Craft vs. Crafty and The Business of Beer in Charlotte

Non-craft Brewers

These are just a few breweries that the Brewers Association does not consider to be true craft breweries. (Click through for a larger version)

About a week ago, the beer world saw the escalation of a cold war that has been brewing (no pun intended) for quite some time.  The Brewers Association released a statement entitled “Craft vs. Crafty” which spelled out their definition of true craft beer and singled out several breweries that have either claimed or pretended to be so, despite their not meeting the “official” criteria.  This statement sparked a social media firestorm and everyone and their mother weighed in on the debate over the following days, including representatives from many of the previously mentioned “pretenders.”  Some called the statement a welcome stance that took aim at corporate domination of the beer scene in America, while others simply dismissed it as really having no relevance at all.  Now that the dust has settled I think it is appropriate to reflect on this battle as it relates to the Queen City.

The Charlotte craft beer scene has experienced rapid, steady growth over the last few years.  Many local breweries have opened and experienced great success and several craft beercentric bottle shops and bars have also opened and done quite well.  With that in mind, we are moving ever closer to a point of market saturation, and as we do so, competition is increasing for all involved.

While craft breweries have had to fight the major corporate beer giants (ABInBev, and MillerCoors) for market share in the past, they have done so without doing significant damage to those groups.  Their presence has been tolerated, though not without resentment and attempt to stomp them out via repackaging their products.  That reluctant acceptance is waning, however, and the big boys have realized that there is a legitimate demand for well crafted, flavorful beer.  Their response to this understanding has been twofold.  On the one hand they have created a vast array of pseudo craft beers under the guise of “craft” sounding names such as Blue Moon and Shock Top.  On the other, they have started investing in, or purchasing entirely, legitimate craft breweries like Goose Island and Terrapin.

So, what does all this mean for Charlotte?

First, and foremost, it means an increased level of visibility for the struggle itself.  What, up until now, had mostly played out in bars and behind the scenes with sales reps, is now becoming much more public.  When Goose Island was released to the Charlotte market this November, there was a lot of discussion via social media about this very topic.  Is Goose Island craft beer?  Should you buy it?  If you do, who is your money supporting exactly?  Some pushed for boycotts of the beer because it was now owned by ABInBev while others maintained that beer should be judged on quality alone, not who made it or financed it and they didn’t care who owned it as long as the beer was good.

I maintained then, and I will reiterate that I believe in every adult’s ability to make decisions for themselves.  All I ask is that those decisions are informed.  Like food, beer is a product that is consumed, and therefore I believe it is important to know who made it, with what, where it came from, and when it was made.  If you enjoy, and see no ethical dilemma with drinking beer produced by ABInBev or MillerCoors, then you have the right to drink that beer.  People shop at Wal-Mart and Target everyday without thinking twice.  If you believe that supporting local products is important, and therefore choose to drink local beer only, that is also your choice.

Secondly, and sadly, it means that the happy collaborative spirit of local breweries is going to diminish, if only slightly at first.  Collaboration has been a big ideology of craft breweries across the nation, but as more and more open, competition for handles and shelf space is going to increase.  At the end of the day, beer is a business, and business means that there are winners and losers.  Not all breweries are going to continue to grow or enjoy sustainability.  Bars only have so many tap handles, and while it would be great, in my mind, to see quality locals dominating the bars in town, eventually even those institutions will have to start making decisions about which locals to keep on.

The biggest winner in that battle will be local consumers.  Competition breeds innovation and increases quality across the board.  Charlotte is going to continue to see better and more widely available local, regional, and national beer in stores and in bars.  With that in mind, local breweries are going to have to stay ahead of the curve.  They have the benefit of home field advantage here.  They, theoretically, have more local reps that can support bars, educate customers, and provide visibility, though the larger companies have vastly more marketing capital at their disposal.  Locals also have freshness on their side as their products won’t need to be shipped great distances.

With that in mind, ABInBev and MillerCoors will not continue to bleed market share without a serious fight.  They will buy more craft breweries, continue to produce more varied styles under different names so that consumers who prefer to support craft beer will unknowingly buy their products, and they will continue to create new packaging and spinoffs like “lime” and “platinum” to appeal to a wider variety of customers and take up shelf space.    This is, after all, a business. They have that right. And remember, they still control the vast majority of market share in the US.  Also, it needs to be said that many people enjoy their beer.  I think too often craft beer lovers veer into snob territory when they dismiss people who like Bud or Bud Light, or anything else those companies make.  That elitist attitude is what got wine drinkers their reputations.  We need to stay away from that territory.

