A Note From CharlotteBeerBlog.com’s Mark Iafrate

Charlotte Beer BlogIn 2012 I started the Charlotte Beer Blog with the goal to help spread the word about Charlotte’s burgeoning and eclectic craft beer scene. Along the way I’ve been blessed to meet countless of kind, welcoming and outgoing people who epitomize the spirit of craft beer. These people made the time spent curating events, writing articles and organizing bar crawls completely worth it.

I wouldn’t trade my experiences with the Charlotte Beer Blog for anything, but over the past few months I’ve learned my time would be better spent pursuing other opportunities within the craft beer scene. I’ll be focusing my attention on being a co-host on The Craft Beercast and on building The Beer Exchange.

If I learned anything from running the Charlotte Beer Blog it’s that covering a local beer scene is an incredibly difficult and time-consuming passion. I have only the utmost respect for Daniel and his dedication to Charlotte and NC beer, and know there is no person better to do the job of keeping us up to date on our local beer scene. I urge everyone continue to support Daniel and CharlotteBeer.com today and in the years to come.

Thanks to everyone who helped along the way and I look forward to sharing a beer with you soon. Cheers!


The Beer Growler comes to Charlotte

The Beer Growler Charlotte

Photo courtesy thebeergrowler.net

Dennis Young, Paul Saunders and Sean Galvin didn’t just open Georgia’s first growler shop — they helped change the laws to allow growler fills in the state. In the years since they first opened The Beer Growler in Athens in 2010, they have added six additional franchises throughout the Peach State, where growler shops have surged in popularity (the Atlanta area alone is home to more than 50 growler-filling stations).

So it’s no surprise that the founders of The Beer Growler were keeping a close eye on North Carolina when similar legislation passed last June, allowing bars, restaurants, bottle shops and even hotels to fill growlers, provided they met the labeling and sanitation requirements. Now, the first-ever franchise outside of Georgia is bound for Charlotte.

Three Charlotteans — Jessica King, Kristen Knox and Brandee Winkler – will open a franchise of The Beer Growler at 1427 South Boulevard in the city’s SouthEnd this summer, and they think the concept will prove just as popular in North Carolina as it has in Georgia.

“The craft beer scene in NC is several years ahead of Georgia in most ways with the exception of growler sales,” said Jessica King, one of the Charlotte franchisees. “With NC’s beer knowledge, evolving craft beer community and the multitude of craft brewers, growlers will be a natural fit.”

The shop will have at least 45 taps to choose from, and patrons will be able to sample everything prior to purchase. While most will be filled with craft beer, you will also find cider and sodas.

King has lived in Charlotte for ten years. She has witnessed the growth of craft beer in the area firsthand and thinks The Beer Growler concept will fit in well.

“They, like us, have an unwavering dedication to the craft beer/craft cider community,” King said. “I am confident our establishment will be a favorite among local craft beer enthusiasts and the occasional beer drinker. We are committed to our customers and the Charlotte craft beer community.”

Since the Growler Bill passed here in NC, only a handful of Charlotte bars and bottle shops have embraced the vessel. These include Salud Beer Shop, Good Bottle Co., Growlers Pourhouse, Duckworth’s Grill and Taphouse, Sankey’s Taproom/Custom Home Pubs, Whole Foods and now Total Wine Park Rd. Asheville Growler was the first growler-specific shop to open its doors in the state, which they actually did before the legislation even passed (they were serving pints then, not filling growlers). A similar concept called The Glass Jug will open later this year in Durham.

The Beer Growler plans to open later this summer, so be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter for more.

“Beer Lover’s The Carolinas” Book Signings in Charlotte

Beer Lover's The Carolinas

My second book, “Beer Lover’s The Carolinas,” is currently landing on store shelves across North and South Carolina. In addition to offering a look into 156 breweries, brewpubs and beer bars across both states, the book also includes sections on clone homebrew recipes (NoDa Brewing’s Jam Session, anyone?), cooking with beer, pub crawls and area beer festivals.

I’ve got two signings this week in Charlotte. From 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 15, I’ll be signing copies at NoDa Brewing. Please drop by, come check out the book, and lift a gold medal-winning Hop Drop ‘n Roll with me (or a NoDable series beer — it is a Tuesday, after all).

On Saturday, April 19, I’ll be signing books at Unknown Brewing during their “Charlotte Smokeoff,” an amateur barbecue competition featuring 20 backyard grilling teams. Their core beers will be pouring, and they will also tap Silverback Stout, Southern Hospitalitea, Magic Water IPA and a smoked black IPA that should pair well with all of the smoked meat. Wiggle Wagons, Broken Napoleons and Radio Lola will be playing music throughout the day, and the event runs from 12-8 p.m. (I’ll be signing from 12-5 p.m.). Better still, all proceeds will support veterans through Wounded Warrior Project & Purple Heart Homes. Tickets are $10 in advance on Ticket Bud and $13 the day of, and get you unlimited samples of smoked meats (beers purchased separately).

