Founders Brewing Beer Dinner in The Cellar at Duckworth’s Uptown

Sorry, but this beer dinner is sold out. 

The top two floors of Duckworth’s Uptown have now been open almost three months. Now, the new bar and restaurant is ready to open The Cellar for a five-course beer dinner with Founders Brewing Co. at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26. In attendance will be Jeremy Kosmicki, Founders’ brewmaster and the man whose name is on every bottle of KBS as “the amazing Kosmicki.”

The idea behind The Cellar, Rob Duckworth told me in February, is to offer a more intimate environment that caters to diehard beer geeks. Gone are the TVs that are so prominent upstairs. There are two 50″ screens, but they display information about the 20 beers on tap in The Cellar (including the ABV, the style, how much is left in the keg, etc.).

The beers down in the cellar are served in style-specific glassware, and at the appropriate temperatures. And The Cellar will offer a different menu than the floors above it, focusing on local ingredients and small plates.

Tickets to the Founders dinner are $50, with only 35 available. Call 980-939-1166 to order.

Here’s what they have planned for the Founders Brewing dinner on Tuesday, May 26.

First course:
Devil Dancer
Buttermilk Orange Shrimp Waffle Cone
Garlic Marmalade, Cilantro, Coconut

Second course: 
Backwoods Bastard
Espresso Rubbed Lamb Carpaccio
Cured beets, Backwoods Bastard Mustard, Parmesan

Third course: 
Randallized Mosaic Promise
Herb Crisp Local NC Tilefish
Octopus, Succotash, Bottarga Dust

Fourth course: 
BLiS Blast All Day IPA
BLiS Blast Lacquered Pork Belly
Pickled Pineapple, Lentils, Sundried Tomato

Fifth course: 
KBS
Chocolate Glazed Walnut Tort
KBS Ganache Glaze, House Marshmallow, Charred Banana

Next Triple C Brewing Release is “Kind Of A Big Deal”

At noon this Saturday, May 23, Triple C Brewing will release the latest bottle to come from its growing barrel-aging program. Dubbed “Kind Of A Big Deal,” the beer is an imperial honey wheat ale that aged for six months in bourbon barrels and rested on tart cherries in the brite tank.

The beer will be available on draft and in 22-ounce bottles, which will retail for $14 with a case limit. Bottles will start hitting area beer stores the following Monday.

Triple C Brewing Kind of a Big Deal

 

 

Shuttle to the State of Origin Festival in Morganton on June 13

Fonta Flora Brewery State of Origin FestivalLast year, Fonta Flora Brewery in Morganton held their first State of Origin Festival. Every brewery in attendance brought at least one beer that incorporated ingredients grown in North Carolina.

This year’s festival will take place on Saturday, June 13, once again returning to Morganton’s courthouse square. The festival grew out of Fonta Flora’s commitment to brewing with locally-grown ingredients, whether that means grain from Asheville’s Riverbend Malt House or kiwi fruit grown in NC (no, I didn’t know we could grow kiwi fruit in NC either).

This year, they have upped the ante. Instead of having breweries bring just one beer brewed with local “flora or fauna,” all of the beers must be brewed with ingredients grown in North Carolina.

Nineteen NC breweries (and one cidery) have answered the call. Several Charlotte breweries will be in attendance, including Birdsong, Free Range, Lenny Boy, Triple C Brewing and Salud Beer Shop (which will soon start brewing at Benford Brewing in Lancaster, SC).

General admission tickets, which get you in at 3 p.m., are $40. VIP tickets are $60, and allow you in at 1:30 p.m. Both can be purchased here.

Morganton’s a short drive from Charlotte, but if you don’t have a designated driver you might be interested to know that Honey Bees Events will charter a 57-passenger bus that will leave Charlotte at 11 a.m. and return to the Queen City later that night. Tickets for the shuttle are $125, which includes a VIP ticket and round-trip transportation to and from Charlotte, as well as bottled water and snacks along the way.

Nepal Earthquake Relief Fundraiser at Sugar Creek Brewing – Thurs., May 7

Sugar Creek Brewing Fundraiser

When a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal last month, it hit home for one of Sugar Creek Brewing’s employees. Tsering Sherpa is from Kathmandu, and her home village — where many of her family members still live — was leveled.

