Charlotte Oktoberfest postponed until 2017

Charlotte Oktoberfest

The Carolina BrewMasters, a local homebrew club that presents the Charlotte Oktoberfest every year, has announced today there will be no 2016 festival. In an announcement they cited a number of issues in finding a suitable site for this year’s festival, including “construction, parking, safety, and other nearby events.”

It’s sad news, not only because such a popular and well-run festival is taking a hiatus but also for all the good the BrewMasters do with the proceeds from the festival. You can read about those in the full announcement from the Carolina BrewMasters, available here.

Birdsong Brewing to expand into Western North Carolina market

Birdsong Brewing Charlotte

Birdsong Brewing

We get so much good Asheville beer here in Charlotte that it only seems fair to share. Birdsong Brewing just announced in a press release their plans to distribute into Western North Carolina via an agreement with Skyland Distributing Company.

While the brewery plans to continue self-distributing its beer locally, they have partnered with Skyland to distribute their beers primarily in the Asheville area (and in counties west of Gaston Co. as well). In the press release, brewery manager Chris Goulet described the move as “a natural extension of our brand in an area that feels like a second home to us.”

Indeed, the brewery’s name came after Goulet and his wife mistook head brewer Conor Robinson’s snores for birdsong while staying at a hostel in Asheville (learn how other Charlotte breweries got their names here).

Of course, the city is seen as one of the best beer markets in the state. Birdsong will join that market in May, when kegs of their most popular beers — including Free Will Pale Ale, Lazy Bird Brown Ale and Jalapeño Pale Ale — begin hitting bars. Cans of those last two will make their way to Asheville as well, and some of the breweries seasonals should follow later.

Betting Beers on Super Bowl 50

When the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos this Sunday, Vegas won’t be the only ones playing the odds. North Carolina’s brewers want a piece of the pie, and they’re backing their home team the best way they know how — by betting with beer.

The first beer-related bet came prior to the Panthers playing the Seattle Seahawks, and not from a brewer but from Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts. Roberts challenged Seattle Mayor Ed Murray to a friendly wager: if the Panthers lost, she’d send a trifecta of Queen City goodness in the form of barbecue from Mac’s Speed Shop, salted caramel brownies from Amélie’s French Bakery & Café and beer from The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery.

Fortunately, Roberts didn’t have to deliver on her end (and sorry, but she’s not sorry). Instead, Murray will be sending her a taste of Seattle: wine from South Seattle College’s Northwest Wine Academy, Chinese barbeque from Kau Kau and beer from Pike Brewing.

With the Panthers set to take on the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship, things got even more heated. The first shots fired came from Rob Fullmer, executive director of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, who in a video challenged the North Carolina Brewers Guild to a bet. The guild behind the losing team would not only have to send five different beers as well as food to go along with them, but they would also have to welcome the other guild into their state to brew a collaboration beer (to be named by the winning team).

Suffice it to say the Panthers are going to the Super Bowl, and some of North Carolina’s brewers will be travelling to Arizona to brew a collaboration beer (the details for which are forthcoming). The guild has also entered into a new wager with the Colorado Brewers Guild in which the losing state must host a tap takeover featuring five of the winning state’s best beers. And who decides which beers those are? You do, by nominating your favorite breweries from both states here

Individual breweries throughout Colorado and North Carolina are raising the stakes. Charlotte’s Wooden Robot Brewery has entered into a wager with Little Machine Beer, another robot-themed brewery that is located just a few blocks away from the Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. If the Panthers win, Little Machine’s head brewer must dress up as Superman and perform “an undisclosed physical challenge” in tribute to Cam Newton. And if they lose, Wooden Robot’s Dan Wade will pay his own tribute to Peyton Manning by doing the same dressed as a sheriff, a nod to the longtime quarterback’s nickname.