I look forward to seeing y’all out at some of these events!

Want to Help Brew the OMB and NoDa Collaboration Beer?

OMB and NoDa Collaboration Beer

Last month, I wrote about the forthcoming collaboration beer from OMB and NoDa. As I mentioned in that post, the breweries will each select a person to attend a brewer’s summit on May 17 to decide upon the style, and these two people will also get the chance to brew the beer at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s new facility this summer.

So how do you win such an opportunity? They want you to create a video telling them why they should pick you. You don’t need a fancy camera or special technology; a smartphone and passion for local beer will suffice, just make sure that passion is sufficiently captured in the video!

Here are the details, taken from the contest’s Facebook event page:

· Submit video by April 15.
· Video must be no longer than 2 minutes.
· Winning entry must be able to attend the brewers’ summit on May 17.
· Post video on OMB or NoDa’s Facebook page, tag either in a Twitter post or post in this event.
· One video per individual.
· Winning video will be announced on April 23.
· Video must be family friendly/safe for public posting on our pages, videos deemed inappropriate will be removed.

Triple C Brewing’s “Kick’n Ash” for the Catawba Riverkeeper

Triple C Brewing Kick'n Ash

There were many reasons New Belgium, Oskar Blues and Sierra Nevada chose to build in North Carolina, one of which was the access to clean water. Beer geeks will talk all day about different grains, yeast strains and hop varietals, yet we take for granted that beer’s main ingredient is water, and that without good water you can’t have good beer.

Anyone who has followed recent news related to coal ash and the Dan river should know that there are threats to the state’s water supplies. That’s why Triple C Brewing will be holding a “Kick’n Some Ash” fundraiser to benefit the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation this Saturday (March 29) from 6-9 p.m. A $10 donation gets you into the warehouse, where Gump Fiction will be playing. That donation also enters you into a raffle to win two Triple C growlers a month for a year, plus wings from Moosehead Grill (additional raffle tickets are $5). The Chef Street Bistro food truck will be parked outside.

Could the Next Stone Brewing Already be in NC?

Bring Stone Brewing to Charlotte

©PatrickSchneiderPhoto.com Shared via Charlotte Chamber skyline photo contest.

A couple months ago, Stone Brewing announced plans to build a second brewery east of the Mississippi. Since then, many have submitted proposals trying to convince the nation’s tenth-largest brewery to build in their city (I wrote about the Charlotte Chamber’s proposal last month). In this guest post, Ryan Self suggests that a change in legislation could allow North Carolina’s breweries to grow in the manner Stone has. 

The possibility of Stone Brewing Co. choosing Charlotte out of all the cities vying to be the home of the venerable company’s new East Coast distribution hub has area beer lovers, media and even elected officials atwitter about the possibility of a nationally known brand setting up in our little burg.

The only problem is, among all the excitement for Stone most are asking the wrong questions and drawing the wrong conclusions. First things first: In a vacuum, of course I want Stone in Charlotte. It’d be a job creator, a local landmark and act as an immediate step to putting Charlotte on the national craft beer map. As someone who works for a local brewery, my resistance to this excitement has been met with claims of isolationism and fear of competition.

It’s not that simple. Competition on a level playing field encourages all players to raise their game – or fear getting left behind. It has been a wonderful thing for the Charlotte beer scene. Every brewery that’s opened in the last four years has quickly found a market, while the existing craft breweries continued to grow as fast as their equipment would let them. The creation of a viable local beer scene has truly been the rising tide that aids all ships, and we are a better scene for it.

But there’s an anchor on each of those ships, and it is the difficult conditions we face in the state and in Charlotte for small breweries to grow, thrive and yes, maybe become the next Stone. We have faced difficult local zoning policies that treat taprooms and all-night dance clubs as the same entity, and craft breweries the same as industrial manufacturing plants. We grow knowing state laws limit our ability to self distribute at 25,000 barrels produced in a year – at that success level, we must turn over control of our business and a significant share of our earnings to a distributor, and we have no choice in the matter. And we face one of the five highest state excise taxes on beer produced; almost 62 cents for every gallon we make. By comparison, Stone’s home state of California charges just 20 cents. Colorado, whose New Belgium Brewing recently began construction on its own second facility, charges just eight cents per gallon.

Stone and New Belgium got where they are by making great beer, at a time when opening a craft brewery was a much riskier proposal. No one denies they have earned their success and acclaim. But they also enjoyed states with laws and taxes that are incredibly conducive to growing a burgeoning business. If North Carolina excise taxes were at the level Stone pays, state breweries could immediately create more local jobs, and buy more equipment to meet demand. (It can be a hard thing to make a case for business tax breaks in this era of Occupy Wall Street, but the fact is no North Carolina brewery would be using this money to add a jacuzzi to the beach house – at the size we all are, this money would immediately be reinvested in the company and the creation of local jobs). Breweries would have the opportunity to grow across the board, and maybe someday we’d have another state begging a successful North Carolina brewery to build their second facility therein.

