Upcoming Charlotte Beer Festivals

Let’s cut to the chase: there are a lot of upcoming Charlotte beer festivals. Enough, in fact, to carry us through spring and into summer with a fest just about every weekend.

And while I wish I had the time to write individually about all of them, I’ve been a little swamped lately. So in the interest of time, I’ll briefly add the ones I know of below (if I’m missing one, please let me know!).

Spring/Summer Charlotte Beer Festivals

Saturdays and Sundays until May 17: Carowinds Taste of the Carolinas focuses more on food than beer, however the iconic amusement part has made it a point to bring some craft beers into the mix for this festival.

Saturday, April 18: The Battle of the Brews pits 10 of Charlotte’s breweries against other, but for charity.

Sunday, April 19: For the third year in a row, Beer Me BrewFest will celebrate National Beer Day in South End.

Saturday, May 2: For the seventh year in a row, the Gastonia Grizzlies Ballpark Beer Fest will take place under the lights of Sims Legion Park.

Friday, May 8 to Saturday, May 9: Like camping, music and beer? The North Carolina Brewers and Music Festival is for you. It’s always one of the area’s more popular festivals.

Saturday, May 16: The South End Hops Festival returns for its second year, featuring local breweries and food trucks in support of the Chronic Illness Relief Fund.

Saturdays in May: Speedway All American Craft Brewer’s Festival: You know craft beer is hot when NASCAR, long a bastion of big beer, is holding its own beer festivals. Personally I think it’s great that Charlotte institutions like Carowinds and Charlotte Motor Speedway are making an effort to bring in more craft beer. And while this mobile beer garden hasn’t yet announced a brewery list, events at other tracks seem to have a big craft focus. And the NC Craft Brewers Guild is partnering with them, which is a good sign. There are three different days this festival will take place: Saturday, May 16; Saturday, May 23; and Sunday, May 24.

Saturday, June 13: Fonta Flora’s State of Origin festival is actually outside of Charlotte in Morganton, but it’s worth a drive. This year, every beer served will incorporate NC-grown ingredients.

Saturday, June 13: The USNWC Brew Stash Bash starts in the morning with a 6K, though if you’re like me and have no interest in running you can just show up for the festival itself. This one’s unique in that you purchase cards to cash in for beer samples, as opposed to unlimited sampling.

Saturday, June 27: All About Beer Magazine is no stranger to beer festivals, as they put on the World Beer Festivals in Raleigh, Durham, Columbia, SC and Cleveland. Now, they’re coming to Charlotte. They’re partnering with the NC Craft Brewers Guild to put on the North Carolina Brewers Celebration at the BB&T Ballpark.

The Dreamweaver’s Brewery is coming to Waxhaw

The Dreamweaver's Brewery in Waxhaw, NCAfter almost a year of searching for a location in Waxhaw, The Dreamweaver’s Brewery has just signed a lease to move into the building at 115 East North Main Street, the former home of the Waxhaw fire department.  Founder Neil Gimon has lived in Waxhaw for the past 13 years.

“This area is a bedroom community of Charlotte,” said Gimon. “There are fantastic breweries in Charlotte, but after driving for 40 minutes to get home, do you really want to drive another 40 minutes back north, then back to home?”

Gimon has been planning the brewery for the last three years. The building will afford him the ability to open the brewery in downtown Waxhaw, as he had hoped. He is working with Deutsche Beverage Technology in Charlotte to procure a 10-barrel brewery.

On that system, Gimon will craft a variety of beers. He has 16 “tried and true” recipes that he plans to scale up and experiment with. He also plans to offer several core beers, including a “Booty Brew” that will raise funds and awareness for the 24 Hours of Booty bicycle ride in Charlotte (Gimon just recently beat prostate cancer).

And yes, the brewery is named after the song. Says Gimon: “When I first started brewing, I was joking with a friend that thanks to the high alcohol content, he would have interesting dreams that night. And he looked at me and asked if I was then the Dream Weaver, and the name stuck. That was the first name for my first beer.”

