Highlights from the Queen City Brewers Festival

Queen City Brewers Festival 2014

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.


The Unknown Brewing Co. releases Dirty Commie Heathen

Unknown Brewing Dirty Commie Heathen

This Saturday, Jan. 31, The Unknown Brewing Company will release Dirty Commie Heathen, a Russian Imperial Stout aged on bourbon-soaked oak staves and sundried cherries. The beer is the third bottled offering from the brewery, following Enscorpion En Fuego and Vehopciraptor.

The beer starts life as the brewery’s Krash The Kremlin, a 12.4 percent Russian Imperial Stout brewed with around 5,000 pounds of grain. After that beer is done fermenting, they transfer it on top of the cherries and staves from bourbon barrels and age it for another month.

If you’re a member of the brewery’s Fearless Society (you can sign up here for free), you can pick your bottle up at noon on Saturday (everyone else can grab them at 12:30 p.m.) The bottles will retail for $13.99 for a 22-ounce bomber at the brewery, and they will hit retail accounts around Charlotte as early as next Thursday.

Triple C and Sycamore Collaborate on “The Boozehound”

Triple C Brewing and Sycamore Brewing Collaboration

Photo by Sarah Brigham of Sycamore Brewing

The guys from Triple C Brewing made the short trip over to Sycamore Brewing on Jan. 22 to brew a beer with their SouthEnd neighbors. It’s the first collaboration beer either brewery has done, as well as the first between two Charlotte breweries (NoDa and OMB still plan to do one later this year).

The beer will be an 8.5 percent, 85 IBU double IPA brewed with Warrior, Citra, Amarillo, Mosaic and Calypso hops. Two dollars from the sale of each beer — which is dubbed “The Boozehound” — will benefit Rescued Me, a local non-profit organization that works to rehabilitate and find homes for dogs.

“We picked this charity because we both love dogs and thought it might encourage people to bring their dogs and make the walk between the two breweries on the light rail trail to try the two beers,” said Chris Harker, founder of Triple C Brewing.

The beer will only be served at the two breweries. While each brewery used their own house yeasts to ferment their respective batches, the beers will be blended together prior to being served. The Boozehound will be tapped on February 14 — which is Valentine’s Day, for all you dog lovers out there.

Where to watch the Carolina Panthers playoff game

New Carolina Panthers LogoLast week, the Panthers beat the Cardinals right here at home, and many celebrated in Bank of America Stadium with lots of local beer. But with an away game in Seattle, where do you go if you want to watch the game with a local beer in hand (beside your couch, of course)? Fortunately many local breweries and bars are offering extended hours and other specials tonight.

The Barking Duck Brewing Co., a nanobrewery in Mint Hill, will be staying open late for the game.  They are pouring their Banamber (Belgian Amber), Halfsies DIPA, Old Fat Sow old ale and Grandma’s Imperial Chocolate Pecan Pie Porter. 

The Beer Growler in SouthEnd is staying up late and showing the game. While they don’t do full pints, you can do flights — and they always have a good selection of local beers among their 45 taps. See their current taplist here.

Brawley’s Beverage will be tapping kegs of Stone Xocoveza Mocha Stout (which was one of my favorite new beers of 2014) at 7 p.m. They will also have a keg of Super IPA, a collaboration between New Belgium and Alpine. They’ll be showing the game on their “HUGE 48 inch tv!

According to the Carolina Beer Temple, they will “on this rare occasion be a sports bar tonight!” That means they’re cranking up the sound on the TV for once, and they’ll have free snacks and stay open until the game is over.

Craft Tasting Room and Growler Shop will be staying open later for the game. Choose from 45 taps of craft beer, with a heavy focus on NC beer.

D9 Brewing in Cornelius will be showing both playoff games today, with Master Bacon food truck parked outside.

Good Bottle Co. will stay open until the end of the game, with $4 drafts from all 12 of their taps (which are all from NC tonight).

Hattie’s Tap and Tavern, a new-ish dive bar with a good selection of craft beer in the Plaza Midwood area, will have free pizza at kickoff (first come, first serve).

Heist Brewery will be airing the game with full sound.

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery will stay open ’til midnight and have the game on.

