Southern Range Brewing plans to open in Monroe next spring

Southern Range Brewing Logo

Roll up the garage door of the white, brick building at 151 S. Stewart St. in Monroe, and a sea of furniture greets you. Tables, chairs and headboards, all in different states of refinishing, and at their feet a layer of dust.

If Dustin Gatliff has his way, the building will furnish Southern Range Brewing next spring.

The homebrewer of six years had been looking to open a brewery for some time. He thought the 3,000-square-foot building in historic downtown Monroe would be the perfect spot for a brewery, but the landlord wasn’t prepared to start the necessary construction.

Not wanting to miss out on the property, Gatliff leased it this past summer knowing he could use the space to house his furniture-refinishing business, which recently outgrew his home garage.

“I rented it for the brewery, but knowing that I could still work out of it,” said Gatliff.

While Gatliff hasn’t yet started building the brewery itself, he has acquired a two-barrel electric brewing system from Rivermen Brewing Co. out of Belmont. A system of that size can produce about 62 gallons of beer at a time and would qualify Southern Range Brewing as a nanobrewery.

Gatliff was inspired to go the nano route after seeing smaller breweries like Barking Duck Brewing in Mint Hill and Burial Beer Co. in Asheville.

“I was like, ‘These guys are opening breweries about as small as you can get,’” Gatliff said.

One advantage of brewing on such a small scale is that the brewery will be able to cycle through a variety of styles, rather than brewing larger batches of a single beer. Of course, Gatliff will have to brew more frequently on a smaller system than some of his peers with larger systems might, but he’s eager to experiment and see what will appeal to the residents of Monroe, who have not so much as a craft beer bar to call their own.

To start, Gatliff plans to offer a Kölsch, an oatmeal stout, a pale ale, IPA and double IPA.

“I’m an IPA guy, so there will probably be a lot of experimenting there,” he said.

Gatliff considered opening a brewery in Charlotte, but fell in love with Monroe’s historic downtown after moving to the city. And the City of Monroe has been just as enthusiastic, he said.

To see the progress once furniture moves out and fermenters move in, follow the Southern Range Brewing Facebook page or sign up for updates on the brewery’s website

Southern Range Brewing in Monroe, NC

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.

BeerGiving at the Flying Saucer – Saturday, Nov. 22

The Flying Saucer in Charlotte will be serving up a “BeerGiving” lunch and dinner all day on Saturday, Nov. 22. The meals, which should be between $10-15, will include deep-fried turkey injected with Founders Backwoods Bastard, green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie. Of course, there will be some good beers on tap as well, including these fall and winter favorites:

  • Highland Cold Mountain
  • Terrapin Wake ‘n Bake
  • Terrapin Moo-HooChiato
  • Founders Backwoods Bastard
  • Smuttynose Strawberry Shortweisse
  • Stone Double Bastard
  • Stone Hibiscusicity
  • Bell’s Christmas
  • Great Lakes Christmas
  • Natty Greene’s Smoked Porter
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
  • Deep River Woodfruit Mushroom Brown Ale

Flying Saucer BeerGiving

Sugar Creek Brewing Opens Friday, Sept. 19

Sugar Creek Brewing CompanySince The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery vacated their old building to move just down the street, the new tenants at 215 Southside Drive have been hard at work brewing and renovating the taproom. Now, Sugar Creek Brewing is ready to welcome the public to Charlotte’s first Belgian-inspired brewery.

The grand opening celebration will be held on Friday, Oct. 10 and Saturday, Oct. 11, however the brewery will be open every weekend until then starting this Friday, Sept. 19. Stop by to try their witbier, saison, dubbel and pale ale between 4-10 p.m. on Fridays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 12-8 p.m. on Sundays leading up to the grand opening celebration.

As for that event, it will feature those beers as well as live music, barbecue, outdoor games and tours of the new facility.

Having had the chance to sample some of these beers a few weeks ago, I can tell you that Sugar Creek Brewing is poised to do big things here in Charlotte. I’ll have more next week in The Charlotte Observer.

FūD at Salud — Salud Beer Shop’s New Deli

Salud Beer Shop is expanding into the space next to them with a one-barrel nanobrewery and additional seating, as well as a new, appropriately-dubbed deli called FūD at Salud. The latter venture will be overseen by Jeff McElwee, who prior to joining Salud had spent four years at The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar.