From Tele-Porter to Television: Brad Shell and “The Making of the Show”

Brad Shell’s latest creation will be released this Tuesday, but don’t look for it at The Unknown Brewing Company.

“I’m taking a break from beer for the big screen,” said Shell, who founded the brewery in 2013. “The big screen of public access television.”

He’s joking about leaving the beer industry, but not about entering the shady underbelly of public access. The pilot episode for “The Making of the Show” will premiere this Tuesday, April 14 at 11:30 p.m. on Access 21, Charlotte’s public access channel.

Shell is one of the biggest personalities in the Charlotte beer scene, but “The Making of the Show” will have nothing to do with beer. Beer isn’t even allowed in the studios, so you’ll see Shell and his friends drinking lots of “coffee” as they spend half the show brainstorming funny ideas for said show, and then the other half actually trying to do some of these outlandish things.

“It’s my one chance to get away from beer,” said Shell. “Beer is part of life, but it shouldn’t be life. It should be a lubricant to help you live all those other adventures. And that’s just an extension of the Unknown culture.”

Having his own television show has actually been on Shell’s bucket list for some time. When Shell and his friends were recently talking about how great it would be to have their own public access television show, one of his co-workers pointed out that all you needed to make a show at Access 21 was a one-time fee of $25.

Well, that’s not quite all. Shell also had to help produce other shows and learn his way around the studio and equipment before he was allowed to produce his own, so he handled some lighting and camera work for a preaching show to get his certificate of completion.

As for Shell, he and his friends will be preaching about a variety of topics during the pilot episode, including clowns, Pocahontas and police brutality. A future episode finds Shell and his friends remarking about how funny it would be to thumb wrestle Ric Flair, and then setting out to do just that.

And in news that should surprise no one who knows Shell, “The Making of the Show” will be rated TV-MA. It will air once a month on Access 21, and Shell plans to get the episodes online as well. Shell said he’s had a blast putting the show together so far and meeting other public access producers.

“There’s some real characters on public access television,” said the man who drives around town in a black and neon-green bronco, who has brewed with scorpions and cream cheese, who had donkeys playing bingo at his brewery’s grand opening. “Just  kooky, crazy people.”

Unknown Brewing celebrates 100 batches with dollar beers

To celebrate brewing one hundred batches of beer, The Unknown Brewing Co. will be selling beers for just 100 pennies each this Wednesday, April 1. Yes, that’s April Fool’s Day, but the brewery assures us it’s no prank. Besides, dollar beers are pretty tame by Unknown’s standards. Remember, this is the brewery that made a beer with 99 scorpions.

That beer isn’t on tap tomorrow, but check out the full currency-inspired taplist below:

  • 100 Pennies, a 4.5 % session ale
  • 42 Dalasi, a 5.1% wheat beer
  • 446 Kwacha, a 4.9% small-batch IPA
  • 533 Colón, a 5.5% small-batch chile beer
  • 1.27 Loonie, a 5.6% Northwest ale
  • 63 Som, a 7.7% Scotch ale
  • 8 Krone, an 8% porter
  • 2.93 Lita, a 5.8% small-batch light brown ale
  • 32 Baht, an 8.2% Belgian dubbel
  • 1.9 Pa’anga, a 4.3%, orange-infused ale

Charlotte Craft Beer Week runs from March 20-28

Charlotte Craft Beer Week

Now in its sixth year, Charlotte Craft Beer Week returns to the Queen City with a bevy of special tappings, festivals and other events running from March 20-28.

Events are still being added to the Charlotte Craft Beer Week events page, but those familiar with past beer weeks will notice some old favorites. Duckworth’s on Park Rd. will once again hold its cask festival from 1-5 p.m. this Saturday, March 21. Tickets to the event are $25 and can be purchased at Duckworth’s (or call 704-527-5783), which gets you a tasting glass and a six-ounce pour from one-off casks created by the following seven breweries: NoDa Brewing, Birdsong Brewing, Wicked Weed Brewing, Olde Hickory Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, Terrapin Beer Co. and Stone Brewing. You’ll be asked to vote in the “Battle of the Casks,” with the winner being deemed the 2015 Cask Festival Champion.

