On Hornets and Hops

Charlotte HornetsBritish General Cornwallis and his men marched into Charlotte in 1780, five years after Captain James Jack had delivered the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence to Philadelphia. Cornwallis and his troops burned down the tavern that Captain James Jack and his father owned and lived in, and soon occupied the city — but not for long. The general was met with such resistance that he left Charlotte, which he called “a hornet’s nest of rebellion.”

A nickname was born. Today the hornet handle is most commonly associated with the NBA team that played in the city from 1988-2002 before moving to New Orleans. After a long campaign to “bring back the buzz,” the Hornets are set to do just that with their first regular season home game tonight.

Over the years, brewers have also applied the Hornets name to their beers. Here’s a look at three popular Charlotte-brewed beers to feature the Hornets name.

Hornet Tail Ale – The Mill Bakery, Eatery and Brewery

In the ’90s, when the Hornets boasted such players as Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning,  The Mill Bakery, Eatery and Brewery brewed an altbier and named it Hornet Tail Ale. They even had t-shirts imploring patrons to “Catch a Buzz.” That beer won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 1990 (it won a medal again in 1995, though I couldn’t find a record of which medal it won).

Stingin’ Brits IPA – Rock Bottom Brewery

The Battle of Charlotte was fought at the intersection of Trade and Tryon, just a few blocks away from where now sits the Rock Bottom Brewery. The brewery opened in 1997, and though the beer lineup has changed over the last 15 years, its Stingin’ Brits IPA was always a popular seller. The brewery still serves an IPA, though it’s not under this name.

Hornet’s Nest Hefeweizen – The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery first released their Hornet’s Nest Hefeweizen in 2012, well before “Bring Back the Buzz” reached fever pitch. I imagine “Bobcat Bavarian Wheat” just didn’t have the same ring to it. This true-to-style German hefeweizen will return to the taproom and area bars next year.

Craft Tasting Room and Growler Shop Grand Opening this Thursday, Oct. 23

Craft Tasting Room and Growler ShopCraft Tasting Room and Growler Shop, located at 1320 S. Church St. in Charlotte’s SouthEnd, will open its doors at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23. The new business is the brainchild of Dan and Alyson Davis, who moved to Charlotte last year after spending a dozen years in New York City. Growler sales were only allowed at breweries when they moved to Charlotte, however a change in legislation late last year paved the way for their new business.

And while Craft will be filling both 32-ounce and 64-ounce growlers from 36 taps, they’re more than just a growler shop. You can also enjoy those taps — half of which will be made up of NC breweries, the other half regional and more limited beers — in Craft’s 3,000-square-foot tasting room, by the pint or by the flight. The long row of taps is set against a backdrop of stainless steel, and the names of each beer are written in chalk on the large chalkboard wall above them.

And above that wall, exposed roof trusses support a glass roof that lets in plenty of natural light in the day and shows off the stars at night. There are several hefty, hand-hewed tables at which to sit and enjoy a beer with any number of “bar bites” such as charcuterie, cheeses, nuts, fruits and breads (Dan is a chef by trade). Outside is a 1,000-square-foot beer garden area with eight picnic tables underneath rows of string lights.

If you’re looking to grab something to go, Craft has that, too. The shelves inside are filled with six-packs as well as bombers, grouped for the most part by style or by season. The selection isn’t as extensive as other area bottle shops (at least not yet), but it’s still respectable and certainly a nice option for those looking to take something home.

Don and Alyson Davis envision Craft as being a one-stop shop for anyone looking to pick up beer and snacks for parties and picnics, too. To that end they have stocked the shelves with foodstuffs like chips, jams, nuts, crackers, pickled veggies and chow-chow, stone-ground grits and cocktail mixers.

From 6:30-9:30 p.m. on opening night, Craft will offer $3 drafts and complimentary bar bites. After the grand opening, they will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.

