Brawley’s Beverage events: Sierra Nevada’s anniversary, Cheers Charlotte, Black and Blue 7

Brawley's Beverage

(Photo courtesy Brawley’s Beverage)

Brawley’s Beverage opened its tasting room a little more than a year ago, and they have been celebrating ever since. The tasting room has allowed the longtime Charlotte beer destination to host a variety of events over the last year, and things aren’t slowing down as we head into the holidays.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This Saturday, Nov. 14, Brawley’s is celebrating the 35th anniversary of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. And, as they are wont to do, they’re digging into the archives in honor of one of the nation’s oldest craft breweries. Starting at 11 a.m., they’ll be tapping the following kegs throughout the day:

  • Grand Cru Strong Ale (30th anniversary beer brewed in 2010)
  • Fritz and Ken’s Ale Imperial Stout (30th anniversary beer brewed in 2010)
  • Jack and Ken’s Ale Barleywine (30th anniversary beer brewed in 2010)
  • Charlie, Fred and Ken’s Bock (30th anniversary beer brewed in 2010)
  • Life and Limb Strong Ale (Batch two from 2011)
  • Maillard’s Odyssey Imperial Dark Ale (a collaboration with Bell’s Brewery from last year’s Beer Camp Across America pack)
  • Blue Baltic Porter
  • Ovila Abbey Dubbel
  • Ovila Abbey Golden with Pomegranate
  • Narwhal Imperial Stout (Vintage)
  • Bigfoot Barleywine (Vintage)

See what I mean about “digging into the archives?” It seems like just yesterday Michael Brawley was pulling out nearly 20 years of Anchor Our Special Ale for the Cheers Charlotte Christmas party (tasting notes on a few of those vintages can be found in this Charlotte Observer article). And while Brawley’s Beverage won’t be unveiling another two-decade collection of Christmas beers this year, they will once again be celebrating with the guys from Cheers Charlotte, a local podcast on beer (and other good drinks and food) in the Queen City.

This year’s Cheers Charlotte Christmas party will take place from 6-11 p.m. at Brawley’s on Saturday, Dec. 5. That date marks the 82nd anniversary of the repeal of that noble experiment called Prohibition. The big beers routinely poured at Brawley’s fly in the face of Prohibition, but that’s not to say everything is Pollyanna today. Literature about “Prohibition-era alcohol laws” will be on hand, and they are trying to get local brewery owners in the shop to talk about some of these issues (which I imagine will focus heavily on North Carolina’s self-distribution cap).

The taplist for the event is still being finalized, but they will be pulling out a keg of Founders Brewing’s Nemesis 2010. This 12 percent black barleywine is one of the shop’s rarest kegs, according to Shane Icenhour at Brawley’s. Look for more information on that party in the coming weeks.

Finally, Brawley’s Beverage has announced that tickets for Black and Blue 7  — held on Saturday, March 5 — will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 24 at The Visulite’s website. You can enter to win a couple free tickets by tagging two friends in the comments of this Instagram photo. The winner of those tickets will be announced on Nov. 25.


OMB’s Mecktoberfest wins gold at the European Beer Star International Competition


(Photo courtesy The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery)

(Photo courtesy The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery)

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (OMB) announced today that its Mecktoberfest won a gold medal in the German-style Märzen category at the European Beer Star International Competition on Oct. 9.

This was the first year the brewery has entered the competition, which this year received 1,957 entries from 45 different countries. This is not the first time they’ve received an award for Mecktoberfest, however. The brewery took silver at the Great American Beer Festival in 2012. But for a brewery that prides itself on brewing German styles of beer, this one was even better.

“This is our GABF,” said Ryan Self, director of sales for The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. “It’s the equivalent of like an American brewer winning for a double IPA or an imperial stout as for us to go to Germany and win for an Oktoberfest. There’s just no greater honor for us.”

The German-style Märzen category in this competition, which has been held in Germany since 2003, has typically been dominated by German brewers. Last year, German breweries nabbed the gold, silver and bronze in those categories. The same was true in 2013. And 2012. To find a non-German medal-winning brewery, you have to go back to 2011, when Shiner Oktoberfest took silver (that beer also took gold the year before that).

“They pretty much had complete dominance in this category,” said Self.

It’s not a matter of American breweries just not entering the competition, as last year big name breweries like Stone Brewing, Firestone Walker, Sierra Nevada, Ballast Point, Rogue, Oskar Blues and Dogfish Head took home medals. But for the most part, these were in categories like India pale ale and imperial stout. So while Mecktoberfest winning isn’t quite on the level of the Judgment of Paris — wherein French judges deemed California wines superior in a blind tasting — it’s very much in the same vein.

