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.

Triple C Brewing to release Chocolate Covered Pretzel Stout on Saturday, Feb. 21

Triple C Brewing Chocolate Covered Pretzel Stout

This Saturday, Feb. 21, Triple C Brewing is releasing bottles of its Chocolate Covered Pretzel Stout at the taproom when they open at noon. They will retail for $14 a piece there, and will hit area bottle shops beginning the following Monday.

The chocolate component of the beer is derived from cacao nibs. And the pretzels? No, the guys at Triple C Brewing didn’t just sling a bag of Snyder’s into the mash. Instead, they mimicked the toasty, bready flavor of pretzels by using German Pilsner, Special B, White Wheat and Chocolate Wheat in the grain bill. It’s not as easy to replicate the saltiness, though, and so Triple C ended up adding the salt to the boil and to the brite tank. To top it all off, the beer also spent time in bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill distilleries.

This beer is the latest to come out of the brewery’s barrel program, which last year produced The Dude Imbibes, The Force (a rum barrel-aged Tripel), Barrel-Aged Up All Night, and Barrel-Aged Imperial Smoked Amber. In addition to their growing collection of barrels, the brewery is in the midst of an expansion that includes a grain silo, chiller, mill room, additional fermenting tanks and a canning line. The first beers packaged on that line will be 3C IPA and Golden Boy Blonde Ale, cans for which are already in the building.

The Unknown Brewing Co.’s Birthday Celebration – Saturday, Feb. 21

The Unknown Brewing Co. will celebrate their first year with a birthday bash from 4-10 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 21. Admission to this event is $10, which gets you a pint of your choice (part of the proceeds will also go to the Shepard’s Center for Spinal Research). Live music will be on hand thanks to Radio Lola, Bubonik Funk and Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, and The Tin Kitchen, Masterbacon and Bleu Barn Bistro food trucks will be parked outside.

In addition to their core beers, founder Brad Shell has brewed up a few specialty beers for the event. Some of these beers may not be ready by this Saturday, so the following list is tentative:

  • A nitro tap of Krash the Kremlin Russian Imperial Stout
  • A cask of Silverback Stout
  • Barrel-Aged Teleporter
  • Scratch and Sniff Session IPA
  • Fire Down Below Sriracha Amber
  • Tickle My Belly Raspberry Wheat Sour
  • Mole Stout (as in the sauce, not the animal)
  • Snowball’s Chance in Hell, a white IPA brewed with habanero peppers
  • You’re An Oxymoron, the “world’s first session barleywine.”
  • Foxy Cleopatra, a light brown wheat ale with chocolate and cinnamon
  • Battle o’ the Shirts Scotch Ale (this will be the brewery’s next big batch)

Unknown Brewing Birthday

Abari Game Bar coming to NoDa

Abari Game Bar Charlotte

Get your quarters ready: Abari Game Bar is set to open this April at 1721 North Davidson St. in NoDa.

“I love games,” said founder Zach Pulliam. “I’ve loved them my entire life. After I saw the original Barcade in Brooklyn, I knew this is something I would love to do.”

Brooklyn’s Barcade opened in 2004 and is just one of the many bar arcades that have been popping up all over the nation, allowing visitors to enjoy today’s craft beer with yesterday’s arcade games. The idea of starting a bar arcade has weighed heavily on Pulliam’s mind for some time, and he has finally decided to open one of his own after talking with others who have done the same (such as Joystick Gamebar in Atlanta).

Located between NoDa Brewing and Birdsong Brewing’s new, yet-to-open brewery, Abari will fill its eight taps with beers from Charlotte breweries as well as others across North Carolina. They will also offer cocktails.

And the games? Pulliam plans to have a mix of 20 arcades and pinball machines, with most from the late ’70s up into the early ’90s. There’s a Turtles in Time arcade, which I remember playing quite a bit of back in the day. Ms. Pac-Man and Baby Pac-Man, too. And if you’re more of a pinball wizard, there’s Whirlwind, Nightmare on Elm Street and X-Men machines waiting for you.

Speaking of X-Men, one of the games Pulliam is most excited about is a six-player X-Men arcade game.

To see Abari Game Bar’s progress before their (anticipated) April opening, follow them on Facebook. You can also visit their website, though right now you’ll just find their logo and some Super Mario Bros. sound effects sure to trigger a wave of nostalgia.

Charlotte breweries compete at Battle of the Brews on April 18

Battle of the Brews Charlotte

The Battle of the Brews, presented by The 704 Project, will take place on Saturday, April 18 from 3-6 p.m. The event is similar to a typical beer festival, but with a twist: attendees get to vote on their favorite beers, and the brewery with the most votes will receive a $1,000 cash prize and a title belt.