Salud Beer Shop is no stranger to staying open later, so tonight’s nothing new in that regard. They’ll be showing the game with sound on.

Sugar Creek Brewing will be showing the game on their five big screens, and they’ll stay open ’til the game’s over.

Sycamore Brewing will be staying open late with the game on their three TVs with full sound, with lots of new beers pouring from their 20 taps and Imperial Sandwich parked outside.

Triple C Brewing will stay open late for the game as well. The Winchester-Brooks Duo will play from 4-7 p.m. before the game.

VBGB Beer Hall and Garden will be hosting a watching party starting at 7:45 p.m.

World of Beer SouthEnd will be showing the game, with $4 select drafts.

OMB to release Barrel-Aged Fat Boy Baltic Porter on Saturday, Jan. 24

OMB Fat Boy Baltic Porter 2015

Tickets for The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s release of Fat Boy Baltic Porter on Saturday, Jan. 24 are now on sale at the brewery’s online store. This year’s version of the Baltic porter was aged in Four Roses bourbon barrels. As they’ve done in years past, the brewery will release the beer as part of a big breakfast and bottle share event.

Tickets are $40 and include breakfast, a bomber of the beer, and a keepsake glass filled with a draft of the beer as well. Additional bottles will be $13.99, and there will only be a total of 500 bottles available. Unlike in years past, this beer will not be sold in bottles or available on draft elsewhere.

The breakfast will include a three-cheese and spinach frittata, smoked salmon, assorted bagels and cream cheeses, applewood-smoked bacon, Bratkartoffeln (home fries), Nuremburgers (brat sliders), fresh fruit, biscuits and assorted pastries.

A bottle share will be allowed at the brewery as well, and the doors open at 8 a.m. Purchase your tickets here.

Upcoming Charlotte Beer Festivals

It seems like we just came out of a busy festival season, but there are several upcoming festivals that you’ll want to keep an eye on. 

Queen City Brewers Festival – Saturday, Jan. 31

Now in its fourth year, the Queen City Brewers Festival offers attendees a great selection of beers from Charlotte-area breweries, plus food and other beers from Charlotte exhibitors and restaurants. The festival has moved to the Bojangles’ Coliseum this year, and will have two separate tasting sessions. Choose from 1-4 p.m. or 6-9 p.m., and purchase your tickets here.

Beertopia, A Festival of Beers – Saturday, March 7

For seven years, Grapevine Wine has held the Beertopia beer festival outside of its shop in Fort Mill’s Baxter Village. Each year the brewery and beer list grows, and each year the festival sells out. Tickets are $37 when purchased in January, but jump up to $42 in February and $50 in March. So why not get them early here?

Brawley’s Black and Blue VI – Saturday, March 14

With its mix of rare or one-off beers and bluegrass, Brawley’s Black and Blue is always one of the year’s most popular festivals. But it’s also a smaller event (you can only pack so many beer geeks into the Visulite), and so it’s not surprising that this year’s festival sold out in just a few hours. If you really want to go though, keep an eye out on the relevant social channels as the date approaches — you can often find folks selling tickets at the last minute. Here’s more on this year’s event from Matt McKenzie.

All Ale to the Queen – Saturday, March 28

Just like last year, All Ale to the Queen will close out Charlotte Craft Beer Week (which kicks off on March 20). Tickets go on sale Jan. 12 and are $35 when purchased before Feb. 20. Billed as a “beer carnival,” the event will feature musicians, acrobats, belly dancers, glass eaters, jugglers, hula hoopers and, of course, beer.

Moo and Brew Fest – Saturday, April 11 

Creative Loafing will host its first beer festival when they –with presenting sponsor Stone Brewing — bring the Moo and Brew Craft Beer and Burger Festival to Charlotte’s NC Music Factory on Saturday, April 11. General admission tickets will be $45 and entitle festival goers to unlimited samples of beer from 2-6 p.m., while VIP tickets are $65 and allow early entry from 12:30-2 p.m., as well as burger tastings. Ancient Cities will play the festival, with a national band to be announced soon. Proceeds will benefit Second Harvest Food Bank. Look for tickets soon at mooandbrew.com.