What this ultimately comes down to is a choice by consumers.  What do you want to drink?  Do you want a thriving local beer scene that provides jobs in town, makes quality, fresh craft beer, and gives Charlotte something to be proud of?  I know I do.

Finally, and most importantly, craft beer could give Charlotte a much needed, and sorely lacking identity.  As a history buff, it pains me to see the way that Charlotte actively destroys its own culture.  We knock down old buildings, bulldoze landmarks, and continuously update everything for the sake of progress.  The problem is, we have very little history left to see, and thus no real identity beyond our banking sector.

This year at the Great American Beer Festival Charlotte brought home more medals (2) than any other city in North Carolina, including Asheville.  That is the first time in history that has happened.  There is a major opportunity here for the Queen City to embrace local craft beer like so many great cities out west already have.  If you go to Denver or Portland you will see what we could be.  Those cities have many thriving breweries that now distribute on a national level.  They have access to a TON of great beer, and yet their populations and businesses overwhelmingly support their quality local breweries.  I would love to see Charlotte, the city that I grew up in, become the Denver or Portland of the east.

We are at an exciting crossroads here in Charlotte when it comes to craft beer.  We are still very young by industry standards, but there is a ton of potential here.  Social media support is strong, local breweries are making some really great products, and the availability of quality craft beer is increasing.  We have a lot to look forward to.

“Craft vs. Crafty,” if nothing else, is the beginning of a conversation that we should all be having as a beer community in every city, Charlotte included.  It is about preference, quality, business, and identity.  The products that we buy have a direct effect on businesses and those that work for them.  It is important to know what you are buying, and ultimately who you are supporting.  That choice belongs to us all.  All I ask is that we all use it wisely.

Three Important Lessons We Can Learn From GABF

GABF Medals

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and NoDa Brewing both won silver medals at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colo. on Oct. 13.

Well, folks, it’s over.

The crowd has dispersed, the kegs have been emptied, the medals awarded, and the people returned home after, what many describe as, the most successful Great American Beer Festival to date.  While that point can be debated endlessly, what can’t be argued is that Charlotte most certainly had its best GABF ever as Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and NoDa Brewery both returned home with silver medals for Mecktoberfest and Coco Loco respectively.  This was the first time that more than one of our breweries have been decorated for their beer.  It is also the first time that Charlotte brought home more medals than any other city in the state, accounting for 50 percent of the haul.

I was unable to attend the festival this year, but I sat anxiously in my brother’s apartment in Atlanta, obsessively watching my twitter feed as the prizes were awarded.  I got to celebrate as some of my closest friends literally achieved their dreams that day, and I could not have been more proud of them or of the Charlotte beer scene as a whole.

Now that GABF is over, I think it is important to reflect on the experience and what it means for Charlotte and craft beer in general.  I came away from this year’s festival with several thoughts, a few of which I’d like to share with you here, in hopes that it continues to spark discussion about the industry, what it means for our city, and the people who make and consume this wonderful product.

Medals should be seen as a measure of success, never failure.

On the surface this seems incredibly obvious but I think it begs some consideration.  GABF brings in over 150 of the most qualified beer judges in the nation to take part in the blind tasting and scoring of brewery submissions.  These people have incredibly refined palates, and know exactly what they are looking for in a beer.

That having been said, they are still individuals with subjective tastes.

Now, before I get crucified by those who think I am demeaning or trying to take away from the accolades awarded to OMB and NoDa, hear me out.  Both of these breweries deserve every bit of recognition they have received for their beers, including their GABF silver medals.  My point, however, is that on a given year, any number of other beers could have received the same awards.

Different judges have different tastes, and the differences in the best beers at this competition are staggeringly miniscule.  Think about some of the breweries that won exactly 0 medals this year:  Stone, Founders, Bells, etc.  No one could possibly argue that these are anything but some of the finest institutions in American craft beer.  Yet, their work went unrecognized at the premier American craft beer festival.  So, what does that mean?

Americans are obsessed with rankings.  We see this with our sports teams, our schools, our business, and nearly every other aspect of society where businesses or people compete.  We’ve learned to take some of these rankings with a grain of salt, a la the BCS in college football, and I would encourage the same logic with GABF.  Be proud of the breweries that won medals, but don’t use that as your own measuring stick for quality.  A lot of amazing beer went unrecognized last week, including many great locals.  Do yourself a favor and continue to explore them all, medalist or not.

