“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.



Beer Slobbery: One Man’s Journey to 1,000 Beers (pt. 12)

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

Then suddenly, this appeared:

The new series of Miller Fortune ads. According to Miller’s official press material, Mark Strong (at his creeptastic best) plays a character known as ‘The Motivator’. I prefer to think of him as ‘The Insidious Pull of Hardcore Alcoholism’. No one will fault you if you don’t pick up on the dog whistles in these commercials. But they’re there. Note how he convinces that guy to head back into the bar and “fight the coming of tomorrow”. Why not just ask him to “fight the bouncer” too?
Then this one:

The Motivator hands a would-be ne’er-do-well a Miller Fortune, then goads him into trespassing. The Motivator closes purring “You never know where fortune leads.” My guess is the drunk tank.
The truth is Fortune is Miller’s attempt to enter the high-alcohol beer market. They’ve seen their bottom line slowly eroded by liquor-drinking twentysomethings and have decided to “fight the coming of tomorrow” too. The bottle is black. The pitchman is suave. The beverage is repeatedly shown served in a rocks glass. The tagline is “For Spirited Nights”. Get it!? The ads are rife with the kind of preambles to anti-social behavior any alcoholic liquor enthusiast should be familiar with. And the beer itself packs a (comparatively) whopping punch. 6.9% alcohol. Not bad for a BMC brew.
What’s next for the Miller Fortune ad campaign? Let me guess.


A depressed DRY DRUNK stands on the curb, looking up at the block lettering and brutal brickwork of a police station. Groups of beat cops mill about in front. The DRY DRUNK looks down at a rusty badge in his right hand.

THE MOTIVATOR appears from behind the escaping steam of a sewer vent.

Four years now since they removed you from their ranks. But they weren’t in that room with you. Weren’t there when you pulled the trigger. Weren’t there when that little boy died. Aren’t here now. And you haven’t had a drink in seven months.

THE MOTIVATOR hands DRY DRUNK a bottle of cool refreshing Miller Fortune™. The DRY DRUNK begins to sob. His tears mingle with the glistening condensation on the bottle. The DRY DRUNK takes a hearty swig, smashes the bottle on a nearby lamppost, and stumbles toward the closest group of policemen. Gripping the jagged neck.

Fortune favors the bold.

F.S. – A Miller Fortune™ bottle next to a rocks glass full of Miller Fortune™. A popped bottle cap bounces into the scene, landing in a perfect lean on the rocks glass.
SUPER – Your Fortune Awaits

New Miller Fortune. Undistilled with a smooth finish. For spirited nights.

I can’t wait to try one!
Let’s drink some beer:

Miller Fortune (Milwaukee, WI) American Amber/Red Lager, 6.9%ABV: While I find the marketing to be borderline reprehensible, I swear to give the beer a fair shake. It’s hard to tell its color straight off because the bottle is jet black. After pouring it into a tulip glass (I’m going to forego the rocks glass) I’m pleased to find it has a rich caramel-y color. The head dissipates rather quickly however. At the first swallow I notice that the 6.9% ABV doesn’t register very strongly in the flavor profile. That’s interesting. Second swallow presents a kind of metallic tinge that I’ve noted before in other Miller products. The carbonation is heavy, making it difficult to really get on top of. It’s a sweet, slightly fuller-bodied Miller. For the price, you can probably do a lot worse.
Beer Advocate: F My Grade: C

O’Doul’s (St. Louis, MO) Low Alcohol Beer, 0.5% ABV: I knew this day would come. I’d have to bite the bullet and try some near bear. Better start with the standard. I remember O’Doul’s being chugged by the quart by various family members who may or may not have had a “problem”. I’ve developed new respect for these men. The thin, uninspiring head disappears before my eyes. It smells kind of skunky, which illustrates how often it’s ordered. This is basically corn soda. I suppose if you have to have a beer to pair with a pizza or something, but you’re eating that pizza with your boss, this would be an acceptable substitute. Otherwise I’m happy to put it on my list of 1000 and never order it again.
Beer Advocate: F My Grade: D

