If you just enjoyed the first session of Queen City Brewers Festival, as I did, then you probably had a few of the beers I’m about to write about. If you are midway through the second, well I’m hoping this reaches you in time to steer you toward a few new beers. And if you didn’t attend either session, then I suggest you: a) look for these beers in the wild, and b) make sure you grab tickets to next year’s festival. This is always one of the better-run beer festivals in Charlotte, and that held true today. The floor of the Bojangles Coliseum — affectionately dubbed “the biscuit” by many — afforded plenty of space, yet the festival still had that intimate feel that has characterized the event for four years now, no matter the venue.
Here are just a few of my favorites from the festival. Beer is subjective and these are just some of my highlights, so feel free to let me know what you enjoyed most as well!
D9 Brewing Iocaine Sour: Named after the Iocaine powder in “The Princess Bride,” this was a refreshing sour very much in the vein of the brewery’s Viking Fraoch. This one was brewed with polenta as the primary grain, and not boiled whatsoever. Lacto and pedio combined to provide an assertive yet pleasing sourness.
Natty Greene’s French Toast Stout (collaboration with Pure Intentions coffee): Smack dab in the middle of the floor was a booth shared by Natty Greene’s and Pure Intentions coffee. The two collaborated on several coffee beers as well as two casks. And if that weren’t enough, Your Moms Doughnuts had samples to accompany these coffee-infused beers. My personal favorite was the French Toast Stout, which featured just a hint of spice that paired well with the sweet and roasty stout base.
NoDa Brewing Great Scott: This one’s been out a while, but it’s the first chance I had to try it. The 8.4% Scottish ale was quite true-to-style, with notes of sweet caramel, dark fruits, and the perfect hop bitterness.
Sycamore Brewing Castle Harbor IPA: Co-founder and brewer Justin Brigham rattled off several hop varieties that they used in this beer, but the one that stood out to me most was Mosaic, which is known to contribute peach, pineapple and blueberry-type flavors. And that’s what I came away with here. While many West Coast-style IPAs peg the needle with pine and citrus, this was a welcome reprieve that offered a sweeter, juicier take on the style. It reminded me a bit of Bell’s Two Hearted.
Birdsong Brewing and Four Saints Brewing’s Highway Chile: Last year, I wrote about the huge variety of pepper beers present at the 2014 Queen City Brewers Festival. This collaboration was one of my favorites then, so it was great to see it back this year as well. Anything that uses both smoked malt as well as smoked peppers (here being the chipotle variety) is okay with me. My only regret is that I couldn’t take home a growler of it, as this seems like it would be an exceptionally food-friendly beer.
Triple C Brewing’s Cajun Stout: Like the above beer, this one employs both peppers and smoked malt. The base beer, though, is a stout — creating a beer with a subtle roastiness and a spicy yet not overpowering kick on the finish.
Heist Brewery Cataclysm: This was one of my absolute favorite beers of the festival. Brewers Erik Mitchell and Alexa Long have created a big, 13-percent Russian Imperial Stout brewed with coffee. It was sweet and rich, yet boasted a wonderful earthy, tobacco-like flavor on the backend. It’s the kind of beer that might wow you at a festival, but for which you couldn’t help wish you had a growler to sip a bit more slowly at home.
Unknown Krash the Kremlin: While we’re on the subject of Russian Imperial Stouts, this one was also quite nice. It’s different than Heist’s approach, namely in that it is much hoppier — not unlike Victory’s Storm King, for example. This is the base beer for Unknown’s Dirty Commie Heathen, which they recently released in the taproom. It will hit stores this week.
Lenny Boy F. Y. IPA: I didn’t bother to ask what the “F. Y.” stands for (fermented yumminess?), but I did enjoy this really clean, smooth IPA.
Fonta Flora / Salud Beer Shop’s Gringo Sandals: This collaboration between Fonta Flora and Salud — whose nanobrewery is set to open in the next month or two — is a “tropical IPA” fermented with Brettanomyces. Brett IPAs don’t always work for me personally, but this one did. The Brett funk was there but slight, to me, taking a backseat to piney, citrusy hops.