Just because a brewery is big or funded by outside sources does not mean they make bad beer.

I think one of the most important discussions going on in the craft industry right now, is what exactly makes something craft.  We used to measure craft beer by the number of barrels per year that a brewery put out, and some still stick to the old 2 million barrel measuring stick, but as some of America’s best breweries continue to expand their output, I think it is important to examine craft beer in terms of ingredients.  Craft beer, in my mind, is beer made with the highest quality ingredients with a creative, artisanal purpose.

Two of America’s largest craft breweries won gold medals at this year’s GABF:  Sierra Nevada for its Blanca Nut Brown and Estate Fresh Hop Ale, and Goose Island for its IPA.  A lot has been said over the last couple years over Anheuser Busch’s purchase of Goose Island and what that means for the quality of their beer.  At least for now, I think it is safe to say that while that move has certainly affected their business and distribution, it has not affected the quality of their beer.

I hang out with a lot of very knowledgeable people in this industry, many of whom hate all “non-craft” beers with a passion.  But how do you draw that line?  What makes Sierra Nevada different from Sam Adams or New Belgium, or Yuengling?

I don’t think there is a clear answer there.  With that in mind, I think it is important to distinguish the beer from the business.  There is no question that the big three (Bud, Miller, Coors) have attempted through a variety of methods to stamp out craft beer’s ever increasing market share.  Any true capitalist would tell you that is their right, and frankly their job.  Now that those efforts have proven ineffective on a large scale, they are beginning to realize that if they can’t beat craft, they need to join it, or in most cases, fund it.  By investing in established craft breweries like Goose Island and Terrapin, they are able to reap the benefits of their investments like a bank.  What does that have to do with the beer though?  I think in most cases that is unclear now, or at least varies on a case by case basis.

I see the arguments on both sides here.  People want to see their small, local breweries succeed, and so there is always push back against the “big guys”.  If a local brewery makes a product of equal or higher quality, I will personally choose that alternative every time as those businesses are a part of our local economy.  But viable alternatives don’t always exist, and just because something is local does not mean it is always good.  If you choose not to buy a product based on the way people do business, that is absolutely your decision, and a reasonable one at that.  What I would caution you to avoid, however, is labeling someone’s beer as bad simply because of the name on the bottle.

There are a lot of awesome new breweries popping up in North Carolina and across the nation that deserve your attention.

Virginia’s Devils Backbone was the darling of GABF this year, taking home 8 medals and winning awards for Best Small Brewpub and Best Brewpub Brewer.  In their short four year history, these guys having taken home more awards than any other brewery in the Mid-Atlantic, and yet most beer drinkers have never heard of them.  My favorite new brewery, Funkwerks, out of Colorado, won Best Small Brewery, and their saison (deservedly) took gold for the category.  They have only been open since 2011.

You know what’s crazy though?  The two Charlotte breweries that won awards have been open a grand total of four years combined.  This is something that should get you excited.  Charlotte is producing some incredibly high quality beer, despite the fact that we have fewer than half the number of breweries in Asheville, AKA Beer Town USA.  We have a highly concentrated group of passionate, talented people here who are doing, and will continue to do great things for our city moving forward.  I don’t think it is unrealistic to consider Charlotte a major contender for best beer city in North Carolina in the near future if this trend continues.  That idea would have been laughable two years ago.

2012 Charlotte Oktoberfest Inside and Out

Charlotte OktoberfestCam Heiliger, who you may better know as @QCBeerGuru, shares his thoughts on this weekend’s Charlotte Oktoberfest.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending Charlotte Oktoberfest for the second time as a volunteer and participant.  I spent the day pouring for two outstanding breweries in Southern Tier and Goose Island while taking some time here and there to walk the grounds and sample some of the outstanding local and regional offerings that I hadn’t yet been privy to (and several that I just couldn’t wait to try again).  After spending twelve hours helping set up, working, sampling, and breaking down I came to several conclusions that I think are worth addressing here:

First and foremost, it cannot be understated how hard so many people had to work to make this festival a success.  From the workers and volunteers, to the brewery reps, distributors, and staff who came to pour and explain their beer, many people put in more than a full day’s work for very little, and in some cases no, money to ensure that everything was presented well and the beer tasted great.  This work was compounded by the issues that the weather presented as many were setting up in very wet areas that had to be covered up with hay and the late afternoon showers sent many seeking shelter under the precious few tents.  The people who run and work this festival clearly have a passion for beer and it was a pleasure working with, for, and beside so many great people.