Later that Saturday night, Salud Beer Shop will celebrate three years by tapping a variety of North Carolina beers. Fonta Flora is bringing their Hop Beard IPA, Year of the Goat Saison and red wine barrel-aged Barleywine, as well as Baba Budan Coffee IPA — the collaboration they did with Boone’s Appalachian Mountain Brewing. Wicked Weed will have their XL whiskey barrel-aged Peppercorn Saison and Genesis Blonde Sour. Fullsteam will be contributing the Deus Ex Machina, a sour stat aged on cherries, as well as the Hop Rocks Sour IPA they brewed with Wooden Robot Brewery, which is set to open in Charlotte later this year. Rounding out the all-NC tap list will be NoDa’s Salted Caramel Stout, Steel String’s Zupfen Gose, Burial Skillet Donut Stout and Natty Greene’s Brett IPA.

For the fifth year in a row, The Liberty will be hosting “The Lost Founders” event in their private downstairs room at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24. They will be pouring rare Founders beers like CBS, KBS and Breakfast Stout (as well as some aged bottles of those last two). Pay by the pint or flight.

Both the South End and Plaza Midwood Common Market locations will be bringing back their well-known events. For the South End location, that means Freak Fest — a mini festival held from 6-11 p.m. on Thursday, March 26. Freak Fest features “fire twirlers, light bulb eaters, suspension, drag show” and other assorted oddities. The Plaza Midwood location (which just remodeled its bar) will once again host its annual Rumble in the Alley, wherein 15 North Carolina breweries will compete in a blind tasting competition. For $25, you get in between 6-7:30 p.m. to judge these beers blind and vote for your favorites. The winner will be crowned at 7:30 p.m., after which you can continue to drink until the kegs are gone. DJ ThatGuySmitty will be providing the music.

Of course, there are several other events — including many new, first-time happenings — that you can find here. Many breweries and bars are putting on their own events that may not be listed on the official page, so keep an eye out for those.

The official closer of the week for the second year in a row will be the All Ale to the Queen beer carnival, held Saturday, March 28 at Amos’ Southend. Like last year, you can expect such sideshows as jugglers, acrobats, hula hoopers, glass eaters and belly dancers. There are two sessions, tickets for which can be purchased at www.allaletothequeen.com.

North Carolina Brewers Celebration on Saturday, June 27

North Carolina Brewers Celebration

All About Beer Magazine, in conjunction with the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, will present the North Carolina Brewers Celebration, held at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte on Saturday, June 27. The festival will feature around 50 North Carolina breweries, plus samples from local farmers, retailers and beer stores.

General admission tickets for the festival are $45 and include a 4-ounce commemorative glass and unlimited samples of more than 150 beers from 1-5 p.m. VIP tickets are $70 and provide the aforementioned samples, early entry at noon, a festival gift, and access to 20-30 limited beers not available to general admission ticket holders, plus access to private bathrooms and an air-conditioned lounge in the club level.

Tickets for the North Carolina Brewers Celebration will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 26 at NCBrewersCelebration.com.

The Durham-based All About Beer Magazine also puts on the World Beer Festival events every year in Durham, Raleigh, Columbia, SC and Cleveland, Ohio.

The Fussy Pumpkin and Peach Craft Beer Brew Off at D9 Brewing on April 25

Remember Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad, wherein they poked fun at craft beer drinkers who fussed over their “pumpkin peach ales“?

D9 Brewing in Cornelius wants to have a little fun of their own, and for a great cause. The brewery is inviting area homebrewers to submit their own pumpkin and peach beers in The Fussy Pumpkin and Peach Craft Beer Brew Off, which will be held at the brewery from 2-10 p.m. on Saturday, April 25.

It is free for homebrewers to submit their beers. For the price of a pint, anyone who visits D9 Brewing that day can sample the various homebrews and vote on their favorite. The winning homebrewer will get to brew their recipe on the brewery’s pilot batch system as part of D9′s “Community Brew” series.