With beer in bottles, on draft and now produced at Salud, it should come as no surprise that FūD at Salud’s menu will feature many items made with beer. Pretzels and beer cheese is one such example, with the cheese being made with Jalapeño Pale Ale from their neighbors at Birdsong Brewing down the road. Beer will also find its way into mustards, pickles and jellies to be slathered on the various sandwiches (or waffle-wiches, if you prefer Belgian waffles to bread).

McElwee said that the deli’s offerings should help bring a quick dine-in or take-out option in the immediate NoDa neighborhood, and that they plan to offer delivery options as well.

They hope to open FūD at Salud in mid-October or early November (which should mean you can grab some food before or after Release the Funk 2: Electric Funkaloo). Look for more updates on FūD at Salud’s Facebook page, and check out the full menu below.

Salud Beer Shop Fud at Salud

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tap Takeovers in Charlotte

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America

To celebrate its seven-city Beer Camp Across America (BCAA) festivals this summer (which culminate in the Aug. 3 festival at the new brewery in Mills River, NC), Sierra Nevada is releasing a mixed 12-pack that includes a dozen different beers brewed in collaboration with breweries across the nation. The 12-pack includes the following 10 bottles and two cans:

  • Myron’s Walk Belgian-Style Pale Ale, a collaboration with Allagash Brewing Company
  • Tater Ridge Scottish Ale, a collaboration with the Asheville Brewers Alliance
  • Electric Ray India Pale Lager, a collaboration with Ballast Point Brewing Company
  • Maillard’s Odyssey Imperial Dark Ale, a collaboration with Bell’s Brewery
  • Torpedo Pilsner, a collaboration with Firestone Walker Brewing
  • There and Back English-Style Bitter, a collaboration with New Glarus Brewing Company
  • Double Latte Coffee Milk Stout, a collaboration with Ninkasi Brewing Company
  • Yvan the Great Belgian-Style Blonde, a collaboration with Russian River
  • Chico King Pale Ale, a collaboration with 3 Floyds Brewing
  • Alt Route Altbier, a collaboration with Victory Brewing
  • CANfusion Rye Bock, a collaboration with Oskar Blues Brewery (CAN)
  • Yonder Bock Tropical Maibock, a collaboration with Cigar City Brewing (CAN)

In addition to purchasing the 12-pack, you’ll have the opportunity to try the beers at a series of tap takeovers and tasting events throughout Charlotte.

The following tap takeovers will feature all 12 of the beers on tap, along with other beers from Sierra Nevada beers or their collaborating brewers:

  • July 17 at Mac’s Speed Shop South Blvd: The first through the door at this kickoff event will receive a commemorative BCCA glass and t-shirts. Two tickets to the Aug. 3 festival in Mills River will also be given away.
  • July 23 at Flying Saucer: Glass and t-shirts to the first people through the door; two tickets given away to the Aug. 3 festival in Mills River.
  • Aug. 1 at Duckworth’s Huntersville: Glass and t-shirts to the first people through the door.
  • Aug. 22 at Epicentre Rooftop 210: There will be a silent disco with “collaborating DJs.” On tap will be the 12 collaboration beers as well as six additional Sierra Nevada beers.
The following tasting events will feature 1-3 of the collaboration beers, with other rare kegs on tap and variety packs for sale:

  • July 22 at Good Bottle Co.
  • July 24 at Salud Beer Shop
  • July 25 at Cork and Cask in Huntersville
  • July 31 at Custom Home Pubs
  • Aug. 6 at Common Market Plaza Midwood
  • Aug. 6 at Common Market SouthEnd
  • Aug. 15 at Summit Coffee in Davidson

Beer Slobbery: One Man’s Journey to 1,000 Beers (pt. 10)

Beer Slobbery chronicles one man’s journey to 1,000 beers by way of Duckworth’s new HopMan Beer Club. Devon Heffer is fairly new to the craft beer scene, so he’ll undoubtedly be discovering some new beers on his journey. Find all of his past posts here

Ahh, the sounds of the holidays. I don’t know about your childhood, but for me they included jingle bells, caroling, and the mellow hum of family members bitching about Iran-Contra.

And of course the snap-hiss of a macro-label beer. In those days, carbonated pisswater was as ubiquitous during the holidays as it was during the 4th of July. Thoughts of beer’s seasonal heritage were as distant as Skylab’s crash site.

My journey to 1000 at Duckworth’s has shown me just how deprived I was. Clearly at age 10 I should’ve been chugging on a room-temperature oatmeal stout while arguing the finer points of the Keating Scandal, but instead I was forced to watch my father and uncles down Genny Lites and grunt at the Buffalo Bills’ not-quite-greatness.