Sugar Creek initially wanted to raise funds to send Sherpa home, however the infrastructure of the country has been so damaged that she worried about getting back. As a result, the brewery has decided to raise funds for the American Red Cross on Thursday, May 7. The brewery will donate 20 percent of all sales from that day — including food, beer and merchandise — to the American Red Cross Nepal Earthquake Disaster Relief Fund.

The event kicks off at 4 p.m. in the taproom. At 5 p.m., Rachel Allen — a representative from the Charlotte Metro Chapter of the American Red Cross — will speak about how the funds will be used. At 5:30 p.m., Caleb Davis will play live music.

The brewery is accepting donations for two brewery tours, one at 5:15 p.m. and the other at 7 p.m.

Sugar Creek Brewing hopes to raise $1,000 through the event. If you would prefer to donate online, you can do so here.

The Unknown Brewing Co. to release cans of Pre-Game Session Ale

The Unknown Brewing Co. announced today plans to release Pre-Game Session Ale in cans. It will be the second of the brewery’s year-round beers in cans, following in the footsteps of the brewery’s Over the Edge IPA.

You could see six-packs of the beer out in stores as early as this weekend, with more coming next week. Suggested MSRP is $8.99 a six-pack.

Unknown Brewing Pre-Game Session Ale

Photo courtesy The Unknown Brewing Co.

Try “Repack Your Pipe” at JJ’s Red Hots May 4-10

JJs Red Hots Brew Dog Repack Your Pipe

A couple years ago, JJ’s Red Hots graciously invited me to build my very own “Dog of the Week.” My creation, appropriately dubbed “Put That In Your Pipe,” featured  smoked bacon, smoked cheddar, smoked jalapeno ketchup and red onions. It was one of the best-selling dogs of the week at the time, and it made an appearance in their Brew Dogs series last year as well.

This series, which features dogs built by brewers, shop owners and others in the local beer scene, is back — and with it comes a new twist on Put That In Your Pipe. My focus is still on the smoke, with Repack Your Pipe featuring beer cheese made with Triple C Brewing’s Smoked Amber, andouille and bacon mash also made with that beer, and a smoked jalapeño relish on top.

The dog’s only available for one week, from Monday, May 4 to Sunday, May 10. Whomever has the best-selling Brew Dog wins a trophy, a party, and bragging rights. It’s that last one I’m really after. so if you can swing by this week to try a Repack Your Pipe, I’d certainly appreciate it. And let me know what you think!

 

NoDa Brewing to release NoDajito in cans this month

NoDa Brewing NoDajito Cans

Tomorrow is Derby Day, and would-be mixologists everywhere are buying handfuls of mint with which to craft their own mint juleps.

NoDa Brewing has mint on the mind as well, but for a different reason. Today, they released the can design for NoDajito, which should hit shelves the week of May 18th.

This is the third in the brewery’s line of seasonal cans, following December’s Hoppy Holidays and February’s Hop Cakes. As you would expect from the name, NoDajito is a Mojito-inspired witbier brewed with mint leaves and lime zest. Four-packs of the beer should retail for $9.99.

And if you, too, fancy yourself something of a mixologist, why not make your own version of what NoDa Brewing calls its Thin Mint. Simply mix equal parts NoDajito and Coco Loco (which is also in cans now) and you have a dark, minty blend that rivals the Girl Scout cookies for which its named.

Grand Opening for Salud Beer Shop’s “FūD at Salud”

Tonight, Salud Beer Shop will hold a grand opening celebration for its new deli space called FūD at Salud.

If you missed it, check out my Charlotte Observer article on Jason Glunt’s new venture for a little more on what you can expect. Or, better yet, head out tonight for an “old school playlist and great taplist,” the latter of which you can see below.

Fud at Salud Salud Beer Shop Grand Opening

 

North Carolina Breweries and Distributors Battle Over Bills

The e-mail was meant for employee eyes only.

It was sent by Chris Caffey, president and CEO of Greensboro-based Caffey Distributing (as well as Carolina Premium Beverage and Craft Central, their new craft-focused division). Caffey began his e-mail by explaining to his employees that two bills — House Bill 278 and House Bill 625 — would soon be considered by the NC House committee for alcoholic beverage control.

He asked them to visit www.ncbeerjobs.com and sign the petition, using their company e-mail address. They would later receive a “call to action” with further instructions.

That e-mail would eventually find its way out of the employee list and into the inboxes of several local brewers, who asked not to be identified. But on Tuesday, the word about www.ncbeerjobs.com was out. And some of the state’s brewers weren’t happy about it.