While the event is a fun way for area homebrewers to fire back at Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad, it’s much more than that. It will also raise funds for the Purvis family. Two years ago, Jim and Shawna Purvis’s sixteen-year-old daughter Shelby was diagnosed with  High-Risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She spent the next year quarantined at home, or at a clinic receiving chemotherapy.

Two years have passed, and Shelby — now eighteen — hasn’t let her diagnosis stop her from serving others. Her efforts raising funds for charities like Hope Cancer and the Make-A-Wish Foundation led to her being nominated as Woman of the Year by the Leukemia and Lymphomas Society. Shelby will graduate high school this summer and undergo her final treatment on July 29.

So in addition to the beer and food trucks, you can also expect to see representatives from the Be The Match bone marrow registry, Alex’s Lemonade Stand (they fund childhood cancer research) and Ace and TJ’s Grin Kids. When the winning homebrewer’s beer is later tapped at the brewery, all proceeds will go to the Purvis family.

The Fussy Pumpkin and Peach Craft Beer Brew Off

An Elaboration on Collaborations

Earlier today, I posted about Birdsong Brewing and Hi-Wire Brewing collaborating on a beer, which will be released Friday. And a couple months ago, I wrote about The Boozehound, a collaboration between Triple C Brewing and Sycamore Brewing that was tapped on Valentine’s Day.

Well, these breweries aren’t the only ones feeling the collaborative spirit. This Thursday, March 12, NoDa Brewing is doing something they’ve never done before: brewing two collaborations with two different breweries and in two different cities. Head brewer Chad Henderson is out in Portland, Oregon, where he will be brewing an Imperial IPA with Ben Edmunds at Breakside Brewery. The beer will feature 180 pounds of NC honey and 180 pounds of Oregon honey. Both breweries know a thing or two about IPAs: last year NoDa Brewing won gold at the World Beer Cup for its Hop Drop ‘n Roll, and Breakside won gold at the Great American Beer Festival for its Breakside IPA. This collaboration beer will make its debut at the Craft Brewers Conference in April (and will find its way into NoDa’s taproom in late April as well).

While Henderson and Edmunds are pouring 360 pounds of honey into a massive Imperial IPA, NoDa’s lead brewer, Bart Roberts, will be across town brewing a hoppy bock with Lenny Boy’s John Watkins. This one will later be brewed at NoDa as well, and both versions will use organic malts. Roberts and Watkins are just two of a handful of brewers who worked at Charlotte’s Alternative Beverage homebrew store, so this will be a reunion of sorts.

Also this Thursday, Salud Beer Shop will be tapping Hop Rocks Sour IPA, a collaboration between Fullsteam Brewery in Durham and Wooden Robot Brewery, which is currently building in Charlotte’s South End.

So that’s Thursday, and a busy one. Then this Saturday morning, Kevin Kozak and Kelsie Cole from Wilmington’s Front Street Brewery are making the trip to NoDa to brew an oyster stout — but this is not the same one you might have had in previous years. This one will be a 9 percent ABV, imperial version of that beer brewed to celebrate Front Street’s 20th anniversary. And instead of being called “Mother Shucker,” this one will be called “Muthah Shuck Yo Mouth.”


Birdsong Brewing and Hi-Wire Brewing collaborate on “Bird on a Wire”

Hi-Wire and Birdsong Bird on a Wire Collaboration

Last month, Birdsong Brewing’s Conor Robinson made the drive up to Asheville to brew a collaboration beer with Hi-Wire Brewing. That beer — a peated Wee Heavy ale called “Bird on a Wire” — will be released at both breweries this Friday, March 13. They will retail for $8 a 22-ounce bottle, with a two-bottle limit per person.

Employees from the two breweries met last year at the Craft Brewers Conference in Denver. Robinson and Luke Holgate, the head brewer at Hi-Wire, were at Great Divide Brewing Co. discussing what they had learned at their seminars when they realized they had very similar brewing styles. They even talked of doing a collaboration, though at the time it was more of a joke since both breweries were at capacity and doing everything they could to brew their own beers.