It makes sense that a foodstuff as ancient as beer would have a seasonal nature. I bet if the ancient Sumerians had refrigeration we’d all be drinking some homogenous yellow beer. A standard for most occasions. Yawn.

Different ingredients and different temperatures throughout the year gave rise to different flavors. Now there’s a Benetton ad’s-worth of beer styles and consistencies.

So this week, we try some winter-ish heavier brews.

Also, I’d like to take a moment to give thanks for a very special gift I just received. I’ll do so by paraphrasing a particular Christmas movie we’ll all watch 3 or 4 times this year.

“That Christmas would live in our memories as the Christmas when we were introduced to fine beer.  All was right with the world.

“Next to me in the blackness lay my glistening 2-litre beauty. The greatest Christmas gift I had ever received… or would ever receive.

“Gradually I drifted off to sleep, spilling lager down the front of my shirt and smiling lazily at nothing in particular”.

Let’s drink some beer:

Great Lakes Christmas Ale (Cleveland, OH) Winter Warmer, 7.5% ABV: This will be my first winter warmer style beer. According to my extensive “research” (asking the knowledgeable Duckworth’s bartender) these are usually spicier, darker, higher alcohol content beers. At 7.5% ABV, this packs a very slight kick. Mostly I smell malt, and take note of the beautiful whiskey color. I expected this to taste like a Yule Log, but it’s a very subtle clove and orange flavor underneath the malt. Sweet and mellow. Very nice.
Beer Advocate: A             My Grade: A

NoDa Coco Loco (Charlotte, NC) American Porter, 6.2% ABV: I know NoDa has their Cold Crash and the new Tart Attack offering for the season, but I’m disappointed to find Duckworth’s isn’t pouring them. After I finish tearing my shirt in mourning, I opt for the Coco Loco. This is their signature porter and a Silver Medal winner at last year’s Great American Beer Fest. I’m smelling chocolate off the top, but after actually getting it in my mouth it tastes more like coconut. And sweet. Almost like a coconut macaroon. It’s rich and creamy smooth on the back end with a smoky ‘splosion up the sinuses for a finish. Damn fine.
Beer Advocate: A             My Grade: A+

Terrapin Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout (Athens, GA) Milk/Sweet Stout, 6% ABV: There are lots of chocolate-y stouts out there. It’s easy leap to make a chocolate-y milk stout. And damned if this doesn’t taste like it. It’s dark as hell and effing delicious. This would be a great gift for the chocoholic in your life. Or the alcoholic.
Beer Advocate: A             My Grade: A+

Bell’s Christmas Ale (Kalamazoo, MI) Scottish Ale, 5.4% ABV: Gonna close things out with Bell’s Christmas offering. I’m not quite sure what the difference is between “Scottish” and “Scotch” ales. Perhaps Mike Meyers could answer that one. I’d say it’s synonymous with “underwhelming”. I was expecting a festive explosion of spices, but this is very subtle without much complexity. I feel like this was designed for the consumer who just wants something with “Christmas” on the label. And indeed… it accomplishes that mission.
Beer Advocate: B             My Grade: C

Beer Slobbery: One Man’s Journey to 1,000 Beers (pt. 9)

Beer Slobbery chronicles one man’s journey to 1,000 beers by way of Duckworth’s new HopMan Beer Club. Devon Heffer is fairly new to the craft beer scene, so he’ll undoubtedly be discovering some new beers on his journey. Find all of his past posts here

I usually drink beer out of an old sneaker.

So imagine my surprise when I came in contact with one of Sam Adams’ pint glasses last week. The glass was developed in concert with a Cambridge laboratory to ensure full enjoyment of the product. I was skeptical.

But after drinking 3 or 4 at a clip, I have to say I see the appeal. Drinking beer out of glassware specifically designed for maximum enjoyment adds a new layer to the experience. Plus I get to look fancy. But does the beer taste better? Hard to say.

The science:

Your sense of smell and your sense of taste are inextricably linked. Smell is governed by gas. In beer, that gas is CO2. So if your beer has a healthy head on it, that’s trapped CO2 in a beer-matrix capping all the rest of the CO2 trapped in the beer. It’s a flavor-saver. So the conventional wisdom is: if you’re served a beer without a head, you should spit it directly in the face of your server. Or just send it back. Within minutes much of the CO2 trapped within will dissipate and your beer will start to oxidize. Not good for all the flavors.

