Birdsong Brewing to expand into Western North Carolina market

Birdsong Brewing Charlotte

Birdsong Brewing

We get so much good Asheville beer here in Charlotte that it only seems fair to share. Birdsong Brewing just announced in a press release their plans to distribute into Western North Carolina via an agreement with Skyland Distributing Company.

While the brewery plans to continue self-distributing its beer locally, they have partnered with Skyland to distribute their beers primarily in the Asheville area (and in counties west of Gaston Co. as well). In the press release, brewery manager Chris Goulet described the move as “a natural extension of our brand in an area that feels like a second home to us.”

Indeed, the brewery’s name came after Goulet and his wife mistook head brewer Conor Robinson’s snores for birdsong while staying at a hostel in Asheville (learn how other Charlotte breweries got their names here).

Of course, the city is seen as one of the best beer markets in the state. Birdsong will join that market in May, when kegs of their most popular beers — including Free Will Pale Ale, Lazy Bird Brown Ale and Jalapeño Pale Ale — begin hitting bars. Cans of those last two will make their way to Asheville as well, and some of the breweries seasonals should follow later.

Betting Beers on Super Bowl 50

When the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos this Sunday, Vegas won’t be the only ones playing the odds. North Carolina’s brewers want a piece of the pie, and they’re backing their home team the best way they know how — by betting with beer.

The first beer-related bet came prior to the Panthers playing the Seattle Seahawks, and not from a brewer but from Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts. Roberts challenged Seattle Mayor Ed Murray to a friendly wager: if the Panthers lost, she’d send a trifecta of Queen City goodness in the form of barbecue from Mac’s Speed Shop, salted caramel brownies from Amélie’s French Bakery & Café and beer from The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery.

Fortunately, Roberts didn’t have to deliver on her end (and sorry, but she’s not sorry). Instead, Murray will be sending her a taste of Seattle: wine from South Seattle College’s Northwest Wine Academy, Chinese barbeque from Kau Kau and beer from Pike Brewing.

With the Panthers set to take on the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship, things got even more heated. The first shots fired came from Rob Fullmer, executive director of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, who in a video challenged the North Carolina Brewers Guild to a bet. The guild behind the losing team would not only have to send five different beers as well as food to go along with them, but they would also have to welcome the other guild into their state to brew a collaboration beer (to be named by the winning team).

Suffice it to say the Panthers are going to the Super Bowl, and some of North Carolina’s brewers will be travelling to Arizona to brew a collaboration beer (the details for which are forthcoming). The guild has also entered into a new wager with the Colorado Brewers Guild in which the losing state must host a tap takeover featuring five of the winning state’s best beers. And who decides which beers those are? You do, by nominating your favorite breweries from both states here

Individual breweries throughout Colorado and North Carolina are raising the stakes. Charlotte’s Wooden Robot Brewery has entered into a wager with Little Machine Beer, another robot-themed brewery that is located just a few blocks away from the Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. If the Panthers win, Little Machine’s head brewer must dress up as Superman and perform “an undisclosed physical challenge” in tribute to Cam Newton. And if they lose, Wooden Robot’s Dan Wade will pay his own tribute to Peyton Manning by doing the same dressed as a sheriff, a nod to the longtime quarterback’s nickname.

Wardrobe requirements were part of Strange Craft Beer Co.’s challenge to NoDa Brewing as well. The Denver brewery has waged that if the Broncos win, NoDa’s co-founder Todd Ford must wear a Peyton Manning jersey at work and send a case each of the brewery’s Hop Drop ‘n Roll and Coco Loco Porter. If the Panthers win, Tim Myers from Strange Craft Beer Co. has agreed to send cases of their Cherry Kriek and Dr. Strangelove Barleywine. He’ll have to wear a Cam Newton jersey, naturally, and he’s going to have to dab on them folks. Both breweries will donate to charity in the other brewery’s name: NoDa Brewing to the Keep Pounding Fund, and Strange Craft Brewing Co. to the National Sports Center for the Disabled.