The event was first held back in October 2012 at All American Pub. This year it will be held at 100 W. Park Ave., which is the lot where SouthEnd’s popular Food Truck Friday events are held. And there will be food trucks at the Battle of the Brews, as well as live music, local artists and other exhibitors. The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery won the inaugural event and opted to donate its $1,000 prize back to Charlotte Public Tree Fund, which was the charity The 704 Project was sponsoring that year.

This year, all proceeds will benefit Charlotte’s Friendship Gardens. The 704 Project is “a social giving circle, founded to inspire philanthropy and promote community engagement in the Charlotte area through collective event fund raisers and cooperative service opportunities.”

Tickets are $40 and available here. You can find more information at the Battle of the Brews website.

A Letter from Brad Shell, founder of The Unknown Brewing Co.

The Unknown Brewing Co. will celebrate their one-year anniversary from 4-10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21. There will be new beers, food trucks, live music and more. Founder Brad Shell has been thinking about the last year and asked that I share the following letter.

A letter to Charlotte Craft Beer

As we come up on our one year anniversary, I reflect back on the year it’s been. In some ways, it seems like yesterday that we were rolling bright green paint on taproom floors. In other ways, it seems like 10 years ago when those trucks full of shiny tanks arrived. We wanted nothing more than to get open, start making great beer, and start growing…not to mention we needed to pay some overdue rent.

Looking back, perhaps in our haste to get going we made our share of mistakes. If you have met me, I’m a big loud guy. I have been accused once or twice of being over confident… in almost everything I do. I wish I started this out a little more humble. We expected to brew world class product from the start. What we brewed was decent, but not at a level I or you would consider top shelf… on day one. It took us time to dial in a new system, hire and train employees and fine tune the team. People expected “Unknown” recipes- including sours, experimentals, and barrel-aged brews. Instead of brewing these right off the bat, I wanted to first dial in the problems with the system and then start pushing those limits little by little.

Even with the stumbles, I believe we have risen from these challenges to where we are now. I could not be more proud of the beer that our team makes for you. Our core products are now dialed in and we are opening up our creative minds to brew experimentals, barrel-aging, and yes…. sours. We have revamped our taproom to include a better feel, new seating, an arcade room, and a 6ft chrome hop chandelier. We are hopeful that if your first impression of our products was, how do I say this…less than world class, that you will give us another try.

The one thing that has stayed constant is our drive to share our culture. We encourage everyone to follow their passion, to do things that may scare them, and to live without boundaries. Sometimes this may get us the “gimmick” label. But, we truly believe in a lifestyle where you should strive to never live the same day twice. I am writing this to you because you are our customers, our neighbors, and members of a vibrant craft community. I will keep fighting to make this an even better brewery and to continue supporting this community which allows us to grow. I truly thank all of you for your support in our first year! We are proud to call Charlotte home among all of these great breweries and awesome people!

Cheers!

Brad Shell

Owner/Head Brewer

NoDa Brewing Releases Hop Cakes Cans on Feb. 9

NoDa Brewing Hop Cakes Can NoDa Brewing will release four-pack cans of Hop Cakes, a double IPA brewed with maple syrup, at the taproom this Monday, Feb. 9. The cans will be distributed around town starting the next day, but if you want to try it on tap head to the brewery this Friday, Feb. 6 (kegs, too, will make their way to area bars next week). This beer first appeared as a small-batch NoDable beer almost three years ago when head brewer Chad Henderson interrupted a lumberjack convention to tell them about the beer. The brewery has since brewed larger amounts and had it on tap at the brewery, though not often. This will be the first time they have packaged the beer. This is the second in the brewery’s line of specialty cans. The first, Hoppy Holidays, was released last December. Though it was distributed to many bottle shops around town, Hoppy Holidays didn’t last long on the shelves. At more than 3,000 four-packs, Hop Cakes will be much more plentiful than Hoppy Holidays. Still, it’s limited. I’d recommend trying to find it sooner rather than later, as it’s sure to sell like — well, you know.

Queen City Q celebrates three years with Birdsong’s Susie Q Smoked IPA

Birdsong Brewing Charlotte NCQueen City Q will celebrate their third birthday this Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. with the special release of Susie Q Smoked IPA, which was brewed for them by Birdsong. The beer, which was brewed with malt smoked at Queen City Q, is named after the owner of the barbecue restaurant.

Pints of this limited beer will be $4 while they last. Birdsong is the current brewery of the month at Queen City Q, where you can have pints of their beer for $4 all month and $2.50 on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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.