 17, 2014 at 5:45 PM

The folks at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery have been making moves to set themselves apart recently, and are now calling on Charlotteans to help them do that on a national level. What they’re asking for is simple, but it could have pretty long-lasting effects.

Currently, OMB is ranked by USA Today and 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards as having the No. 1 brewery tour in the country, but that could change if the city falls asleep at the tap. OMB has been neck and neck with Magic Hat Brewing Co. from Burlington, Vermont, and is the only brewery from the Southeast that made the list. Major breweries such as New Belgium, Samuel Adams, Sierra Nevada, Stone, and Dogfish Head are all trailing.

Ryan Self, director of sales, hopes that Charlotteans will continue to vote to keep them at the top of the list. “We think if we can get Charlotte behind us, we can win this,” Self said in an interview with the Charlotte Business Journal.

OMB offers an experience unique from its competition in the fact that it adheres to a very strict German Beer Purity Law — The “Reinheitsgebot.” No inferior ingredients are allowed in their production process. Barley, hops, water and yeast. That’s it.

Readers can cast their vote for OMB until the ballot closes on Dec. 1 at noon.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A recap of one of Charlotte Beer's biggest weekends

Posted By on Tue, Nov 4, 2014 at 10:23 AM

I’m not particularly known for hyperbole. When I say that last weekend was one of the biggest for Charlotte Beer, I mean it.

• Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new local brewery. In case you somehow missed out on its Saturday afternoon grand opening shindig, Sycamore Brewery has opened its doors in South End, at 2161 Hawkins St. to be precise. The owners invited thousands of their closest friends in the Charlotte beer community to celebrate, with five in-house beers flowing at their inside bar and at outside taps set up for the event. Conveniently, they’re just up the street from Lenny Boy Brewing, making this street a one-stop good afternoon.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Panthers fumble with misplaced beer cart

Posted By on Mon, Oct 27, 2014 at 4:13 PM

Yesterday, I witnessed the Panthers put forth great effort, yet come up just short. I’m not talking about their performance on the field versus the Seahawks, yet it still certainly applies. No, I’m referring to something that can be found outside section 101 — the Beer Garden.

It’s not the Beer Garden itself I have a problem with. The Panthers organization has really outdone itself here, making a point to feature craft beer from across both Carolinas. Charlotte favorites NoDa and Olde Mecklenburg can be found here, as well as offerings from Foothills and RJ Rockers. And kudos to them for making this one of many places to find local craft beer inside Bank of America Stadium.

My problem is simple — located just underneath a sign touting the “Local Craft” offerings is a prominent beer cart that peddles wares that are neither local nor craft.

  • Ford Craven/Cheers Charlotte Radio

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A spotlight on NoDa's first professional female brewer

Posted By on Tue, Oct 14, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Over at NoDa Brewing, Matt Virgil’s beard is already starting to show after he recently mowed it off for the Clean Shaven Kickoff Party a few weeks back. His assistant brewer, Brian Schonder, is still sporting the majestic fiery red bush that glows enough to light up the brewery at night. At Triple C, Chris Harker looks like he’s getting a headstart for “No-shave” November, and co-owner/head brewer Scott Kimball won’t be afraid of a frosty chin either, as the weather grows colder.

But at Heist Brewery, head brewer Eric Mitchell’s beard is a little lonely. In an industry dominated by beer bellies and big beards, Charlotte’s craft beer scene welcomed its first professional female brewer this past summer. Alexa Long, 26, is the first female to be on staff as a brewer at any of Charlotte’s craft breweries. This past spring, she won first place for her Spring Fever saison at the 24th annual Carolina Brewmasters‘ US Open.

  • David Aurelius

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Beer tap handles are not items to decorate with

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 10:46 AM

Ever been in a bar and noticed a brewery’s tap handles? I don’t mean in their usual place behind the bar; I mean decorating the walls or ceiling, or even used as door handles.

Tap handles aren’t cheap; they average $30 a pop. Breweries lend them out to establishments so patrons know what’s pouring. Tap handles by design should be aesthetically appealing in order to entice a sale. Since they’re provided to bars gratis, owners may see them as free décor. In a way, they’re right: it’s something that cost them nothing, and it’s quite decorative.

Whether bar owners want to admit this or not, this is oftentimes theft, and we as beer drinkers shouldn’t swallow the practice.

Kegs cost breweries a lot of money, so they warrant a deposit to make sure the empties make it back to their owners instead of into a scrap yard. Handles cost a fraction of kegs, so breweries or distributors don’t charge a deposit. Because of this, they don’t always make it home, and the breweries end up footing the bill. Craft breweries don’t have huge wallets or vast marketing budgets, and losing control of enough of these really hurts the bottom line.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why are seasonal beers releasing earlier and earlier?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 12, 2014 at 9:44 AM

It seems seasonal beer offerings start hitting shelves earlier every year, but in 2014 we hadn’t even made it out of June when bottles of Southern Tier’s Pumking released in Pennsylvania. Sure, Southern Tier blamed its area distributor for jumping the gun, but that got me wondering: Why does this beer exist so early to begin with?

Beer-making isn’t an instant process; fermentation takes weeks. Then, the finished beer is kegged or bottled, and may travel great distances to a distributor’s facility. For this “rogue” distributor to have pumpkin beer to sell, someone else further up the chain had pumpkin on the brain in May, before pumpkins are traditionally even planted. In fact, retailers were contacted back in March about this year’s Pumking orders. Spring hadn’t even officially started, and a fall-harvest beer was being allocated.

This concept of traditional boundaries being blurred is known as Seasonal Creep. Many of us complain when Christmas music plays in department stores before Thanksgiving, but won’t bat an eye about picking up Oktoberfest beers in August (traditionally released the last week of September).

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Welcome to North Carolina, Sierra Nevada

Posted By on Wed, Aug 6, 2014 at 3:21 PM

I’d like to welcome a new brewery to the North Carolina fold. Unlike most startups that struggle for name recognition, I can promise you’ve already heard of this one. Say hello to Sierra Nevada.

That’s right, the seventh largest brewery in the country, the inventors of the American Pale Ale, the 34-years-young venerable California-born brewery Sierra Nevada decided it’s time to build a mountain home just west of Asheville. To celebrate the occasion, the folks there invited a few friends over on Sunday, Aug. 3 — namely every single brewery in nine Southern states. Of those invited, more than 85 breweries joined the party, plus another 5,000 festival attendees.


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