The Charlotte Craft Beer Scene: a quick survey

Nice little bottle shop in Charlotte

Nice little bottle shop in Charlotte

I’m circling back to finish a few unfinished items.  First, up, craft beer in Charlotte.  It’s not Hopville San Diego, CA, but not bad, either.  On to the post (complete with one of my fairly rare negative reviews).  Wife has a friend/former colleague who lives in NoDa, which appears to be the craft beer hub of Charlotte. Excellent! The day after Thanksgiving we went to meet up at his place and his wife and I took us on an impromptu walking tour of NoDa.  The only shopping I had in mind on Black Friday involved fermented products, I saved it for Small Business Saturday. It was impromptu because we were looking for food or drink and almost everything was closed.  Here’s a quick run down of three solid craft beer experiences in Charlotte.

To frame the vibe of NoDa, here’s some wall art I stumbled on

The mural on the side of the not-so-good Jack Beagle's in NoDa

The mural on the side of the not-so-good Jack Beagle’s in NoDa

Well, actually, let me start with one place you can categorically skip if you want timely, knowledgeable service, good food or, well, anything resembling a quality bar experience. The place is called Jack Beagle’s and its a little dive bar that somehow exists in the heart of NoDa. As you may know, I am almost always about the benefit of the doubt when dining or drinking out, but it just wasn’t possible here.  There was one server for more than 15 tables the day after thanksgiving. Really?!? She didn’t know much about the food or the beer, took more than 40 minutes to bring our order (including two children’s meals) and she was no help as it related to adding items to the order. It’s not all her fault, of course, because the bar failed to staff accordingly. But if you are short-staffed say so, and apologize in advance so that people can make a decision if waiting is worth it.  Apropos of the whole experience, I had the worst beer I’ve ever tasted, a Nurse Pepper by Evil Twin. It might have been a bad batch, but I’m unconvinced.  Here’s a photo so you can avoid it if you see it.

Proof that looks can be deceiving. Very not good.

Proof that looks can be deceiving. Very not good.

My apologies to Allagash for any improper connection people might draw because they unfortunately used one of your glasses for this “beer.” Allagash beers are really quite tasty and highly recommended.  This, thought, was like a bad homebrew that had some kind of contaminant or something. All in all just a terrible, terrible experience.  It was so bad, despite being twice the price of any other beer on the menu I didn’t have more than two sips – one to realize it was awful and a second to confirm it was, in fact, worse than I thought.  I contrast this with the NoDa Brewing Midnight Madness I cleansed my palate (and my psyche) with. This was a delightful dark ale from a brewery a few blocks away. Yet another town with breweries in neighborhoods. Hmm, perhaps San Diego ought to take heed and cut our friends at Thorn Street Brewery some slack! And embrace our friends at Hess Brewing, too.  Anyway, the only saving grace to our Jack Beagle’s experience was the great conversational journey we took to previous vacation spots our lunch companions had visited.  A delightful couple, really.

This post was supposed to be about the craft beer scene, so let me get to it.  Taking this in reverse chronological order, the beer store Salud Beer Shop was at the tail end of our excursion, but a great little Bottlecraft-esque shop (except no on sight consumption). The breadth of options was phenomenal and I could’ve picked up some San Diego local options if I weren’t on my current Dogfish Head kick. After noticing a US craft beer brewery map that utterly failed to represent the San Diego region’s 50+ breweries, I picked up these

Customized four-pack of Dogfish Head beer

Customized four-pack of Dogfish Head beer

Taking a step back, I’d very much hoped to get into NoDa’s tasting room before leaving, but because of the holidays the hours just didn’t work.  Instead I was left trying several of their beers over the five days, first at a restaurant called Rooster’s and then as a result of a truly unexpected connection at Whole Foods.  Just so you don’t think I’m crazy, here’s a peak inside the Whole Foods.  It’s laid out just like any other, except there’s a sitting lounge bar in the corner near the beer. A full-blown, seven high-back, 5 handles, and a bartender actual bar. Inside the Whole Foods. While I’m not exactly sure why you’d choose a Whole Foods to sit back with a nice Belgian and while away the evening, in Charlotte that opportunity exists for you.

This brings me to the bearded Whole Foods employee we’ll call Tim. Tim seemed like a real beer guy.  He quickly rattled off seven North Carolina based breweries, including NoDa and Old Mecklenberg. He walked us through about 10 options, several of which we turned into first night samples.  It was such a diverse crowd of North Carolina breweries that I can’t recall them all.  Suffice it to say the home of the Tarheels acquitted itself nicely.

The beer case was dominated by craft beer generally, and beer brewed in Charlotte specifically. Now THAT is supporting your local economy. Tim was extremely pleasant, which was great–and the experience is one I duplicated twice more with other Whole Foods staff over the next couple days. You don’t often think of Whole Foods as a craft beer haven, but in this case they did a great job of supporting the community.

Speaking of Whole Foods, they are running a special deal right now that allows you to buy a meal for some family who isn’t able to feed themselves.

Easy way to reduce hunger at the holidays

Easy way to reduce hunger at the holidays

A great idea, in my opinion, to enable direct support.  We should foster these efforts, make it easier to help each other and free up the government to focus on its core objectives. We are, of course, a long LONG way from taking these responsibilities in any great measure, but it seems far more efficient for me to turn $10 over to organization X up the street, than to give the same $10 in federal tax and see some of it eaten up in administration on the way to its ultimate recipient. And although it relies more heavily on people to choose to help, I really wonder what the scope of that ability is if we all pitched in. *climbing down off new soapbox after the last one broke from excessive use*

There were several places I’d hoped to visit that the trip just didn’t make time for. The Pig Man, Sauceman BBQ, Growlers Pourhouse, BIrdsong and Old Mecklenberg Breweries and Saint brewpub were all recommended at one time or another. Next time, we definitely make the trip to Asheville to see what the fuss is all about, but the craft beer scene is alive and growing in the Queen City.  Cheers

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