Wardrobe requirements were part of Strange Craft Beer Co.’s challenge to NoDa Brewing as well. The Denver brewery has waged that if the Broncos win, NoDa’s co-founder Todd Ford must wear a Peyton Manning jersey at work and send a case each of the brewery’s Hop Drop ‘n Roll and Coco Loco Porter. If the Panthers win, Tim Myers from Strange Craft Beer Co. has agreed to send cases of their Cherry Kriek and Dr. Strangelove Barleywine. He’ll have to wear a Cam Newton jersey, naturally, and he’s going to have to dab on them folks. Both breweries will donate to charity in the other brewery’s name: NoDa Brewing to the Keep Pounding Fund, and Strange Craft Brewing Co. to the National Sports Center for the Disabled.

Last year Triple C Brewing’s head brewer Scott Kimball was in Denver at the Great American Beer Festival, where he accepted a bronze medal in the American-style Strong Pale Ale category for the brewer’s 3C IPA. Taking the silver medal in that category was Via Chicago, a pale ale by Coda Brewing Co. in Aurora. Given their shared proficiency in pale ales, the two have wagered a case of beer on their respective teams. And not only that, but one member of the losing brewery will have to get a tattoo of the other team’s logo.

Lone Tree and Sycamore

Triple C’s neighbors down the road at Sycamore Brewing have a similar wager. Like Triple C, Sycamore also won a bronze medal at last year’s Great American Beer Festival for its Southern Girl Lager in the American Style Lager or Light Lager category. Taking silver was Lone Tree Brewing out of Lone Tree, Colorado, and just ahead of them was that most famous of Colorado lager brewers, Coors Brewing Co. (for its Coors Banquet in particular). Sycamore and Lone Tree have since realized they have a lot in common, and so the two will be brewing a pair of India pale lagers soon (one featuring an ingredient from Colorado, the other with an ingredient from North Carolina). Until those are ready, the two breweries have come to an agreement: whichever team loses must dress in the other team’s colors and take a photo of themselves “drowning the sorrows of the loss with Coors Banquet beer.” The lower will also donate to a charity that supports the other team’s mascot (so horses for Colorado, and wildcats for North Carolina).

Even Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery has made what it’s calling “a sports ball wager in the name of beer” with Denver’s Spangalang Brewery. If you’re familiar with Fullsteam’s beers, it shouldn’t surprise you that their wager involves local ingredients. The winner of this wager will design a recipe for a beer that uses indigenous ingredients from their state, but the beer will be brewed and served in the loser’s brewery. Fullsteam’s crowdsourcing potential names, beer styles and ingredients on their Facebook event page.

Fullsteam’s even pre-gaming on Friday, Feb. 5 by releasing a beer called “Bless Their Heart.” It’s a twist on the Winter Rambler gruit they brewed with Charlotte’s Free Range Brewing, and it contains foraged juniper, Fraser fir and chokeberry syrup. It’s that last ingredient they feel best embodies Peyton Manning’s history of choking in the Super Bowl.

Whether Manning and the Broncos will do just that remains to be seen, but one thing is certain — North Carolina’s brewers have a lot at stake this year. And it’s not just the brewers: the Charlotte Observer has also entered into a wager with the Denver Post, with beer and barbecue on the line. Graphic designers from both Colorado and the Carolinas are facing off in a Design Brawl, with a six-pack’s worth of designs based on the Panthers and Broncos. And while you can’t influence the outcome of the game, you can vote on your favorite designs at

Blue Blaze Brewing gets its building permit

Building Permit

Blue Blaze Brewing’s co-founders Sven Giersmann and Craig Nunn with their newly-issued building permit. (Photo courtesy Blue Blaze Brewing)

Blue Blaze just got its green light.

With a building permit now in hand, Blue Blaze Brewing has released drawings of its plans for its 8,000-square-foot warehouse at 528 S. Turner Ave, beside the Savona Mill. As it stands today, the nondescript building is relatively empty; but in the months between now and a late spring or early summer opening, co-founders Craig Nunn and Sven Giersmann, as well as head brewer Steve Turner, will be quite busy.  

Blue Blaze Brewing

(Image courtesy Blue Blaze Brewing)

Outside, the industrial building will gain character through a wood awning over the entrance (with a silo coming in later, when they have a need for more grain). Large windows will be installed on both sides of the building, with the street side looking into the 15-barrel brewhouse and a row of fermenters.