John Marrino accepts the gold medal at the European Beer Star competition.

John Marrino accepts the gold medal in Germany on Nov. 11. (Photo courtesy John Marrino)

The news comes as OMB is transitioning away from Mecktoberfest and into its Dunkel and Bauern Bock. The brewery is down to only six kegs of Mecktoberfest in the taproom, where they’ll be pouring half-pint samples of the beer starting at noon this Friday, Nov. 13.

The beer will also be available in OMB’s new Harvest Packs, which include two bottles of Mecktoberfest, two bottles of Copper and two bottles of Bauern Bock (that pack is the only way to acquire bottles of Bauern Bock this year).

New Bottles from Unknown Brewing Co. and Birdsong Brewing

We’re halfway through October, which means Halloween is just a couple weeks away. If you’re going to release a beer imploring people to murder clowns, now’s the time to do it.

Or at least that’s the tongue-in-cheek message behind The Unknown Brewing Co.’s latest bottle release, “Rise Against Clowns.” The beer is inspired by founder Brad Shell’s hatred for clowns. No, not a fear — this is a brewery whose mantra it is to encourage others to face their fears. We’re talking a serious disdain here.

That’s why Shell teamed up with Florida’s 7venth Sun Brewing to brew Rise Against Clowns, a barrel-aged sour beer brewed with blood oranges and floss sugar (which is what’s used to create cotton candy). The beer is fermented completely with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast that can contribute tart or funky flavors. In a press release, the brewery summed the resulting beer up thusly:

“The blood oranges give it a pop of citrus flavor and the cotton candy gets fermented out leaving a subtle vanilla finish. The end result is like a Brett orange creamsicle.”

Unknown Brewing Rise Against Clowns

Wax-dipped bottles of the beer will be available in the taproom starting today (Thursday, Oct. 15). Nose-spiked knife and cymbal-banging monkey, however, are not included.

But if it’s monkeys you want, you’re in luck. Today Birdsong Brewing is releasing the latest in its Take Flight series, Mongeese on Monkeys. The beer is an imperial version of the brewery’s Lazy Bird Brown Ale that has aged in barrels that once held Muddy River Distillery’s Queen Charlotte’s Rum. Bottles are $14, and there is a four-bottle limit per person.

Mongeese on Monkeys


Sycamore and Triple C win medals at the Great American Beer Festival

Sycamore Brewing

Sycamore Brewing won a bronze medal for its Southern Girl Lager at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. Pictured from left to right: Jordy Smith (Brewery Operations Manager), Justin Brigham (Owner & Brewer), and Andrew Viapiano (Head Brewer). (Photo courtesy Sycamore Brewing)

The Great American Beer Festival is about the closest thing you can get to a Super Bowl for brewers.

Held every year in Denver, Colorado, the three-day event includes an awards ceremony in which breweries receive gold, silver, or bronze medals across nearly every style of beer imaginable. And if you weren’t streaming this ceremony live today like myself and so many others, I’m pleased to tell you that Charlotte’s Sycamore Brewing and Triple C Brewing both took home some hardware.

I likened the event to the Super Bowl, but of course that’s a bit of hyperbole. Seeing our hometown brewers win wouldn’t be like watching the Carolina Panthers hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Rather, it’s more like knowing Cam Newton or Luke Kuechly before they were national names.

Scott Kimball Triple C Brewing

Scott Kimball, head brewer at Triple C Brewing, wearing his bronze medal for 3C IPA. (Photo by Scott Kimball)

And that’s how I always feel whenever breweries from Charlotte or across North Carolina win medals, whether at the Great American Beer Festival or any other awards ceremony. There’s a sense of pride in watching the people who you’ve seen working hard for years being recognized for their efforts. I’m never surprised to hear of these breweries winning (here in Charlotte, for example, we knew how good NoDa Brewing’s Hop, Drop ‘n Roll was before it won a gold medal at last year’s World Beer Cup), but that doesn’t make it any less exciting.

So I got to live vicariously through these breweries during the awards ceremony earlier, when I heard Sycamore Brewing win a bronze in the American Style Light Lager category for their Southern Girl Lager. Shortly thereafter, their neighbors at Triple C Brewing won a bronze in the Strong American Pale Ale category for their 3C IPA.

North Carolina on the whole represented well this year, with breweries from the Old North State taking home eight medals total. In addition to the aforementioned two, the following breweries won for these beers:

  • Fonta Flora Brewery Beets, Rhymes and Life won gold in the Field Beer category.
  • Duck-Rabbit Brewery Märzen won bronze in the German-Style Märzen category.
  • Duck-Rabbit Baltic Porter won bronze in the Baltic-Style Porter category.
  • Wicked Weed Brewing Pernicious won silver in the American-Style India Pale Ale category.
  • Gibb’s Hundred Brewing The Guilty Party won gold in the Extra Special Bitter category.
  • Raleigh Brewing The Miller’s Toll won bronze in the Imperial Stout category.