To keep up with Craft Tasting Room and Growler Shop, follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

NoDa Brewing Celebrates Three Years with Three Days of Special Beers

NoDa Brewing always taps some special beers for their anniversary, and this — the brewery’s third — might be the biggest celebration yet.

Monday, Oct. 27  is “Collaboration Day,” when they’ll tap beers they brewed with other breweries. This means the highly-acclaimed “Stop, Collaborate & Glisten” collaboration with Night Shift Brewing is back, as is the Mother Shucker Oyster Stout that they did with Wilmington’s Front Street Brewery. Fonta Flora’s Haulin’ Oats, a hoppy saison, will also make an appearance. But it’s not just collaborations: NoDa will also tap their Olde Voyager English Barlyewine as well as a cask of Hop Drop ‘n Roll that’s been double dry-hopped with Simcoe.

Tuesday, Oct. 28 is “Throwback Tuesday.” They’ve gone into the cellar and come out with the following aged beers: 2012 Ménage à Quad; 2013 and 2014 TriUmphant Tripel; and 2013 Imperial Coco Loco. There will be another Hop Drop ‘n Roll cask, though this one’s double dry-hopped with Mosaic. And since it’s a Tuesday, they’ll have “CAVU Kölsch” as their NoDable keg.

But Wednesday, Oct. 29 is their actual anniversary, and for that they will roll out the barrels. On “Barrel Aging Day,” they tap the following: bourbon barrel-aged Olde Voyager, rum barrel-aged Imperial Coco Loco; bourbon barrel-aged Ménage à Quad. For the third day they’ll have a cask of Hop Drop ‘n Roll, this one filled with pineapple and double dry-hopped with Ella and Equinox hops.They will also have two new beers on Wednesday. Captain Peanut Butter’s Chocolate Revenge comes in at 8.5 percent ABV and is brewed with Dutch and Ghana cocoa, plus 2.5 pounds of peanut butter powder per barrel. Toast to a New Year Sparkling Ale was brewed with honey, toasted flaked oats and Sorachi Ace hops — and then it was refermented with Champagne yeast to give it a nice crispness. At 5.1 percent ABV, it’s a much lighter offering than most of the other beers they’ll tap this week.

And if that wasn’t enough, they’ll be releasing Monstro — a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout — on Saturday, Nov. 1. They’ll tap a keg of non-barrel-aged Monstro on Friday the night before to prepare. Find the details on that release here.

Taps and Snaps Launch Party at NoDa Brewing Company

Taps and Snaps Photography

Perhaps you’ve seen her behind the lens at local Charlotte breweries over the last years, or more recently at this year’s Charlotte Oktoberfest. Now Wendy Raymond, owner of Little Photography, is turning her hobby of beer photography into a specialty she’s calling “Taps and Snaps.”

You can join Wendy for the launch of Taps and Snaps at NoDa Brewing from 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23. She will have some of her photography on display and will be on hand to talk a little more about the new venture.

Says NoDa Brewing’s Suzie Ford in a press release: “Wendy has a keen eye to capture that perfect moment without any major set up or planning. She just has ‘it’ and seems to be in the right place, at the right time, without getting in the way. She is a long-time craft beer-lover, and she understands the personalities of beers, brewers and craft beer fans, which allows her to get that special shot.”

A portion of the proceeds from Wendy’s sales of print photography go to charities that serve the homeless in the Charlotte metro area (and not just this Thursday, but always). A raffle with various prizes will help raise funds for Charlotte’s Urban Ministry Center.

For more information about Taps and Snaps, visit www.wlittlephotography.com/tapsandsnaps.


Charlotte Engineer Invents “World’s First Magnetic Bottle Hanger”

Having a tough time squeezing all that local beer into your fridge? One Charlotte inventor hopes to help with that.

Brian Conti, a design engineer and founder of Charlotte’s Spoke Design, has just invented what he calls the “world’s first magnetic bottle hanger.” It works like this: using a “very high bond” tape, you secure a plastic rail with three magnets to the inside ceiling of your fridge. Then you simply reach in and stick your beer’s bottle cap to the magnet, where it is suspended as if by magic.