Last year Triple C Brewing’s head brewer Scott Kimball was in Denver at the Great American Beer Festival, where he accepted a bronze medal in the American-style Strong Pale Ale category for the brewer’s 3C IPA. Taking the silver medal in that category was Via Chicago, a pale ale by Coda Brewing Co. in Aurora. Given their shared proficiency in pale ales, the two have wagered a case of beer on their respective teams. And not only that, but one member of the losing brewery will have to get a tattoo of the other team’s logo.

Lone Tree and Sycamore

Triple C’s neighbors down the road at Sycamore Brewing have a similar wager. Like Triple C, Sycamore also won a bronze medal at last year’s Great American Beer Festival for its Southern Girl Lager in the American Style Lager or Light Lager category. Taking silver was Lone Tree Brewing out of Lone Tree, Colorado, and just ahead of them was that most famous of Colorado lager brewers, Coors Brewing Co. (for its Coors Banquet in particular). Sycamore and Lone Tree have since realized they have a lot in common, and so the two will be brewing a pair of India pale lagers soon (one featuring an ingredient from Colorado, the other with an ingredient from North Carolina). Until those are ready, the two breweries have come to an agreement: whichever team loses must dress in the other team’s colors and take a photo of themselves “drowning the sorrows of the loss with Coors Banquet beer.” The lower will also donate to a charity that supports the other team’s mascot (so horses for Colorado, and wildcats for North Carolina).

Even Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery has made what it’s calling “a sports ball wager in the name of beer” with Denver’s Spangalang Brewery. If you’re familiar with Fullsteam’s beers, it shouldn’t surprise you that their wager involves local ingredients. The winner of this wager will design a recipe for a beer that uses indigenous ingredients from their state, but the beer will be brewed and served in the loser’s brewery. Fullsteam’s crowdsourcing potential names, beer styles and ingredients on their Facebook event page.

Fullsteam’s even pre-gaming on Friday, Feb. 5 by releasing a beer called “Bless Their Heart.” It’s a twist on the Winter Rambler gruit they brewed with Charlotte’s Free Range Brewing, and it contains foraged juniper, Fraser fir and chokeberry syrup. It’s that last ingredient they feel best embodies Peyton Manning’s history of choking in the Super Bowl.

Whether Manning and the Broncos will do just that remains to be seen, but one thing is certain — North Carolina’s brewers have a lot at stake this year. And it’s not just the brewers: the Charlotte Observer has also entered into a wager with the Denver Post, with beer and barbecue on the line. Graphic designers from both Colorado and the Carolinas are facing off in a Design Brawl, with a six-pack’s worth of designs based on the Panthers and Broncos. And while you can’t influence the outcome of the game, you can vote on your favorite designs at DesignBrawl.com.

Blue Blaze Brewing gets its building permit

Building Permit

Blue Blaze Brewing’s co-founders Sven Giersmann and Craig Nunn with their newly-issued building permit. (Photo courtesy Blue Blaze Brewing)

Blue Blaze just got its green light.

With a building permit now in hand, Blue Blaze Brewing has released drawings of its plans for its 8,000-square-foot warehouse at 528 S. Turner Ave, beside the Savona Mill. As it stands today, the nondescript building is relatively empty; but in the months between now and a late spring or early summer opening, co-founders Craig Nunn and Sven Giersmann, as well as head brewer Steve Turner, will be quite busy.  

Blue Blaze Brewing

(Image courtesy Blue Blaze Brewing)

Outside, the industrial building will gain character through a wood awning over the entrance (with a silo coming in later, when they have a need for more grain). Large windows will be installed on both sides of the building, with the street side looking into the 15-barrel brewhouse and a row of fermenters.