So, glassware that helps to preserve that head is always desirable. And the Boston Brewing Co. state propaganda supports the notion. And they’re not alone. Dogfish Head has their signature glass with a tapered mouth. Sierra Nevada has several including a Spiegelau glass for their IPA ($9! Gimme a break).

Or you could just go with a standard shaker pint glass, heralded in story and song. It stacks well, it’s easy to clean, and it’s nigh on indestructible. The ironic thing, though… chances are it’s not really a pint. Most top off at around 14 oz. Plus it flares outward toward the top. That’s great if you have an especially pungent beer and the aroma needs to take center stage. But in most cases it just allows the head to dissipate faster.

So if good beer glassware really is just about tapering the mouth to preserve the head, and you don’t fear roving hordes of beer geeks, you could go for a traditional white wine glass.

Which brings me to a very tough question: is beer in danger of becoming a refuge for snobs? Wine fell for that trap decades ago. The beer glassware discussion certainly opens the door. And I would suggest we may already be there.

I’m not going back to the sneaker. But I might be able to find something that splits the difference.

Let’s drink some beer:

Highland Razor Wit (Asheville, NC) Witbier, 4.5% ABV: It’s a nice, hazy straw color with a thin, but persistent head. Intricate lacing. Extremely fizzy like most wits I’ve tried, but this is a bit much. It’s almost like I’m drinking a soda. However, it is crisp and spicy. Clean aftertaste.

Beer Advocate: B             My Grade: B

Stone Odd Year Old Guardian Oak Smoked (San Diego, CA) American Barleywine, 11.4% ABV: This will be my very first barleywine. The alcohol content is a little intimidating, but no glory for the weak! It’s a clear reddish-brown with an ample head. The booze hits like a 9 lb sledge. Hard. But underneath that it’s fruity and pleasant. It’s medium body and somewhat low on the carbonation, so it goes down nice and smooth. Which makes this an extremely dangerous drink for me.

Beer Advocate: A             My Grade: A

Triple C Road to Nowhere (Charlotte, NC) American Porter, 5.7% ABV: “… we know what we’re knowing, but we can’t say what we’ve seeeeeeeeen…” As long as we’re naming beers after great songs with desert-themed videos, I hope Triple C gives Tribe a shot on their next outing. Anyway… good beer! I had it out of a cask and it poured black with a thick off-white head. Very complex for a porter. Normally I just taste toast straight off, but this is hoppy and rich. Lots of great cocoa and coffee notes. Heavy body with easy carbonation.

Beer Advocate: ??           My Grade: A

Orkney Skull Splitter (Orkney, Scotland UK) Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy, 8.5% ABV: The name scares me. A Scottish beer that promises to split my skull. But like my grandfather said, “Beer drinking is a dangerous game. Now go clean the toilet”. I can smell the caramel wafting off the glass. It’s red like a dead foe’s coagulating blood. Much sweeter than I was expecting, even with the caramel aroma, but not cloying. Enough alcohol content to give it some nice warmth going down, almost like brandy. But not so much that it burns. Catching citrus and grapes. This is a great sipping beer, I’ve decided. Very fun to just sit back and take your time with.

Beer Advocate: A             My Grade: A+ 

Beer Slobbery: One Man’s Journey to 1,000 Beers (pt. 3)

Beer Slobbery

Beer Slobbery chronicles one man’s journey to 1,000 beers by way of Duckworth’s new HopMan Beer Club. Devon Heffer is fairly new to the craft beer scene, so he’ll undoubtedly be discovering some new beers on his journey. Find all of his past posts here

Stay thirsty my friends.

Full disclosure, I work in marketing. It’s my day job. And as I sit here at Duckworth’s, it hits me: I couldn’t come up with anything half as good as The Most Interesting Man in the World.

Let’s consider the character. The commercials’ voiceover (by Frontline’s Will Lyman, no less) inform us TMIMITW has spent the last 50-or-so years of fighting sharks and bench-pressing hookers. Now we find him lounging in a swank watering hole, impeccably coifed, manicured, and with young women draped around his tailored muslin. Maybe we hand him a beer. Maybe he looks directly at us and says “I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”

This guy isn’t even a regular beer drinker! He has disdain for the product, yet his antipathy sells it. It’s an outstanding slice of psychological turnabout that has helped the Dos Equis brand increase sales while most imports are in decline. I slow clap in awe.

So today, in honor of Havas Worldwide New York, the advertising company that dreamed up TMIMITW, we consider beer marketing.