Secondly, I think there is always a lot of pressure on the breweries to up the ante every year.  As craft beer continues to grow in popularity, a larger portion of festival goers come with more knowledge, a more refined palate, and higher expectations.  I remember talking with a couple friends at the end of the day about how I tried a lot of really good beer, but nothing really blew my mind.  I thought about that comment the next day and realized that it wasn’t really true and certainly wasn’t fair, but it was an easy statement to make for any person that has consumed a lot of great (and often overhyped) craft beer.  You can only have so many massive imperial stouts, IPA’s and sours before you become a bit jaded.  What really impressed me this year was actually the subtlety and skill that many breweries exhibited.  Natty Greene’s came with an awesome, clean Baltic Porter, Holy City out of Charleston brought a killer smoked Marzen, and Free Range had a fantastic session pale ale.  Also, after getting the opportunity to pour their beers for the last two weekends in a row, I’m stoked to finally see Goose Island break into this market.  I was terrified that after Anheuser Busch took these guys over that the quality of their products would fall off, but I can honestly say that it has not.  Honkers and 312 were a huge hit, and Matilda continues to be one of my favorite beers period.

Finally, I have never been more proud to support my local breweries.  North Carolina beer is growing steadily and Charlotte is right in the mix as a leading factor.  OMB continues to offer rock solid, consistently high quality German beer, and NoDa is constantly pushing the envelope with their new creations.  Their Gordgeous Pumpkin Ale was one of my favorites of the festival with a very unique ginger forward spice bill and their Dark Berliner Weisse was also an excellent offering.  Birdsong’s collaborative effort with newcomer Free Range, Rice Rice Baby, was a killer rice stout with hints of vanilla and the only beer of the festival that I went back for seconds on.  Highland Brewing out of Asheville had an excellent bourbon barrel aged raspberry mocha stout, and Howard Brewing, another new local from Lenoir, had a very solid pale ale and lager.  Also, the home brewing clubs, including Catawba and the Carolina BrewMasters, who sponsor the festival, put out some of the best beers at this event.  In this case there were way too many to list.

Overall I felt like this year’s festival was another great success.  Sure, you had a few people hauled out after having a few too many samples, but overall the mood was really positive despite the mud and the rain.  Remember that the majority of breweries that come to these events actually lose money to do so.  They donate the beer, bring on extra staff, and incur the costs of transportation for the opportunity to present their products to a massive audience.  With that in mind, it is really important to continue to support those breweries that you really enjoyed, especially the smaller local breweries that are often operating at the margin as is.  Overall, I had a fantastic time and I can’t wait to get back next year and help out in whatever capacity I can.  I hope many of you will do the same.

Profiles In Charlotte Beer: The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

The Olde Mecklenburg BreweryBrewing only German style ales and lagers adhering to the “Reinheitsgebot,” or Beer Purity Law of 1516, the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery was founded in 2007 and opened its doors in 2009 to a city in desperate need of a local brewery.  Many Charlotte bars began carrying craft beer and while many North Carolina breweries were represented, the Queen City still had no true “local.”  My, how things have changed.

The “Reinheitsgebot” states that beer may only be brewed using four ingredients: pure water, yeast, barley or wheat malts, and hops. This means no spices, no infusions, no fruit, and no artificial carbonation. For some, this ideology is a limiting restriction on creativity; for others it is comforting, giving them peace of mind that their beer is fresh and lacks impurities. Either way, it is an absolute at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery.

Located on Southside Drive between Old Pineville Road and Tryon Street, Olde Mecklenburg brewed its first batch of OMB Copper Altbier (a traditional Düsseldorf lagered ale) in 2009. Copper has since become their flagship beer and, along with their Mecklenburger (a Bavarian lager), is served year round. They also serve several seasonal varieties including the Mecktoberfest Maerzen style amber lager in the fall, the Dunkel (dark) Lager in the winter, the Fruehbock in the spring, the Captain James Jack Pilsner in the summer, the Bauern Bock at Thanksgiving, and the Yule Bock around Christmas time.