Lenny Boy taps “CABREW Common” on Saturday, Jan. 17

On Saturday, Jan. 17, Lenny Boy Brewing Company will tap a beer they brewed with members of the Cabarrus Homebrewers Society (also known as CABREW). The group of homebrewers visited the brewery last November to help brew CABREW Common, which, as the name suggests, is a California Common-style of beer.

Lenny Boy is the state’s only certified organic microbrewery, and these hops — which were harvested from the CABREW Organic Hop Project at the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm in Concord — are organic as well.

Members of CABREW participated in the entire brewing process, including the addition of their homegrown Cascade, Chinook and Nugget hops. The homebrewers were then able to take some of the unfermented beer (called wort) home with them so that they could put their own unique stamp on the beer by experimenting with different yeasts, or by adding additional hops or other ingredients.

You’ll be able to try samples of these homebrewed versions in the back of the brewery, where the homebrewers will be gathered. Samples are free, but donations to the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm are encouraged.

In addition to the homebrews, you will be able to purchase two different versions of Lenny Boy’s CABREW Common: the first was fermented with saison yeast, while the second used a dry English yeast with fruitier notes.

The beers will be available as soon as they open at noon. A food truck will be parked outside from 4-9 p.m.

Opening Soon: Nanos in Huntersville and Cornelius

        Primal Brewery

Two new nanos are opening north of Charlotte this weekend.

Huntersville will get its first brewery when Primal Brewery opens their doors at noon this Friday, Dec. 26. The new brewery is located at 16432 Old Statesville Rd. in Huntersville. They will be pouring their IPA, a brown ale, an adjunct lager called “Lawnboy,” and two others called “Sweet Lou” and “Obsidian.”

Bayne Brewing, which I first wrote about back in September, will open at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 27 in Cornelius at 19507 West Catawba Ave., Suite I. They’re brewing on a two-barrel system. This will make them the third brewery in Cornelius, where they will join Ass Clown Brewing and D9 Brewing. For the grand opening, they’ll have the Smokey J’s BBQ food truck in the parking lot.

Olde Hickory Event Horizon release parties at Duckworth’s on Monday, Dec. 22

Olde Hickory Event Horizon

As they do every year, Duckworth’s will be holding release parties for Event Horizon, Olde Hickory’s popular bourbon barrel-aged stout. There will be two separate releases — one at the Park Rd. location, and one at the Duckworth’s in Huntersville — but both will kick off at 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 22.

While one of the biggest draws of the release is the ability to grab some bottles of the beer, Duckworth’s always adds to the occasion by tapping various vintages of the beer and allowing for a bottle share — and this year is no exception. They will sell bottles of this year’s Event Horizon as well as last year’s (with a six-bottle limit per person). They will also be selling vertical packages that have 2012, 2013 and 2014 vintages (this is the only way to purchase a 2012 bottle). In addition to all of this, they will also be selling 2014 Lindley Park (two bottles per person).

Both Huntersville and Park Rd. will be pouring 2013 and 2014 Event Horizon, and both will have a cask of 2014 Event Horizon with vanilla beans and Intelligentsia coffee. In addition, each location will have their own unique cask as well: for Huntersville, it’s a cask of 2014 Event Horizon with only vanilla beans; for Park Rd., it means a cask of 2014 Event Horizon with vanilla beans plus cinnamon.

As mentioned before, they are also encouraging people to bring bottles to share as well.

Festivus Party at Brawley’s Beverage on Tuesday, Dec. 23

Brawley's BeverageIf like Seinfeld’s Frank Costanza you, too, have had it up to here with Christmas, you’ll want to head to Brawley’s Beverage on Tuesday, Dec. 23 (the date referenced in Seinfeld) for a Festivus party. Yes, there will be a metal pole, and Brawley also promises an “airing of grievances” and “feats of strength.” But after all that, you’ll be able to enjoy the following beers: Great Lakes Christmas Ale, Fullsteam First Frost, Bell’s Christmas Ale, Sierra Nevada Celebration, Olde Hickory Event Horizon and Olde Mecklenburg Yule Bock. The party starts at 6:30 p.m., and lasts until you pin someone down during the feats of strength.