Rule #1 in the marketing game is to get the audience to remember the product. If they forget your name 5 minutes after they’ve seen your commercial (or viewed your billboard, or heard your radio ad) then you’ve failed. Doesn’t matter how clever the marketing is. If they don’t remember who you are, it was for nothing.

So what works?

The Bud-Weis-ERRRRRR frogs at least drilled the name into your head through constant repetition. More than I can say for some of Bud’s other modern campaigns. While the Real Men of Genius and WASSSSSUP! ads were memorable, do you remember they’re for Bud 5 minutes after you see them? Maybe not.

Same problem with the cleverly edited Coors press conference commercials. Funny? Yes. Do I remember they’re for Coors? Not until I looked it up.

Does Will Ferrell’s wry comment on beervertising make me laugh? Hell yes it does! Does it make me want to try Old Milwaukee? Hell yes it does! Unfortunately Duckworth’s doesn’t serve it. But I remember the name ‘Old Milwaukee’ after seeing these commercials. Even when Ferrell doesn’t get the whole name out.

But what about smaller and mid-sized brews?

Glad you asked hypothetical reader. I found few good ones. New Belgium does a good job featuring their people. The Sam Adams commercials make great use of their people, their product, and George Thorogood. But they appear to be outliers. Sierra Nevada plays out the tired trope that dudes are animals. Magic Hat is just confusing. And this one for Yuengling is borderline racist.

(Special mention:  Chad Henderson’s web-videos for the weekly NoDable Tap Releases. I dig.)

Let me make a point: I’m SURE THERE ARE MORE. I just haven’t seen a lot of great marketing for smaller brews. I don’t imagine big companies like Havas are lining up to work with the little guy. That’s fine. There’s a hole in the market and if someone wants to do something truly innovative, they can break through.

I’m looking at you NC brewers.

Let’s drink some beer.

Mother Earth Endless River (Kinston, NC) Kölsch, ABV 4.9%: Now this is what I’m talking about. An old-school German brew designed for easy drinking. It pours a skim-milky straw color with a medium head. It’s yeasty, like wine, and swallows very clean. High chugability factor. A mild fruity aftertaste. This is the kind of beer that’s very dangerous for me. I’m done with it before I even realize it.

Duckworth’s Grade: B+                 My Grade: A+

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA (Milton, DE) American IPA, ABV 6.0%: This is the basic brew in Dogfish’s line of hop experiments. They continuously hop it during an hour-long boil. The result is a clear amber brown with a persistent head. Some people taste a lot of citrus in the flavor, but I’m picking up on blueberries. It’s a straightforward, well-balanced IPA. (Side note for sci-fi geeks: as the head recedes, the speckled lace on my glass resembles the map from Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea novels.)

Duckworth’s Grade: B+                 My Grade: B


Olde Hickory Daniel Boone Ale Aged in Oak Bourbon Barrels (Hickory, NC) American Brown Ale, ABV 8.5%: That name’s quite a mouthful, and the Duckworth’s bartendress looks at me funny when I say the whole thing. “We just call it Daniel Boone”. Oh. Well gimme one of those then. The first thing I notice is the tang of alcohol coming off of it. I should’ve guessed since it was “aged in oak bourbon barrels”. It’s a thick brown with zero head. Tastes of caramel, vanilla, and some nuttiness. Mellow, almost like bourbon. Go figure. Kind of a lingering, sweet aftertaste.

Duckworth’s Grade: (ungraded)  My Grade: B


Miller Lite (Milwaukee, WI) Light Lager, ABV 4.17%: I had a chance to visit the Miller brewery years back. I was struck by the mix of high tech modernity with the low-tech history. They take you down into the old caves where they would store the beer before refrigeration. It was all quite interesting.

This beer however… it comes to me in one of those bottles with the twisted neck. As confusing a marketing ploy as I’ve ever seen. It’s apt that the bottle has a rifled barrel, because drinking what’s inside is like shooting yourself in the face.

Duckworth’s Grade: D+                 My Grade: F

Beer Slobbery: One Man’s Journey to 1,000 Beers (pt. 2)

Beer SlobberyBeer Slobbery chronicles one man’s journey to 1,000 beers by way of Duckworth’s new HopMan Beer Club. Devon Heffer is fairly new to the craft beer scene, so he’ll undoubtedly be discovering some new beers on his journey.

My first taste of beer came in the form of a spoonful of Genesee Cream Ale. I was 6. It was given to me by my father, and like many forms of child abuse it was effective.