Olde Mecklenburg’s beers are exceptionally clean due to lack of pasteurization. Because they are only served in the immediate area to local bars, restaurants, and stadiums around Charlotte, the process is unnecessary. While a seemingly minor step to keep the beer from going bad quickly, it makes a huge difference in the taste of the beer, sapping flavor by heating the beer to extreme temperatures in order to kill bacteria and keep the remaining yeast from continuing to grow after bottling.

The brewery itself is in a gutted factory and boasts a 15,000 square foot space including the taproom, which serves several styles in a variety of sizes ranging from a half pint to a large stein. The beer can also be taken home in a growler to be enjoyed at one’s leisure. They are also in the process of expanding their Charlotte brewery and adding a new “party room” which should be completed by the end of the summer.  The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and owner John Marino is omnipresent, Copper in hand.

OMB is now one of the best success stories in the Charlotte craft beer scene.  Their beer can be found in several hundred locations ranging from Rock Hill, SC to Cornelius, NC as well as Knight’s Castle and Bank of America Stadium.  Their Copper and Freuhbock have received A and A- ratings, respectively, from the Beer Advocate “Bros,” and they have been represented at beer festivals in Boston and Denver.  They have plans to begin bottling their beers en masse by the end of the year.  But, even with all of the above accolades, they still have no plans to leave the Charlotte metro area.  That dedication to saturating their local market and gaining a strong foothold is one of the main reasons they have been so incredibly successful.

In a country where so many craft breweries open up and do everything in their power to expand as quickly as possible, often straining their resources and taking huge financial risks to do so, I wonder why more people haven’t learned from OMB’s success.  They staff a mere ten people and yet they brew just as many barrels as Duck Rabbit, which distributes in six different states and employs well over twice that number.  Do the math on that one.

Many other local breweries, including Four Friends, NoDa Brewing Company, Birdsong Brewing, and Ass Clown Brewing have opened or are on the verge of opening in town and for a city with a taste for craft beer this can only be a good thing.  That having been said, those that do make it will have OMB to thank, at least in part, as they have clearly drawn up the road map for success in the Queen City.

Mac’s Speed Shop to host Casks For The Catawba

As Charlotte Craft Beer Week begins to wind down there are still some great events going on if you are not too hung over to check them out. This Friday, all three Mac’s Speed Shop locations will be hosting a cask event benefiting the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, an organization dedicated to cleaning up the Catawba River, which was listed as America’s most endangered river in 2008. Money will go toward the Paul Ridgway Fund for Youth Kayaking Programs. Known for their outstanding barbecue and equally stellar beer lineup, Mac’s is certain to make this a great event.

The cask lineup is as follows:

Steele Creek:
Founders Red’s Rye
Olde Hickory Barrel Aged Dry Hopped Table Rock Pale Ale
Foothills Bourbon Peoples Porter w/ Coco Nips
OMB Fruh Bock (unfiltered)
New Holland Ichabod Ale

South Blvd.:
Founders Double Trouble
Olde Hickory Barrel Aged Dry Hopped Table Rock Pale Ale
Foothills Dry Hopped Hoppyum w/ Cascade, Amarillo & Citra
Highland Kashmir IPA Dry Hopped w/ Citra
Heavy Seas Black Cannon
Greenman Stout w/ Coco Nips

LKN:
Highland Gaelic Dry Hopped w/ Citra
Heavy Seas Aaarsh Ale

Tickets for the event are $35 and get you unlimited 16oz. pours from the casks as well as unlimited oysters as long as they last. There will also be live music provided at all locations. This is going to be a great event, with great beer, for a great cause. The most difficult decision should be which location to check out.

Custom Home Pubs to host Pros vs. Joes tonight

Charlotte Craft Beer Week 2011 has officially started with authority. The first three days of the week saw three of the biggest events come one after the other. Black and Blue was a huge success on Friday, drawing an excellent crowd and setting the tone for the week to come. Beertopia kept the ball rolling with a huge outdoor lineup that also drew a sizeable crowd and introduced several new breweries to the area that are normally hard to find here. Finally, Duckworth’s ended the long weekend with a stellar cask event that, despite initial fears that ticket sales were lagging, was very well attended and went off without a hitch. If you attended one or more of these events it is likely that you are still recovering, and the thought of attending others during the work week may be a bit daunting. That is where Custom Home Pubs might just be able to change your mind.