Blue Blaze Brewing Interior

(Image courtesy Blue Blaze Brewing)

Inside, plans call for beer garden-style tables and seating for around 125 between the main level and a new mezzanine. Behind the bar will be 22 taps (two of them nitro) pouring a variety of beers, with Blue Blaze putting its own spin on American, German and English styles. Core beers will include an altbier, amber, milk stout, black IPA and Dortmunder lager, with more than 10 additional recipes on top of those. Most of Blue Blaze’s beers will fall below 6.5 percent ABV.

In neighborhoods like South End and NoDa, it’s all too easy to visit several breweries in a matter of hours. Here in Charlotte’s “West End,” however, that’s not the case.

“We know it will be a destination,” said Nunn. “People will have to want to come out this way.”

There have been instances of breweries bringing new businesses to an area, though. When The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery opened in an industrial area off of Old Pineville Rd. in 2009, it was the only real draw in that corridor. Now, the brewery is neighbors with another brewery, two distilleries and a bar, with a cidery coming soon. Many think the area surrounding NoDa Brewing’s North End brewery could see similar development.

There are also cases of breweries breathing new life into old mills. Twenty years ago, the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse played a big part in the Atherton Mill revitalization project. The developers behind the Savona Mill revitalization will use the Atherton Mill project from the 1990s as a template. Right now, the historic mill is boarded up and in need of repair.

Blue Blaze’s building isn’t in the mill itself, but they could be seen as an anchor tenant that would bring in additional tenants and businesses. And while the area lacks these complementary businesses that abound in other neighborhoods, Nunn believes the neighborhoods themselves are not so different.

“It’s NoDa 10-15 years ago. This community was looking for something to validate what they’ve done,” said Nunn, referring to the hard work put in by residents in Seversville and Wesley Heights. “We were expecting a few naysayers, but it’s been one big fat hug.”

In addition to wanting to put down roots in a welcoming neighborhood, Nunn and Giersmann also wanted to be close to a greenway. Lovers of the outdoors, they named the brewery after the blue blazes which mark side trails on the Appalachian Trail.

“We really wanted to be on the greenway,” said Nunn. “It wasn’t a requirement, but it was a really nice thing to have.”

The Stewart Creek Greenway stretches from just across the street to uptown, a span that can be walked in 15 minutes. By bike it’s even quicker, and Blue Blaze will take advantage of this by using custom Bullitt bicycles to deliver kegs. 

The greenway should help Blue Blaze bring its beer to others, and hopefully it’ll help bring others to its beer, too.

Blue Blaze Bikes

Blue Blaze Brewing will deliver kegs of beer using custom Bullitt bikes. (Photo by Daniel Hartis)

D9 Brewing beer release and brunch on Saturday, Dec. 12

Saint Martin's Cross

This Saturday, D9 Brewing in Cornelius will host a brunch and bottle release event for Saint Martin’s Cross, an imperial Scotch ale aged on oak previously soaked in Talisker single malt scotch.

The beer-infused Scottish brunch kicks off at 11 a.m. with the following menu prepared by Tim “The Brew Chef” Schafer:

  • Scottish pickled eggs with “beernaise” sauce
  • Beer and bacon-braised cabbage with caraway and cider vinegar
  • Smashed red-skinned potatoes with horseradish and scallions
  • Scotch ale-spiked beef “slop,” topped with yeast dumplings
  • Beer-brined and applewood-smoked pork shoulder, pulled and served in a Scotch ale and whisky “gravy”
  • Double chocolate banana bread pudding with spiced Scotch ale vanilla whipped cream
  • Fresh-baked dinner rolls

Tickets to the brunch are just $25 and include a 22-ounce bottle of St. Martin’s Cross (there is a brunch-only option for $15). The brunch is limited to just 80 guests, and tickets can be purchased here.

Bottles of the beer alone will retail for $10.99 starting at noon, and the beer will only be available in the taproom.