Blue Blaze Brewing Interior

(Image courtesy Blue Blaze Brewing)

Inside, plans call for beer garden-style tables and seating for around 125 between the main level and a new mezzanine. Behind the bar will be 22 taps (two of them nitro) pouring a variety of beers, with Blue Blaze putting its own spin on American, German and English styles. Core beers will include an altbier, amber, milk stout, black IPA and Dortmunder lager, with more than 10 additional recipes on top of those. Most of Blue Blaze’s beers will fall below 6.5 percent ABV.

In neighborhoods like South End and NoDa, it’s all too easy to visit several breweries in a matter of hours. Here in Charlotte’s “West End,” however, that’s not the case.

“We know it will be a destination,” said Nunn. “People will have to want to come out this way.”

There have been instances of breweries bringing new businesses to an area, though. When The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery opened in an industrial area off of Old Pineville Rd. in 2009, it was the only real draw in that corridor. Now, the brewery is neighbors with another brewery, two distilleries and a bar, with a cidery coming soon. Many think the area surrounding NoDa Brewing’s North End brewery could see similar development.

There are also cases of breweries breathing new life into old mills. Twenty years ago, the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse played a big part in the Atherton Mill revitalization project. The developers behind the Savona Mill revitalization will use the Atherton Mill project from the 1990s as a template. Right now, the historic mill is boarded up and in need of repair.

Blue Blaze’s building isn’t in the mill itself, but they could be seen as an anchor tenant that would bring in additional tenants and businesses. And while the area lacks these complementary businesses that abound in other neighborhoods, Nunn believes the neighborhoods themselves are not so different.

“It’s NoDa 10-15 years ago. This community was looking for something to validate what they’ve done,” said Nunn, referring to the hard work put in by residents in Seversville and Wesley Heights. “We were expecting a few naysayers, but it’s been one big fat hug.”

In addition to wanting to put down roots in a welcoming neighborhood, Nunn and Giersmann also wanted to be close to a greenway. Lovers of the outdoors, they named the brewery after the blue blazes which mark side trails on the Appalachian Trail.

“We really wanted to be on the greenway,” said Nunn. “It wasn’t a requirement, but it was a really nice thing to have.”

The Stewart Creek Greenway stretches from just across the street to uptown, a span that can be walked in 15 minutes. By bike it’s even quicker, and Blue Blaze will take advantage of this by using custom Bullitt bicycles to deliver kegs. 

The greenway should help Blue Blaze bring its beer to others, and hopefully it’ll help bring others to its beer, too.

Blue Blaze Bikes

Blue Blaze Brewing will deliver kegs of beer using custom Bullitt bikes. (Photo by Daniel Hartis)

The site turns five years old today. Thanks for being a part of it.

Five years ago, I published my first post on

Or rather, I published my first posts on the site, all of them events-based in nature: a Big Boss beer dinner at Whiskey Warehouse, a Founders Brewing dinner at Zink, an Olde Hickory tasting at Custom Home Pubs. You can see all three on a very primitive and dated site through the magic of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

I was obsessive in those days about chronicling every little tap takeover, tasting event or beer dinner in town. When I started the site, Charlotte was home to just two local breweries: The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and Four Friends. Soon, though, I learned about NoDa Brewing and Birdsong Brewing, and had the honor of covering those breweries and so many more since.

I wish I could say I’ve covered the #cltbeer scene as exhaustively as I did in those first few days, but that hasn’t been the case. There are a few reasons for this: a full-time job; two (awesome) kids born after I started the site; columns for the Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News and Observer; and — the best reason of all — a local beer scene that has so much going on it’s impossible to cover it all. That the beer scene has grown so much in five years makes me really proud.

Yes, some of the pages on the site are woefully outdated, and posts have been few and far between lately. I could tell you I have plans to fix that (I do), but that’s not the point of this post.

The point of this post is simply to say thank you.

When I started the site, I just wanted to aggregate and share whatever local beer happenings I could find. In so doing, though, I ended up meeting so many awesome people: brewers, bartenders, retailers, shop owners, festival promoters, and yes, just regular ol’ beer drinkers, too.

