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.



The Unknown Brewing Co. to release Hospitali-Tea in cans

The Unknown Brewing Co. Hospitali-Tea Cans

As I walked up to The Unknown Brewing Co. last night I found Brad Shell not in the brewery, as is usually the case, but manning the big outdoor fireplace out front. As you might imagine given the weather, it wasn’t for warmth – Shell was using the makeshift grill to cook three huge chunks of beef for a staff meeting.

It was fitting since I’d come to talk to Shell about Hospitali-Tea, a beer I first had at the brewery’s Charlotte Smoke-Off last year.

“We first made Hospitali-Tea as a gimmick or a joke for our Smoke-Off festival,” said Shell, as he sprinkled seasoning and drizzled sauce over the sizzling sirloin. “It went over really well. We had so much demand we decided to put it on draft.”

The beer, an amber ale brewed with black tea and orange blossom honey, became a popular choice in the taproom last summer.

“And then everyone was like, ‘I want to take this with me to the beach, I want to take it to the ball game, I want to take this hiking,’” said Shell. “It just seemed like a natural fit to come out in July.”

This year, the brewery will put Hospitali-Tea in cans, with six-packs hitting shelves around the third week of July. Before then, however, they will be releasing bottles of “1.5ish,” a beer that was brewed for their first anniversary but needed a little more time in the barrel. The beer is a Belgian-style red rye aged and soured in French oak cabernet barrels with strawberries and vanilla beans. This one’s waiting for the screen-printed bottles to come in, but will be available shortly after that.

The brewery is also partnering with the Fillmore by brewing a beer called Opening Act IPA that will be released on July 11 at the Fillmore’s Craft Sessions. This will be the venue’s second Craft Sessions, which will be a quarterly event at the Fillmore.

Other news at Unknown includes an attempt at breaking a Guinness world record and planning for another Day of the Dead beer (more on those later). Shell has also built a new pilot system out of three stainless steel, 55-gallon drums, so expect to see more small-batch beers in the taproom.

Custom Home Pubs to hold grand opening on Thursday, July 2

Custom Home Pubs

Earlier this year, it was announced that Elevation Church planned to purchase the shopping center that housed its Matthews campus.

That shopping center was also home to Custom Home Pubs, a bar with a small bottle shop and an assortment of home bar necessities like kegerators and CO2 tanks. Founder Geoff Goss quickly had to look for a new location.

He found that a few miles north at 1640 Sardis Rd. N., in the Galleria Shopping Center off of Independence Boulevard. It was the second move for founder Goss, who opened the store in SouthPark before moving it to Matthews years ago.  His new location will have a dozen taps (up from eight), a slightly-larger bottle selection, lots of local brewery memorabilia (t-shirts, stickers, hats, glassware, etc.) and the bar from Sankey’s, the restaurant that Goss operated beside Custom Home Pubs.

There will be no food served at Custom Home Pubs, however Goss said customers can have food from nearby Boardwalk Billy’s delivered to the bar.

The bar will hold a grand opening celebration on Thursday, July 2 from 6-9 p.m. The taps will be pouring “rare Charlotte draft beers,” and attendees can enjoy unlimited samples for $20 (with $10 going back to The King’s Kitchen, which is supplying food for the event).

Unlike the bar’s popular monthly tastings, this event does require that you pre-purchase a ticket by calling 704-315-5223 or


Pintville Craft Beer to open in Pineville

Pintville Craft Beer Bar

Natasha Young and her husband, Sam Delbrouque, had been thinking about opening a craft beer bar when she walked by the empty space at 329 Main St. in downtown Pineville.

“I told Sam, ‘You have to meet me here right now,’” said Natasha Young.

Exposed brick lined the interior walls of the 100-year-old building, and its 2,000 sq. ft. would give them plenty of room to house a bar and bottle shop. They soon signed a lease and now plan to open Pintville Craft Beer in the space in mid-July or August. While there are breweries and beer bars aplenty in Charlotte, Natasha feels Pineville is long overdue for its own local spot.

“There are so many craft beer places in the city,” she said. “But where we live, you have to drive 20 minutes to go get a craft beer.”

Sam Delbrouque is a homebrewer who was exposed to great beer while living in northern France, just 20 minutes outside of Belgium. Since moving to the states, he and Natasha have owned and operated two restaurants.

While they will allow food to be brought in from the bakery next door as well as several new restaurants springing up around them, the two will focus exclusively on beer. They plan to have 24-30 taps, with one dedicated to nitro pours.

In addition to the taps, Pintville will also have a selection of bottles for sale.

To keep up with Pintville as they work toward their opening, follow them on Facebook.