Right now, the same elected leaders extolling the job creation of a Stone or New Belgium facility (and readying multi-million-dollar concession offers if those companies do come) are ignoring the financial and regulatory hurdles it takes to grow a thriving brewery in North Carolina, and yet because of dedicated local craft beer lovers a scene is emerging despite these challenges.

Those who love local beer are not powerless to affect this change. Write your local and state legislators, tell them you expect your local breweries to have a business environment that at least matches states with modern success stories. Bring Stone to Charlotte sounds just fine to me. Bring the Next Stone to Charlotte sounds even better.

Sugar Creek Brewing Company

Sugar Creek Brewing Company

Belgium and Germany are right next to each other on a map of Europe, and that will soon be the case here in Charlotte, too. Sugar Creek Brewing Company will brew Belgian-style ales where once The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (OMB) brewed their German-style lagers.

Last year, OMB announced that it would leave its current space to build a new brewery just down the road. They also announced they would sublease their original location to another brewery as a turnkey solution, since it was obviously purpose-built with brewing in mind.

It was announced today that Sugar Creek Brewing Company will be moving into the building and opening in July, when OMB opens their new location. The brewery was founded by Joe Vogelbacher and Eric Flanigan. Vogelbacher grew up near the Sugar Creek greenway, and spent time as a nuclear engineer and merchant mariner. Flanigan is a former USMC combat veteran who helped build and oversee Whisky River, where he worked as the general manager.

In a press release, the brewery said they were “dedicated to the craftsmanship of fresh, high-quality beer in a style and commitment representative of Belgian Trappist monks.” To keep up with their progress, follow Sugar Creek Brewing on Facebook.

The Great NC BBQ Map

The Great NC BBQ Map

This post isn’t strictly about beer, but indulge me for a moment. A couple from Charlotte, Amanda Fisher and Paul Bright, have launched a Kickstarter called “The Great NC BBQ Map.” As a native North Carolinian, I’ve enjoyed my share of ‘cue. And as someone who just last year toured almost all of the breweries in this fine state, I appreciate anyone who not only follows their own passion, but desires to share it with others.

The Kickstarter campaign runs through Thursday, March 27. They’re aiming to raise $10,000 to fund the production of the map, and they are just over $6,000. There are many different pledge levels: $9 gets you a printed map, $18 gets you a poster version, $25 gets you both, etc.

I said earlier this post wasn’t strictly about beer, but you had to figure it was coming (and beyond the obvious, that beer and barbecue go together like peas and carrots). If you pledge $100, you will be invited to The Great NC BBQ Map launch party at NoDa Brewing this summer, where you will receive the map, a swag bag, barbecue and beer — and not just any beer, but a barbecue-inspired beer. NoDa will brew a smoked amber ale with red chile peppers just for this event.

But remember, this project needs to be fully funded by Thursday. They’re currently around $4,000 short, but I believe if there’s anything people can rally around, it’s barbecue and beer.

First Tweets: You’ve Come A Long Way, #cltbeer

Since everyone on Twitter is sharing their first tweets today, I thought it would be fun to look back at a few from the Charlotte breweries. Mine was pretty straightforward:

Charlotte Beer First Tweet

In the four years since that tweet, I’ve certainly found more than a few “craft beer lovers and establishments,” including the many breweries that have popped up since. Here is how Charlotte’s breweries entered that twisted, time-consuming place we refer to as the Twittersphere.

Charlotte Brewery First Tweets

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery Switching to 12-ounce Bottles

Starting next week, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s will transition from 22-ounce bottles to 12-ounce bottles, which will be available in six-packs and 12-packs. In updated packaging that still calls to mind the old bomber three-packs, you will now find:

  • Copper, Captain James Jack Pilsner and the seasonal in six-packs
  • 12-packs of Copper
  • Mixed 12-packs with seasonals included
Those seasonal 12-ounce beers will include Früh Bock, Southside Weiss, Mecktoberfest and Dunkel. The more limited-release beers like Fat Boy Baltic Porter will remain in the bomber format, and eventually seasonals like Bauern Bock and Yule Bock will find their way into the mixed 12-packs.
The brewery decided to make the switch after many customers said 12-ounce bottles were a better fit for them, since some didn’t want to drink a full 22-ounce beer at a time. I’ve long campaigned for more 12-ounce bottles personally, so I applaud this decision. Pricing should be commensurate with the existing packaging, despite the new six-packs offering six more ounces over the three-packs of bombers.