Over the last half a decade, I’ve met enough people that thanking them all here probably isn’t possible. If we’ve become friends as a result of the site and a shared passion, you know who you are! I do want to thank a few people in particular. If you’ve read Beer Lover’s the Carolinas or Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing in the Queen City, you’ve no doubt seen the wonderful work of Eric Gaddy of Casting Shadows Photography. Eric has carved out quite a reputation as a “beertographer,” and in addition to his work I’m also grateful to have been able to travel all over the Carolinas with him in the name of beer.

A couple years ago, my friend Nick Signet helped me rebrand the website. I have no graphic design skills, and the site looked pretty bad beforehand. I kept trying to make this upside-down-crown-tulip-glass thing work (spoiler alert: it didn’t). Nick created a much more modern and visually-appealing logo, and having that sharp new logo made me even more proud of the site. I wrote a lot more as a result. I think a lot of people probably took the site a lot more seriously, too. Nick also created those cool “Drink Local” shirts you may have seen around town.

I want to thank Kathleen Purvis, food editor at the Charlotte Observer, for getting me a regular column there. What started as one short article a month has now turned into two articles a month, as well as a monthly article for the Raleigh News and Observer. Thanks for allowing me to reach a new readership and spread the stories of Charlotte beer.

Thanks to all of the breweries, bars and bottle shops in town for giving me plenty to write about over the years, and for graciously sharing your stories with me.

And thanks to you, dear reader. Seriously, I would never have started this site had it not been clear to me that — even five years ago — people were passionate about the local beer scene. And I’m not sure how long I would have kept it going without your daily reminders of that. Your comments and conversations — whether they be through e-mail, on Facebook, Twitter or (gasp!) in real life — keep me (and the site) going.

From the bottom of my glass, I offer my sincere thanks to all of you.


Daniel Hartis

D9 Brewing beer release and brunch on Saturday, Dec. 12

Saint Martin's Cross

This Saturday, D9 Brewing in Cornelius will host a brunch and bottle release event for Saint Martin’s Cross, an imperial Scotch ale aged on oak previously soaked in Talisker single malt scotch.

The beer-infused Scottish brunch kicks off at 11 a.m. with the following menu prepared by Tim “The Brew Chef” Schafer:

  • Scottish pickled eggs with “beernaise” sauce
  • Beer and bacon-braised cabbage with caraway and cider vinegar
  • Smashed red-skinned potatoes with horseradish and scallions
  • Scotch ale-spiked beef “slop,” topped with yeast dumplings
  • Beer-brined and applewood-smoked pork shoulder, pulled and served in a Scotch ale and whisky “gravy”
  • Double chocolate banana bread pudding with spiced Scotch ale vanilla whipped cream
  • Fresh-baked dinner rolls

Tickets to the brunch are just $25 and include a 22-ounce bottle of St. Martin’s Cross (there is a brunch-only option for $15). The brunch is limited to just 80 guests, and tickets can be purchased here.

Bottles of the beer alone will retail for $10.99 starting at noon, and the beer will only be available in the taproom.

Southern Range Brewing plans to open in Monroe next spring

Southern Range Brewing Logo

Roll up the garage door of the white, brick building at 151 S. Stewart St. in Monroe, and a sea of furniture greets you. Tables, chairs and headboards, all in different states of refinishing, and at their feet a layer of dust.

If Dustin Gatliff has his way, the building will furnish Southern Range Brewing next spring.

The homebrewer of six years had been looking to open a brewery for some time. He thought the 3,000-square-foot building in historic downtown Monroe would be the perfect spot for a brewery, but the landlord wasn’t prepared to start the necessary construction.

Not wanting to miss out on the property, Gatliff leased it this past summer knowing he could use the space to house his furniture-refinishing business, which recently outgrew his home garage.

“I rented it for the brewery, but knowing that I could still work out of it,” said Gatliff.

While Gatliff hasn’t yet started building the brewery itself, he has acquired a two-barrel electric brewing system from Rivermen Brewing Co. out of Belmont. A system of that size can produce about 62 gallons of beer at a time and would qualify Southern Range Brewing as a nanobrewery.