Of course, it’s not magic. There’s a lot of science behind it, which is sure to comfort beer geeks worried that their pricey bottles could plummet to the shelves below at any minute. For one, each magnet is capable of holding 3.6 pounds, even though a 12-ounce bottle of beer weighs only a third of that. The tape used to attach the rail to the fridge’s ceiling is, in addition to being rated “very high bond,” also used for low-temperature applications.

But if anything points to the success of this project, it is that Conti has had several other successful Kickstarter projects. Conti’s STRONG LIKE BULL Magnets were successfully funded on Kickstarter in February of last year, ultimately surpassing his goal of $7,500 on his way to $57,507 raised. His next Kickstarter was for a custom-machined bottle stopper/opener called Bottlejak, which didn’t receive its funding.

Not one to give up at the sign of adversity, Conti launched a Kickstarter campaign for the big and burly STRONG LIKE BULL Bottle Opener just a couple months after that. This one, like the STRONG LIKE BULL Magnets, was successfully funded. And this past June, he revisited the magnets when he offered up a Kickstarter for STRONG LIKE BULL Throw Magnets. These are similar to his previous design, however they have a ring of rubber around them making them safe to toss at whiteboards, refrigerators, or wherever you might want to stick them. His goal on this Kickstarter campaign was $3,500, yet he ended up raising $13,344.

Clearly, Conti knows what he is doing where magnets are involved, especially if those magnets somehow intersect with the beverage industry. This latest Kickstarter campaign will help him have an injection mold made and purchase large quantities of many of the necessary components. At the time of this writing people have already pledged more than $13,500, and he has 23 days left to hit his goal of $20,000.


Remember, Remember, the First of November


“Remember, remember, the first of November: new breweries, beers and whatnot.
I know of no reason why this wonderful season should ever be forgot”. 

With apologies to Guy Fawkes, you’ll want to remember the first of November. Start your morning off at NoDa Brewing for their bottle release of Monstro, an imperial stout aged in Van Winkle Special Reserve bourbon barrels, at 10 a.m. Saturday morning. A food truck will be selling breakfast, which will be crucial for anyone drinking an 11.2 percent stout that early in the day.

Then head to Unknown Brewing for their own release of “La Jordana del Escorpion en Fuego Hacia la Casa del Chupacabra Muerto,” a 10.1 percent ABV Mexican imperial lager brewed with agave nectar, serrano peppers and 99 real scorpions. From 1-3 p.m., they will have a Mariachi band playing and free “Day of the Dead” face painting. Juan Taco will be parked outside. EDIT: The weekend just got a little less busy. Unknown has moved this bottle release to Sunday, Nov. 9, which is also the day they are hosting a chili cookoff. Bottles go on sale at 12:30 p.m., and you can start sampling chili around 2 p.m.

While you’re in SouthEnd, you’ll want to move on down to Sycamore Brewing, which will open their doors from 2-9 p.m. (I’ll have a little more on what you can expect next week).

Sycamore’s neighbors at Triple C Brewing will also be hosting their Harvest Fest and oyster roast. Tickets are $25, which includes one beer, oysters, and a $5 donation to Friendship Gardens. The Josh Daniel/Mark Schimick Project will play from 5-8 p.m. ,with oysters at 6 p.m.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. On Halloween night, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery will tap Fat Boy Baltic Porter and host a Halloween costume contest. Bottles of a barrel-aged version will be released in January, when a breakfast and bottle share will accompany the release.

Also on Halloween, Birdsong Brewing will tap Mexicali Stout, its fall/winter seasonal brewed with cinnamon, chili spice and coffee from Charlotte’s Central Coffee Co.

Triple C Brewing to release “The Dude Imbibes” on Saturday, Oct. 25

Assuming you aren’t shomer Shabbos, you’ll want to throw on your favorite robe and head down to Triple C Brewing on Saturday, Oct. 25 for the release of The Dude Imbibes, an imperial milk stout aged for six months in rum barrels before then being aged on coffee beans. The bottles will be released at the taproom at noon, but at 11 a.m. they will kick off the morning with a bottle share and brunch from the Hot Box food truck.