These guys have been running a stellar small scale operation in Matthews (previously South Park) for several years now and are one of the primary providers of non-retail kegs in the area. They have a small, but quality, tap selection and serious expertise in the area of draft beer systems. They also regularly host some small, low key beer events, including a really unique tasting event tonight.

In honor of Charlotte Craft Beer Week, Custom Home Pubs will host Beer Tasting 101: Pros vs. Joes, a competitive beer tasting event featuring George Allen, brewer and part owner of Bison Brewing, and Tom Henderson and Richard Lane, both certified beer judges. The idea is simple. These guys will give a quick overview of the styles on tap and then you get to test your skill against the professionals in a blind taste test. If you score better than the judges, you win a prize.

The price for admission, including all you can drink from the eight taps, is only $15, and if you attend the brewery tour at Hops right down the street (which is free), you get an additional five bucks off your ticket. That is $10 for all you can drink, an opportunity to chat with a professional brewer and two certified beer judges, and the possibility of going home with some cool stuff. That is a steal by anyone’s standards.

The lineup for the taps is as follows:
• Green Man IPA
• Victory Prima Pils
• Big Boss Bad Penny Brown
• Great Lakes Conway’s Irish Red
• Four Friends Extinction Double IPA
• Ommegang Rare VOS
• Big Boss Diable Blanco Wit
• Special One-Time Only Cask: Hops Brewing Hammer Head Red dry hopped with loads of Citra Hops

So, if you are festivaled out and looking for something cool, but low key, to keep you in the Charlotte Craft Beer Week mood, check out Custom Home Pubs, located at 11416 E. Independence Blvd, Suite K in Matthews tonight from 7-9 for a small, but unique beer experience that is truly an amazing value.

Mike Brawley kicks off Charlotte Craft Beer Week with Black and Blue II

It seems fitting that one of the earliest disciples of craft beer in Charlotte should be the person to kick of Charlotte Craft Beer Week. Brawley’s Beverage has been serving the Charlotte area for nearly ten years and Mike has been a driving force in the growth of craft culture in the Queen City from the beginning.

Friday, March 11th marks the second annual Black and Blue beer and bluegrass event at the Visualite Theater downtown. The theme for this year’s event is Woodstock featuring North Carolina barrel-aged beers. Translation: Big party with big beers.

The lineup for the event includes several local heavy-hitters, including the viciously sought after white whale, Olde Hickory The Event Horizon, which has been blowing up the beeradvocate.com trade forums for weeks now. Other offerings include Mother Earth Silent Night, Highland Cherry Wood Smoked Chocolate Cherry Stout, Catawba Valley Whiskey River IPA, Foothills Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Aged Total Eclipse Stout, Foothills Char Aged IPA & Porter Blend on cask, Green Man Kill Devil Imperial Stout aged in rum barrels, and Duck Rabbit Barrel Aged Milk Stout. This is one of the best lineups for any Charlotte Craft Beer Week event, and the fact that they are all North Carolina breweries is even more impressive.

Oh, and by the way, there will be a half-barrel of HopSlam too, just in case anyone cares…

Tickets for the event are $25 and include a personal pint glass for you to carry around and reuse as you peruse the unique lineup and slowly start to forget your own name. There are no limits on pours. The show starts at 6:30 and ends at 9:00 which should give people plenty of time to go through a wide selection of brews and provide enough time afterwards to sober up before attempting to drive home. The Visualite is conveniently located near several cafes and restaurants that should be able to aid in this process.

Very few sporting events kick off their seasons with the biggest game of the year. In our culture of competition, the journey itself provides the storyline for what ultimately amounts to a culminating match between seasoned juggernauts. It provides incentive for us to stick with the teams, glued to our seats over the course of a grueling schedule with the hope that our team winds up surpassing all others to will their way to victory.

And then, there is NASCAR.

Charlotte Craft Beer Week 2011 promises to be another great celebration of craft beer in the Queen City and Black and Blue is going to be the Daytona 500. Viewed by many as the biggest race of the season, it is also the first, a phenomenon unique in sports. Does that mean the rest of Charlotte Craft Beer Week is going to be a disappointment? Definitely not. Like the Brickyard 400 and the Coca Cola 600, strong events from Duckworth’s, The Grapevine, and others will definitely stand tall and provide awesome and unique experiences all their own. But the main event is tomorrow.

Gentlemen (and ladies), start your (beer) engines.