New Belgium and four NoDa neighborhood breweries collaborate on “Yours and Mine”

New Belgium and NoDa-area breweries collaborate on Yours and Mine Golden Ale

Brewers from Heist Brewery, Free Range Brewing, Birdsong Brewing and NoDa Brewing traveled to New Belgium to brew Yours and Mine, a beer that features ingredients from Colorado and North Carolina. (Photo courtesy New Belgium)

Brewers from Charlotte’s four NoDa neighborhood breweries — NoDa Brewing, Birdsong Brewing, Heist Brewery and Free Range Brewing — recently flew out to Colorado to brew a collaboration beer with New Belgium Brewing. Part of their Beers with Vrienden program, the beer — called Yours and Mine — was inspired by the Beers Made By Walking program, wherein brewers choose ingredients inspired by walks in nature (or sometimes urban environments).

The resulting golden ale will be brewed with ingredients inspired by walks in Colorado and North Carolina, with beet sugar and lavender from New Belgium’s grounds, Colorado sunflowers, and Scuppernongs. I’ll have more about this collaboration (and its dark side) in The Charlotte Observer next Friday, but before then you will actually have the chance to hear directly from all five participating breweries during a Google Hangout at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9. NoDa Brewing’s been doing these Hangouts monthly, and so far they’ve been an entertaining way to stay up to date with that brewery’s goings on. You can watch live and submit questions here.  Consider it a preview to the release of the beer, which will take place at NoDa Brewing from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12. The after party is at Salud Beer Shop at 7 p.m., with Yours and Mine on tap as well as other beers from the participating breweries.


DukBone Brewing announces Alex Shoenthal as head brewer

Alex and Lori Jane Shoenthal

Alex and Lori Jane Shoenthal. (Photo courtesy DukBone Brewing)

DukBone Brewing is currently trying to find a home. And while the brewery-in-planning doesn’t yet know for sure where they will be brewing their beer, they do know who will be manning the mash tun when they do sign a lease.

The brewery has named Alex Shoenthal as its head brewer. If that name is familiar to you, perhaps you know Shoenthal from the Carolina BrewMasters, the local homebrew club he’s been a part of for more than 10 years. Or perhaps you spoke to him during his time as the manager of Alternative Beverage, a homebrew supply store in South End.

You might have even tasted his beer without having known it. Last year, Shoenthal won the Gambrinus Cup in the U.S. Open, a homebrewing competition put on by the aforementioned Carolina BrewMasters. As a result, he got to brew his winning recipe — Battle Crye Rye IPA — at the Foothills brewpub in Winston-Salem. It was tapped at the Carolina Renaissance Festival, and also bottled and distributed around the state.

While that’s probably his most well known beer, Shoenthal has placed in 50 homebrewing contests, with 20 gold medals and six best of shows (according to a press release from DukBone Brewing). Over the last decade or so, Shoenthal has also served as VP of Education for the Carolina BrewMasters, Chief of Brewery Recruitment for Charlotte Oktoberfest, brewer at Carolina Beer and Beverage and general manager at Grapevine Beer and Wine Shop in Fort Mill. No one trick pony, he’s written about his favorite beverage as well for Fort Mill Magazine.

And if you’ve read all this and still say, “No, I don’t know Alex,” then there’s a chance you know the Shoenthal name from his wife, Lori Jane. She’s the founder of the Charlotte Beer Girls, a group of local beer-loving women who don dirndls to raise money for charity, most notably at Charlotte Oktoberfest.

To stay up-to-date with all things DukBone ahead of their location announcement, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Bands, Brews, and BBQs at Carowinds

Carowinds Bands Brews and Barbecue

Fresh off the heels of their Taste of the Carolinas festival, Carowinds is now hosting “Bands, Brews, and BBQs” on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays beginning July 31 and ending August 16.

Each day, different bands will play between 12-4 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. As for the beer and barbecue, there will be booths throughout the park and you simply pay by the pint (or pulled pork, as it were). There’s even a booth that will feature 24 different flavors of regional barbecue sauce, but of course you’ll need only one: a good Eastern N.C. vinegar-based sauce (I’ll wait for the barbecue battle to play out in the comments).