Bell’s Hopslam Ale (Kalamazoo, MI) American Double/Imperial IPA, 10% ABV: I’m surprised to see this at Duckworth’s because everyone speaks of it in hushed tones. Like it’s some kind of cryptozoological myth. Like the Chupacabra or the Yeti itself showed up on tap. The bartender alerts me it’s only making a special appearance for the weekend, so I order one straight away to see if it lives up to the hype. $7 a glass. I can get an entire six-pack of Miller Fortune for that! It arrives a dark orange with a thick head that sticks around well after my first pull. It smells much like I’d expect. Floral and citrusy. Nothing new. But it swallows extremely smooth. I have to catch myself because at 10% ABV and considering the price point, drinking too fast is dangerous. It finishes with a crisp snappiness that’s very pleasant. I’m picking up kind of a sweet caramel and banana on the back end. I’m thinking that sweetness really cuts the overt-hoppiness, making it smooth and flavorful at the same time. A very solid beer. I’m glad I had one. And if the price wasn’t so outrageous I might have another.
Beer Advocate: A+ My Grade: B+

Birdsong Honey Pie Double IPA (Charlotte, NC) American Double/Imperial IPA, 8.9% ABV: For my money, and according to my learning-disabled palate, this beer is just as good as Hopslam. I can tell they were probably aiming for the same neighborhood, and I’d say Birdsong hits that target squarely. The hops aren’t overpowering, so I get to keep the enamel on my teeth. It’s also extremely chuggable, so I have to force myself to slow my role. It’s excellent for all the reasons Hopslam is, but I’m giving it the edge because it’s local. A fine beer that I will keep ordering as long as Birdsong makes it.
Beer Advocate: ?? My Grade: A+

Charlotte Craft Beer Week Continues

Charlotte Craft Beer Week 2014

Last week, I wrote about some of Charlotte Craft Beer Week’s most popular events for the Charlotte Observer. There are so many events spread out over the course of its nine days, however, that I was only able to touch on a fraction of them.

Please make sure to check the Charlotte Craft Beer Week events page for the full listing, but also keep in mind that there are some beer events going on this week that didn’t make it on the website (like the Lost Founders event at The Liberty). Here are just a few more that sound like they’ll be a blast:

Monday, March 17 

  • Burial Beer Tap Takeover at Salud Beer Shop. Burial Beer Co. is one of Asheville’s newest brewers, and if you haven’t journeyed up to the mountains to try their beers yet, you should definitely visit Salud this Monday. The owners of the brewery will be there for a tap takeover, and they’ll pour the following: Cleaver Coconut Brown, Surf Wax West Coast IPA, Bale Hook Rye Saison, Skillet Doughnut Stout, Espirit Sauvage Imperial Saison (collaboration with Asheville Brewing) and Burnpile Doppelbock (collaboration with Burnpile Doppelbock).
  • NoDa Brewing taps Hot Pistol. Last summer, the NC Beer Guys brewed their Top of the Hop Pro-Am winning entry Hot Pistol at NoDa Brewing. The chocolate, raspberry and habanero stout kicked many a keg across the city. If you missed it, the brewery will tap their last keg of it at 4 p.m. on Monday.