In recent years, brewers in states like South Carolina and Georgia have published similar sites (www.scbeerjobs.com and www.gabeerjobs.com, respectively). Those sites were done in the interest of the states’ brewers, advocating that they be allowed to sell pints directly to the public. On first glance, one might think the same of the similarly-named North Carolina version, which in large, block letters asks visitors to, “Protect North Carolina Beer Jobs.”

The jobs the site aims to protect, however, are not those of brewers but distributors. The website’s text alleges that House Bills 278 and 625 “are misguided attacks on North Carolina jobs and workers” that would create “an unfair, competitive advantage for a select few who want to do an end-around of the state’s regulatory system.”

At this point it is unclear who put up the site. Chris Caffey denies any involvement in its creation. Tim Kent, the executive director of the North Carolina Beer and Wine Wholesalers association, simply stated that the site resembled those campaigning for beer jobs in South Carolina and Georgia.

House Bills 278 and 625

In North Carolina, breweries are currently allowed to self-distribute their beer up until they reach an annual production of 25,000 barrels of beer. Once they eclipse that amount, by law they must sign over their brands to a wholesaler, who will then control the sales, marketing and distribution of their beers.

The bills in question would change that. If passed, House Bill 278 would quadruple the amount of beer a brewery could produce before signing with a distributor, raising the cap from 25,000 barrels to 100,000 barrels. House Bill 625 seeks to allow contract brewing in North Carolina and to allow breweries to serve unfortified wine, but there is also language in this bill regarding self-distribution. This bill would retain the current cap at 25,000 barrels, however it would make an amendment that would exempt any beer sold at the brewery’s taproom from counting against that cap.

“Our association is strongly opposed to the expansion of self-distribution,” wrote Kent in an e-mail.

The Select Few

Very few of the state’s 130 breweries produce more than 25,000 barrels a year, and most of those that do — brands like Highland Brewing, Natty Greene’s Brewing and Foothills Brewing — signed on with distributors well before reaching that cap. Many brewers prefer to focus on what they do best, and have someone else focus on the distribution side of things.

There are several breweries that could approach the 25,000-barrel production amount in the next year or so. The “select few” as referred to on the www.ncbeerjobs.com site might refer to breweries like Red Oak Brewery, Wicked Weed Brewing, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and NoDa Brewing Co. All four of these breweries have been outspoken in the past about the desire to continue distributing their beers even after hitting 25,000 barrels. NoDa Brewing is on track to produce 14,000 barrels of beer this year, and could hit 20,000 next year when they are operating out a new 32,000-square-foot production brewery.

“It’s a very inefficient way to distribute beer,” said Todd Ford, who owns NoDa Brewing in Charlotte with his wife, Suzie. “But what we lose in efficiency, we gain in customer support and customer knowledge. It’s so much better to deal with a person who has a name and a face. They know they can call my cell phone or Suzie’s and have a resolution right away, rather than someone who has 35 stops a day. Often distributors don’t understand all the products in the truck because they have so many brands to represent.”

Jobs in Jeopardy

Ford was taken aback when he first saw www.ncbeerjobs.com.

“I’m a realist,” he said. “I know how business works. I know how campaign contributions and lobbying work. But I guess what most disappoints me about this is that it’s so misleading. It talks about how my company and Red Oak, Wicked Weed and others are jeopardizing jobs.”

The site does allege that passing these bills would “create an unlevel playing field in an otherwise highly-competitive beer industry while threatening the livelihood of 1000’s of North Carolina workers.” It then goes on to mention the 544 workers employed at the MillerCoors plant in Eden.

That point was lost on Ford.

“How is it that me self-distributing jeopardizes the jobs of people that already work at MillerCoors?” he asked.

Ford began to talk about the implications on his own sales staff, which has grown tremendously since the business opened almost four years ago. With their new brewery opening later this year, they expect that number to only grow larger.

“Ultimately they’re the ones whose jobs are in jeopardy,” he said, before hesitating. “And I don’t even want to talk about that because I don’t want to scare them.”

That point is echoed by Margo Knight Metzger, executive director of the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild. She notes that breweries like The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte have invested heavily not only in their staff, but in fleets of the delivery trucks they use to distribute their beer.

“When they hit that cap all of a sudden, what happens?” she asked. “Are they just supposed to liquidate it? Are they supposed to lay off all of those people? If you have to turn that business over, they’re going to lose their jobs. Craft brewers are the job creators in this state. Our breweries are growing by leaps and bounds, hiring people in communities across the state and contributing in a big way to our economy.”