A few months ago, though, the breweries got back in touch and decided it was time to revisit the idea of a collaboration beer. Both Robinson and Holgate are Scotch drinkers, and so the decision to brew a Wee Heavy — and  especially one with some peaty notes — was an easy one.

The beer will be on draft and available in bottles at 4:30 p.m. this Friday when Birdsong opens their doors. It will also hit local accounts closer to Charlotte Craft Beer Week, which runs March 20-28.

New Duckworth’s Uptown to open on Monday, March 2

The new, uptown Duckworth's will open to the public on Monday, March 2.

In 2004, Rob Duckworth built the first of the five restaurants that share his name. This original Duckworth’s — located in Mooresville — offered a menu of Philly cheesesteaks, hand-cut fries and ice cream.

And while that sounds like a winning trio, the ice cream just wasn’t moving. After about a year in business, Duckworth decided to part ways with the sweet stuff. But what to do with all of the ice cream freezers?

He already had the cold storage space, and it didn’t take much work to convert those old freezers to coolers. Soon he was swapping chocolate ice cream for chocolate stouts. In the decade since, Duckworth has applied this same craft beer focus to four more locations.

The latest, located right at the intersection of Tryon and 7th St., opens this Monday, March 2. Despite it being brand-new, the building — which was constructed in 1912 — actually has an older, more historic feel to it than the older locations.

Of course, the building does have a history, and one that Duckworth’s will be continuing. It was once home to Jonathan’s Uptown Bar and Restaurant (and Jonathan’s Jazz Cellar) in the early ’90s, before the owners of Dilworth Brewing opened Atlantic Beer and Ice Co. there in 1994. That business gave way to Fox and Hound, which was the previous tenant prior to Duckworth’s moving in.

While the building has some history, you might not have known it if you went in while it was Fox and Hound. That bar covered the old brick with sheetrock, and hid the thick floor joists with drop ceilings. Fortunately, Duckworth saw the value in bringing some of these elements back to life.

All of this is juxtaposed by new paint, fixtures and modern amenities as well. If you want to watch a game uptown, I’m not sure you could find a bad spot at Duckworth’s. New flat-screen TVs are everywhere, hanging above the tables, the booths, the bar.

How many? “Too many,” said Duckworth, who noted there are upwards of 180 screens spread across the two floors. The only thing that might rival the number of TVs are the taps: there are 150 behind the bar on the main level, 16 self-serve taps on the second floor, and 20 more down in the basement.

The kegs supplying those taps are stored on the second floor in three separate glass-lined coolers, each with its own temperature range to allow the bar to pour different styles at their appropriate temperatures. And while this building has held its share of bars, none of them had their coolers on the second floor. These massive coolers and their accompanying kegs added 92,000 pounds of weight to the upper level. Burly as those old floor joists are, they just weren’t up to the task. Duckworth had steel I-beams installed for extra support, and even added a small elevator that allows them to bring up kegs with ease.

Head to the basement and through a dungeon-esque door and you’ll find The Cellar at Duckworth’s, which is not yet open (Duckworth anticipates an early May opening date). While the menu on the upper levels will be identical to other Duckworth’s (think cheesesteaks, pizza, sandwiches and salads), the cellar’s menu will be comprised of local ingredients and small plates. Because they hope to source many ingredients locally, the menu will change seasonally. From twenty taps will pour more exclusive beers, and they will also use style-specific glassware.

There will be two 50″ screens in the cellar, though unlike the TVs upstairs they won’t be showing any sporting events. No, these will display information on the 20 beers on tap, including ABV, style and what volume is left in the keg. That limited barrel-aged stout you’ve been looking for is on, but will kick after just a few more pints. Better get it quick.

This booth is tucked into the walls down in The Cellar at Duckworth's. Best seat in the house?

The Cellar at Duckworth's will offer a very different ambiance than the floors above it. Look for it to open in early May.

The leather is new, the brick and plaster are definitely not.