I didn’t try beer again for 15 years. As luck (or maybe geography) would have it, my next beer was another Genesee product, Genny Light. I proceeded to drink way too much of it, making up for lost time on an important right-of-passage: choking down beer I don’t like in hopes of attaining a “taste for it” so someday… somehow… I might enjoy it. I’m happy to say it eventually worked, although I lost something in the process. Laughter. Whimsy. My innocence.

So it is for the countless millions growing up in our nation’s disintegrating rural and Rust Belt regions. Cheap beer, sometimes made locally, often not, enjoyed en masse by the teeming un-and-underemployed thousands. I’m one of those thousands, and until recently my knowledge of finer brewcraft didn’t extend much beyond the Genesee retaining basin.

Genesee Brewing has a long history. This ain’t Wikipedia, so I’ll leave it at this: for an American beer it’s been around awhile. Its brews are indelible fixtures on the Western NY region, and views like this one (and the unwelcome comparisons to certain Simpsons episodes) are commonplace. Mid-century ad buys and hometown pride ensured that ‘Jenny’ became the beer of choice for discerning men and women from Buffalo to Albany and beyond.

Genesee may have been able to hold its own against the Bud-Miller-Coors triumvirate, but they only managed by offering the same light lager as the big boys.

I’m proud to have grown up in a region with its own beer. I have a friend who had similar experiences with Rainier Beer in the Pacific Northwest. Accordingly, his taste is as sophisticated as mine (not at all). So where have mid-sized brewing concerns like Jenny and Rainier left the lowly beer drinker? I know the first time I tried what could be called a “good” craft brew, I hardly recognized it as beer.

Why isn’t my mouth burning?

Why don’t I feel like I’ve been stabbed?

Surely I can’t afford this.

The craft brew revolution is indeed that to a guy like me. A Revolution. An old guard is torn down and the floodgates are open. Hence my journey to 1,000 at Duckworth’s. I need to know more. Try more.

Is it wrong that I feel intimidated looking at Duckworth’s absurdly long line of taps?

Here are my next 4:

Foothills Gruffmeister 8 (Winston-Salem, NC) Maibock/Helles Bock, ABV 8.0%: I just found out what bock is! It’s delicious. Although I’m told this is a lighter variety (a gorgeous opaque gold). I can drink this all day. A light, spicy aroma. Extremely smooth.Light bodied. Malty and sweet with a tart finish.

Duckworth’s Grade: B    My Grade: A

Birdsong Jalapeno Pale Ale (Charlotte, NC) American Pale Ale, ABV 5.5%: I really dig the folks at Birdsong. I think they make a good product and even try to spread their wings on occasion. This is a perfect example. I didn’t think jalapeno would be a strong pairing with a beer, but I was dead wrong. It pours a cloudy gold with a thin head that dissolves pretty quickly. It smells jalapeno-y, of course, and definitely tastes of it but it’s all surprisingly un-spicy. All the flavor none of the heat. It goes down so easily I chugged half the glass before I realized it. Order this with a plate of nachos if you want to complete the cliché.

Duckworth’s Grade: (ungraded)  My Grade: A

Triple C Greenway IPA (Charlotte, NC) American IPA, ABV 6.5%: I love the name. “Greenway IPA” trips off the tongue pretty easily, even when you’re already a few beers in. It pours a clear amber/red with almost no head. A real punch of springtime flowers and pine. It smells like one of Charlotte’s greenways, and upon drinking it I kind of wish I was on one. Just chilling and watching the stream laze by. For being a slightly darker brew, the Greenway IPA is surprisingly thirst-quenching. A slight bite on the back end, but refreshing.

Duckworth’s Grade: (ungraded)  My Grade: A-

Michelob Ultra (St. Louis, MO) Light Lager, ABV 4.2%: I used to drink this by the case in my more health conscious days. I think the marketing must’ve gotten to me. Thin, healthy people swigging on Ultras all night long. No doubt they’d go home and bust out 4 or 5 sets of chin-ups before sleeping the sleep of babes and waking up without hangovers. My memories are slightly different, mostly involving fights I didn’t start and pizzas I didn’t finish. When the Duckworth’s bartendress serves it, I’m struck by how much it looks like tonic water. She tells me it’ll go down like water too. It’s clear with a suggestion of yellow somewhere in the background. It smells cold and chemically. There’s almost no taste to speak up, although there are faint hints of sweet Kool-Aid. This stuff is giving me the hiccups. I finish it off as fast as I can.

Duckworth’s Grade: D- My Grade: D