Metzger also notes that distributors play a vital role for craft brewers across North Carolina.

“We’re not foes,” said Metzger. “Craft brewers have successful relationships with distributors all over the state. That’s been the case for 20 plus years. We commend them as our partners in helping craft beer grow in North Carolina. But there are several breweries that prefer a different business model. We feel it ought to be a business decision, not an arbitrary cap.”

And Caffey, whose distributorship represents a variety of craft breweries, agrees.

“I think there are some out there that want to make the story that beer distributors don’t want to grow craft beer or want to see craft brewers do well, that we’re trying to keep them down,” said Caffey. “That’s just not true. I think sometimes it gets blown out of proportion and taken out of context.”

North Carolina’s “Best in the South” Beer Laws

Caffey is quick to point out that he is not behind the NC beer jobs site, even if he shares some of the viewpoints voiced there. He echoes the site’s statements that North Carolina has some of the most favorable and progressive beer-related laws, and that these laws can be credited with helping many breweries succeed. He notes that the state has passed and amended many new laws in recent years, from allowing breweries to open restaurants to allowing breweries to opt out of distributor agreements.

The state also raised the self-distribution cap once back in 2003, largely at the request of Red Oak Brewery. The cap has been set at 25,000 barrels ever since, despite the state’s breweries growing at a rapid rate. North Carolina’s brewers have not been fighting the same laws that have plagued breweries in South Carolina, Georgia or Florida.

“Yes, it’s true that we have the best beer laws in the south,” said Metzger. “But why in the world would we want to be the best of the worst when it comes to that? We have the potential to be the best on the East Coast, but not if we sit here and are satisfied with being the best in the south.”

Like Caffey, she notes that the state does have some progressive laws in place for breweries, which is why businesses like Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and New Belgium Brewing decided to locate their East Coast breweries in the state. But if breweries are to continue growing, she says, then North Carolina’s beer laws have to change with the times.

“We’re the best in the south because we’ve made some progressive changes,” Metzger said. “For our craft brewers who are working based on a set of rules and regulations that date back to 1983, we need our laws to evolve with this industry. When most of these laws were written, there weren’t many craft breweries in North Carolina. I think it’s fair for us to advocate for some measured changes that help craft breweries grow.”

When asked if more progressive laws could again lead to growth, Caffey paused for a moment before responding.

“Look, some of my distributor peers would cringe at me saying this,” he said. “But raising the cap? There’s not a strong argument against it as long as you maintain some of the integrity and ensure it maintains a competitive market.”

The Three-Tier System

The three-tier system — which delineates between breweries, distributors and retailers — was instituted after the repeal of Prohibition. The system was created to ensure a separation of those three parties, so that breweries couldn’t own bars (this was called a tied house) and so that distributors couldn’t sell the alcohol. The specific laws regarding this three-tier system vary from state to state.

Despite his obvious objections to House Bills 278 and 625, Caffey says he is not completely averse to allowing breweries to distribute past the 25,000-barrel mark.

“I’m a free market kind of guy,” Caffey said. “I think we’re the most efficient, best way to market for a brewer. I personally can’t understand why someone who wants to grow would choose a different route of market. If there’s a way to maintain the integrity of that system and allow them to supply their products if they want to, then have at it.”

Kent voiced some of those concerns in an e-mail: “The three-tier system exists to promote excise tax compliance, product safety, fair competition in the marketplace, and responsible consumption. Our association is firmly against the erosion of those principles.”

The integrity of that system is not in question, according to Metzger.

“We’re not interested in dismantling the three-tier system,” she said. “We just feel like 25,000 barrels is not sufficient and there has got to be some breathing room. Our laws need to evolve with this growing industry.”

The Future of House Bills 278 and 625

Suzie Ford of NoDa Brewing and John Marrino, the founder of The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, have been vocal in asking for proponents of these bills to write into their elected officials, and Jonathan Wells has a form e-mail over at Creative Loafing.

Right now, both House Bill 278 and House Bill 625 have been referred to the committee on alcoholic beverage control. Any bills that do not move from committee and pass one of the chambers by April 30 will not be able to be passed this year, though they could be taken up next year.

 

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. UPDATE: Due to the threat of inclement weather, this one has been postponed until May 31. 

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.