The breweries that will be pouring in the park are as follows:

  • Holy City Brewing
  • Blowing Rock Brewing
  • Legal Remedy Brewing
  • Benford Brewing
  • Catawba Valley Brewing Co.
  • Lonerider Brewing
  • Aviator Brewing
  • Natty Greene’s Brewing
  • Sugar Creek Brewing

Fillmore Craft Sessions returns on Saturday, July 11

Fillmore Craft Sessions
Last October, The Fillmore held the first of its seasonal beer festivals that it is dubbing “Craft Sessions.” The “Summer Sessional” version of the festival will be held from 5-9 p.m. on Saturday, July 11, promising a mix of local and national craft breweries and an old school hip hop playlist.

Local food trucks will be parked out back as well, selling a variety of dishes. As for the beer, expect homegrown favorites like NoDa, Birdsong, Sycamore, Unknown, Wicked Weed and Fonta Flora, plus larger brands like Stone Brewing, Founders Brewing, Bell’s Brewery and Lagunitas. There will be a few one-offs as well, such as Unknown Brewing’s Opening Act IPA and Birdsong Brewing’s cask of Higher Ground IPA with jalapeños in it. I’ll have more on some of these special beers next week, but all told there will be 40 breweries in attendance (you can see the full list on the Facebook event page).

Tickets for the event can be purchased at the box office or at Salud Beer Shop for $35 (or $40 at the door). They can also be purchased online, where a service fee and tax brings them to $41.98 each.

The Great NC Beer Map

This site has a pretty narrow focus: beer in Charlotte. Be that as it may, I broke that focus last year when I wrote about The Great NC BBQ Map, a project by Amanda Fisher and Paul Bright.

It wasn’t too great a leap, since the duo behind EDIA Maps is based out of Charlotte. The two are also homebrewers and active in the Carolina Brewmasters homebrew club. Plus, what goes better with beer than barbecue?

Clearly Fisher and Bright agree. No justifications need be made for sharing the news of their next project, The Great NC Beer Map. The map will feature more than 160 craft breweries, festivals and general information about brewing.

And just like their previous map’s Kickstarter, they’ve got some great pledge rewards. For $10, you can get a sticker and a map (the latter signed, if you wish). There are a variety of different rewards going up from there, including posters, coasters, exclusive beer dinners and the chance to brew with a variety of NC breweries.

The Kickstarter campaign runs through July 24.

Cabarrus Brewing Co. announces location at The Gibson Mill in Concord

Cabarrus Brewing Company in Concord, North Carolina

Cabarrus Brewing Co. announced today its plans to build in Concord’s Gibson Mill, which is currently home to a large antique mall. The mill is made up of two large buildings with a 15,000-square-foot building between them, and it is here that Cabarrus Brewing Co. will build. In March, High Branch Brewing Co. announced plans to build in a 1,400-square-foot space inside the mill as well.

Up until May, neither brewery would have been able to operate a taproom out of the mill — zoning didn’t allow for it. Steve Steinbacher, one of the owners of Cabarrus Brewing Co., began working with the city’s planning department in January to come up with a text amendment that would allow breweries to operate taprooms and sell beer on premise.

With that amendment now passed, Steinbacher has signed a lease in the Gibson Mill and is on the cusp of ordering his three-vessel, 15-barrel brewhouse.

“Cabarrus county has a very rich textile and manufacturing history,” Steinbacher said. “We have old mills everywhere. Some are falling down and dilapidated shells, and some are being repurposed.”

The Gibson Mill is squarely in the latter camp. Right now, The Depot at Gibson Mill is home to rows upon rows of old antiques and memorabilia that draw visitors from all over.

“It’s already really becoming quite a destination, not just during the weekend but during the week,” said Steinbacher.

Plans for the design of the taproom are still being finalized, but Steinbacher foresees an open floorplan that leaves in place many of the building’s historical elements. He points to San Diego’s Mission Brewery, whose building was once home to a Wonder Bread factory, as an inspiration.

“The interior of that space is eerily similar in terms of what our building will look like,” said Steinbacher.

Unlike many brewery owners, Steinbacher is not a homebrewer with dreams of going pro. He has brewed before, but doesn’t consider himself an avid homebrewer by any means. He’s just had a taste for and interest in craft beer for years. For the brewing, he will turn to Jason McKnight. If you’re familiar with your Charlotte beer history (shameless plug), you might remember that McKnight once brewed for The Mill Bakery, Eatery and Brewery during the 1990s. Now, the Siebel-trained brewer is once again picking up the mash paddle.

“A lot of people have been egging him to get back into the game,” said Steinbacher. “We’re thrilled he’s going to be a partner in this business.”

Joining Steinbacher as a founding partner is also Keith Griffin. As far as potential beers, Steinbacher said to expect good representations of traditional styles without getting “too out there.”

“We’re really going to focus not just on the beer, but the environment,” said Steinbacher. “We want this to be a really big showcase for Cabarrus county.”

To keep up with Cabarrus Brewing Co. as they build the brewery, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.