Tuesday, March 18 

  • Lost Founders at The Liberty. Every year, The Liberty opens up the private room downstairs to pour from their collection of “Lost Founders” beers. This year, you can enjoy the brewery’s Imperial Stout, Rübæus, Breakfast Stout and Boltcutter (’13) on draft, plus bottles of KBS and Breakfast Stout.
Wednesday, March 19
  • Funky Wood! at Salud Beer Shop. On Wednesday, Salud will be pouring a variety of barrel-aged beers, running the gamut from bourbon-aged stouts to sour wild ales. Enjoy New Holland Blue Sunday, Allagash Interlude, Founders Doom, Anderson Valley Gatlin Damnosus Sour Barleywine, Wicked Weed Dark Age Stout, Birdsong Barrel-Aged St. Tuber and NoDa’s Pappy Van Winkle barrel-aged Monstro. And on top of this, the Charlotte Brews Cruise will be shuttling people from Common Market to Salud starting at 6 p.m., so be sure to check out Common Market’s Rumble in the Alley at 5 p.m. Entrants must have a wristband and purchase drafts from both Common Market and Salud to ride on the shuttle.

Thursday, March 20 

  • Love Thy Neighbor at NoDa and Birdsong. This will be the third beer week collaboration between NoDa and Birdsong, next-door neighbors in what’s been affectionately dubbed “brewer’s alley” by some. The breweries have blended their two most popular beers – Birdsong’s Jalapeño Pale Ale and NoDa’s Hop, Drop ’n Roll — and put them into casks. But wait, there’s more. Birdsong’s cask also has mango, and that will be tapped at their brewery at 4:30 p.m. NoDa’s has been dry-hopped with Mosaic, and that one will be tapped at NoDa at 4 p.m.
  • Third Annual Charlotte Beer Tap Takeover at Vintner Wine Market. For the last three beer weeks, Vintner Wine Market has held a Charlotte Beer Tap Takeover wherein all of their taps are devoted to beers brewed in the Queen City. The taplist will include the following:
    • OMB’s Fat Boy Baltic Porter, unfiltered LoSo Ryeder, unfiltered Captain James Jack Pilsner and Anniversary Alt.
    • Birdsong’s The Pride (randalled through Pinot Noir reconstituted sour cherries), Barrel-Aged St. Tuber, Marky Mark and the Brunchy Brunch Stout (collaboration with the Craft Beercast) and a cask of Honey Pie DIPA with Chinook and Columbus hops.
    • NoDa’s Hop Cakes DIPA, CAVU All Season Ale and Imperial Coco Loco.
    • Triple C’s Barrel-Aged Imperial Smoked Amber, Barrel-Aged Up All Night and Space Cadet Black IPA.
    • Lenny Boy’s Tart De La Wit (peach sour witbier).
    • And a few more!
  • Big Beers and Bites at Summit Coffee. If you live in or near Davidson, head to Summit Coffee this Thursday for a Sierra Nevada tap takeover featuring the following beers: Scotch barrel-aged Bigfoot Barleywine, Belgian Black IPA, Narwhal Imperial Stout, Ovila Abbey Quad with Plums, Single Hop Harvest #291, Ruthless Rye IPA and Torpedo Extra IPA.

Friday, March 21

  • The Dude Imbibes at Triple C Brewing. Triple C Brewing is tapping a pilot-batch beer every day of Charlotte Craft Beer Week. At 4 p.m. on Friday, they’re bringing back The Dude Imbibes. Brewed with vanilla beans, cloves and Kahlua-soaked oak chips, this chocolate stout is about as close to a White Russian as you’ll get in the beer world. These pilot-batch beers go fast, so get there early.

Saturday, March 22

  • NoDa Beer Dinner at Pure Pizza. Not sure which of the brewery’s beers will be poured, but they had me at “Ballpark Pizza.” Tickets can be purchased here, but get them by Tuesday, March 18.
  • Smokin’ at the Flying Saucer.  These guys are speaking to my heart (by way of my stomach) with smoked meats and beers from 2-7 p.m. They’ll be pouring the following smoked beers: Terrapin Pineapple Express (smoked pineapple Helles Lager), Duck-Rabbit’s Paul’s Holiday (Smoked Oatmeal Porter), Stone Smoked Porter, Stone Matt’s Saison (Imperial Smoked Saison) and Left Hand Left Hand Ambidextrous VI (Smoked Doppelweizenbock).