Gatliff was inspired to go the nano route after seeing smaller breweries like Barking Duck Brewing in Mint Hill and Burial Beer Co. in Asheville.

“I was like, ‘These guys are opening breweries about as small as you can get,’” Gatliff said.

One advantage of brewing on such a small scale is that the brewery will be able to cycle through a variety of styles, rather than brewing larger batches of a single beer. Of course, Gatliff will have to brew more frequently on a smaller system than some of his peers with larger systems might, but he’s eager to experiment and see what will appeal to the residents of Monroe, who have not so much as a craft beer bar to call their own.

To start, Gatliff plans to offer a Kölsch, an oatmeal stout, a pale ale, IPA and double IPA.

“I’m an IPA guy, so there will probably be a lot of experimenting there,” he said.

Gatliff considered opening a brewery in Charlotte, but fell in love with Monroe’s historic downtown after moving to the city. And the City of Monroe has been just as enthusiastic, he said.

To see the progress once furniture moves out and fermenters move in, follow the Southern Range Brewing Facebook page or sign up for updates on the brewery’s website

Southern Range Brewing in Monroe, NC

Brawley’s Beverage events: Sierra Nevada’s anniversary, Cheers Charlotte, Black and Blue 7

Brawley's Beverage

(Photo courtesy Brawley’s Beverage)

Brawley’s Beverage opened its tasting room a little more than a year ago, and they have been celebrating ever since. The tasting room has allowed the longtime Charlotte beer destination to host a variety of events over the last year, and things aren’t slowing down as we head into the holidays.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This Saturday, Nov. 14, Brawley’s is celebrating the 35th anniversary of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. And, as they are wont to do, they’re digging into the archives in honor of one of the nation’s oldest craft breweries. Starting at 11 a.m., they’ll be tapping the following kegs throughout the day:

  • Grand Cru Strong Ale (30th anniversary beer brewed in 2010)
  • Fritz and Ken’s Ale Imperial Stout (30th anniversary beer brewed in 2010)
  • Jack and Ken’s Ale Barleywine (30th anniversary beer brewed in 2010)
  • Charlie, Fred and Ken’s Bock (30th anniversary beer brewed in 2010)
  • Life and Limb Strong Ale (Batch two from 2011)
  • Maillard’s Odyssey Imperial Dark Ale (a collaboration with Bell’s Brewery from last year’s Beer Camp Across America pack)
  • Blue Baltic Porter
  • Ovila Abbey Dubbel
  • Ovila Abbey Golden with Pomegranate
  • Narwhal Imperial Stout (Vintage)
  • Bigfoot Barleywine (Vintage)

See what I mean about “digging into the archives?” It seems like just yesterday Michael Brawley was pulling out nearly 20 years of Anchor Our Special Ale for the Cheers Charlotte Christmas party (tasting notes on a few of those vintages can be found in this Charlotte Observer article). And while Brawley’s Beverage won’t be unveiling another two-decade collection of Christmas beers this year, they will once again be celebrating with the guys from Cheers Charlotte, a local podcast on beer (and other good drinks and food) in the Queen City.

This year’s Cheers Charlotte Christmas party will take place from 6-11 p.m. at Brawley’s on Saturday, Dec. 5. That date marks the 82nd anniversary of the repeal of that noble experiment called Prohibition. The big beers routinely poured at Brawley’s fly in the face of Prohibition, but that’s not to say everything is Pollyanna today. Literature about “Prohibition-era alcohol laws” will be on hand, and they are trying to get local brewery owners in the shop to talk about some of these issues (which I imagine will focus heavily on North Carolina’s self-distribution cap).

The taplist for the event is still being finalized, but they will be pulling out a keg of Founders Brewing’s Nemesis 2010. This 12 percent black barleywine is one of the shop’s rarest kegs, according to Shane Icenhour at Brawley’s. Look for more information on that party in the coming weeks.