Bottles of the beer are $13 each, and in the days after the release some will start to trickle into local bottle shops and even some out-of-town accounts across the state.

Triple C Brewing The Dude Imbibes

USNWC Autumn Zipline and Dine with Bottle Shops

USNWC Zipline and Dine Autumn

The U.S. National Whitewater Center usually highlights breweries as part of its Zipline and Dine events, but for the Autumn edition they are inviting representatives from local bottle shops to come pour four seasonal beers each. You’ll start your night by flying down five different ziplines and two roped bridges before rappelling down to a fireside dinner, where representatives from the bottle shops will be on hand to talk to you about their beer selections.

Here is the full schedule and beer list for each of the four events (note that the event with Crafty Beer Guys is already sold out):

  • Wednesday, Oct. 15: Salud Beer Shop will bring Fonta Flora Brewery Oktoberfest, Stillwater Artisinal Ales Autumnal, Tröegs Brewing Hop Knife and Deep River Pumpkin Pie Porter.
  • (Sold Out) Friday, Oct. 17: Crafty Beer Guys will bring Dogfish Head Punkin, Big Boss Harvest Time, Olde Mecklenburg Mecktoberfest and Southern Tier Pumking.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 22: Good Bottle Co. will bring Pisgah Pumpkin Ale, Asheville Brewing Papa Icky’s Oktoberfest, Fullsteam Fearrington’s Fall Apple Rye IPA and Green Man Brewery Harvester Ale.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 29: Vintner Wine Market will bring Fullsteam Rocket Science, Birdsong Brewing No Quarter Porter, Lenny Boy Brewing Burn Down Brown and Wicked Weed Jack O’Hammered Pumpkin Ale.

Find more information and register for these events here: http://usnwc.org/zipline-dine-autumn-edition/.

NoDa Brewing to release Monstro on Saturday, Nov. 1

NoDa Brewing will release Monstro, an 11.2 percent imperial stout that has been aged in Van Winkle Special Reserve bourbon barrels, at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 1. The 22-ounce bottles will retail at $18 a piece in the taproom only, and are limited to one case a person. Though they won’t have a final bottle count until they bottle the beer, it will be a limited release. There will be live music and a food truck serving up breakfast the morning of the release.

Monstro is the name of the giant whale in Pinocchio. In the beer world, rare beers that merit an Ahab-like chase are known as “whales” or “white whales,” and with a small bottle this one should certainly qualify. The beer was available at Brawley’s Black and Blue earlier this year, and it was one of the first kegs to kick. I can vouch that it is an excellent beer.

The beer will be a blend of two different batches: one was brewed in November of 2013, the other in March of 2014. Those batches have been aging in 12-year-old barrels that once held Van Winkle Special Reserve, a highly-acclaimed bourbon, ever since.

The label reads:

“Neptune said to the sea there should be a terrible Monstro, born from its darkest depths. It should stout with the strength of a whale. This is that beer, of toasted barley mass, rounded out by the vanillas, molasses and oak of bourbon barrel aging. Enjoy the deep.”

Edit: I initially reported that Monstro was aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels, however this is not the case. The barrels were actually used to hold 12-year Van Winkle Special Reserve, a bourbon that — like Pappy Van Winkle — is in the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery family and produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Sycamore Brewing to open on Saturday, Nov. 1

Justin and Sarah Brigham have been working hard for many months now to open Sycamore Brewing, a new brewery right around the corner from Lenny Boy Brewing in SouthEnd. They recently announced that they will open their doors on Saturday, Nov. 1.

I’ll have more on what you can expect a little closer to that date, but for now go ahead and make plans to be there. Having seen a little of the taproom and had some of their beers, I can say I think you’ll really enjoy the spot and their offerings.