Finally, Brawley’s Beverage has announced that tickets for Black and Blue 7  — held on Saturday, March 5 — will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 24 at The Visulite’s website. You can enter to win a couple free tickets by tagging two friends in the comments of this Instagram photo. The winner of those tickets will be announced on Nov. 25.

OMB’s Mecktoberfest wins gold at the European Beer Star International Competition

(Photo courtesy The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery)

(Photo courtesy The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery)

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (OMB) announced today that its Mecktoberfest won a gold medal in the German-style Märzen category at the European Beer Star International Competition on Oct. 9.

This was the first year the brewery has entered the competition, which this year received 1,957 entries from 45 different countries. This is not the first time they’ve received an award for Mecktoberfest, however. The brewery took silver at the Great American Beer Festival in 2012. But for a brewery that prides itself on brewing German styles of beer, this one was even better.

“This is our GABF,” said Ryan Self, director of sales for The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. “It’s the equivalent of like an American brewer winning for a double IPA or an imperial stout as for us to go to Germany and win for an Oktoberfest. There’s just no greater honor for us.”

The German-style Märzen category in this competition, which has been held in Germany since 2003, has typically been dominated by German brewers. Last year, German breweries nabbed the gold, silver and bronze in those categories. The same was true in 2013. And 2012. To find a non-German medal-winning brewery, you have to go back to 2011, when Shiner Oktoberfest took silver (that beer also took gold the year before that).

“They pretty much had complete dominance in this category,” said Self.

It’s not a matter of American breweries just not entering the competition, as last year big name breweries like Stone Brewing, Firestone Walker, Sierra Nevada, Ballast Point, Rogue, Oskar Blues and Dogfish Head took home medals. But for the most part, these were in categories like India pale ale and imperial stout. So while Mecktoberfest winning isn’t quite on the level of the Judgment of Paris — wherein French judges deemed California wines superior in a blind tasting — it’s very much in the same vein.

John Marrino accepts the gold medal at the European Beer Star competition.

John Marrino accepts the gold medal in Germany on Nov. 11. (Photo courtesy John Marrino)

The news comes as OMB is transitioning away from Mecktoberfest and into its Dunkel and Bauern Bock. The brewery is down to only six kegs of Mecktoberfest in the taproom, where they’ll be pouring half-pint samples of the beer starting at noon this Friday, Nov. 13.

The beer will also be available in OMB’s new Harvest Packs, which include two bottles of Mecktoberfest, two bottles of Copper and two bottles of Bauern Bock (that pack is the only way to acquire bottles of Bauern Bock this year).

New Bottles from Unknown Brewing Co. and Birdsong Brewing

We’re halfway through October, which means Halloween is just a couple weeks away. If you’re going to release a beer imploring people to murder clowns, now’s the time to do it.

Or at least that’s the tongue-in-cheek message behind The Unknown Brewing Co.’s latest bottle release, “Rise Against Clowns.” The beer is inspired by founder Brad Shell’s hatred for clowns. No, not a fear — this is a brewery whose mantra it is to encourage others to face their fears. We’re talking a serious disdain here.

That’s why Shell teamed up with Florida’s 7venth Sun Brewing to brew Rise Against Clowns, a barrel-aged sour beer brewed with blood oranges and floss sugar (which is what’s used to create cotton candy). The beer is fermented completely with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast that can contribute tart or funky flavors. In a press release, the brewery summed the resulting beer up thusly:

“The blood oranges give it a pop of citrus flavor and the cotton candy gets fermented out leaving a subtle vanilla finish. The end result is like a Brett orange creamsicle.”

Unknown Brewing Rise Against Clowns

Wax-dipped bottles of the beer will be available in the taproom starting today (Thursday, Oct. 15). Nose-spiked knife and cymbal-banging monkey, however, are not included.

But if it’s monkeys you want, you’re in luck. Today Birdsong Brewing is releasing the latest in its Take Flight series, Mongeese on Monkeys. The beer is an imperial version of the brewery’s Lazy Bird Brown Ale that has aged in barrels that once held Muddy River Distillery’s Queen Charlotte’s Rum. Bottles are $14, and there is a four-bottle limit per person.

Mongeese on Monkeys