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

Sycamore and Triple C win medals at the Great American Beer Festival

Sycamore Brewing

Sycamore Brewing won a bronze medal for its Southern Girl Lager at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. Pictured from left to right: Jordy Smith (Brewery Operations Manager), Justin Brigham (Owner & Brewer), and Andrew Viapiano (Head Brewer). (Photo courtesy Sycamore Brewing)

The Great American Beer Festival is about the closest thing you can get to a Super Bowl for brewers.

Held every year in Denver, Colorado, the three-day event includes an awards ceremony in which breweries receive gold, silver, or bronze medals across nearly every style of beer imaginable. And if you weren’t streaming this ceremony live today like myself and so many others, I’m pleased to tell you that Charlotte’s Sycamore Brewing and Triple C Brewing both took home some hardware.

I likened the event to the Super Bowl, but of course that’s a bit of hyperbole. Seeing our hometown brewers win wouldn’t be like watching the Carolina Panthers hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Rather, it’s more like knowing Cam Newton or Luke Kuechly before they were national names.

Scott Kimball Triple C Brewing

Scott Kimball, head brewer at Triple C Brewing, wearing his bronze medal for 3C IPA. (Photo by Scott Kimball)

And that’s how I always feel whenever breweries from Charlotte or across North Carolina win medals, whether at the Great American Beer Festival or any other awards ceremony. There’s a sense of pride in watching the people who you’ve seen working hard for years being recognized for their efforts. I’m never surprised to hear of these breweries winning (here in Charlotte, for example, we knew how good NoDa Brewing’s Hop, Drop ‘n Roll was before it won a gold medal at last year’s World Beer Cup), but that doesn’t make it any less exciting.

So I got to live vicariously through these breweries during the awards ceremony earlier, when I heard Sycamore Brewing win a bronze in the American Style Light Lager category for their Southern Girl Lager. Shortly thereafter, their neighbors at Triple C Brewing won a bronze in the Strong American Pale Ale category for their 3C IPA.

North Carolina on the whole represented well this year, with breweries from the Old North State taking home eight medals total. In addition to the aforementioned two, the following breweries won for these beers:

  • Fonta Flora Brewery Beets, Rhymes and Life won gold in the Field Beer category.
  • Duck-Rabbit Brewery Märzen won bronze in the German-Style Märzen category.
  • Duck-Rabbit Baltic Porter won bronze in the Baltic-Style Porter category.
  • Wicked Weed Brewing Pernicious won silver in the American-Style India Pale Ale category.
  • Gibb’s Hundred Brewing The Guilty Party won gold in the Extra Special Bitter category.
  • Raleigh Brewing The Miller’s Toll won bronze in the Imperial Stout category.

New Belgium and four NoDa neighborhood breweries collaborate on “Yours and Mine”

New Belgium and NoDa-area breweries collaborate on Yours and Mine Golden Ale

Brewers from Heist Brewery, Free Range Brewing, Birdsong Brewing and NoDa Brewing traveled to New Belgium to brew Yours and Mine, a beer that features ingredients from Colorado and North Carolina. (Photo courtesy New Belgium)

Brewers from Charlotte’s four NoDa neighborhood breweries — NoDa Brewing, Birdsong Brewing, Heist Brewery and Free Range Brewing — recently flew out to Colorado to brew a collaboration beer with New Belgium Brewing. Part of their Beers with Vrienden program, the beer — called Yours and Mine — was inspired by the Beers Made By Walking program, wherein brewers choose ingredients inspired by walks in nature (or sometimes urban environments).

The resulting golden ale will be brewed with ingredients inspired by walks in Colorado and North Carolina, with beet sugar and lavender from New Belgium’s grounds, Colorado sunflowers, and Scuppernongs. I’ll have more about this collaboration (and its dark side) in The Charlotte Observer next Friday, but before then you will actually have the chance to hear directly from all five participating breweries during a Google Hangout at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9. NoDa Brewing’s been doing these Hangouts monthly, and so far they’ve been an entertaining way to stay up to date with that brewery’s goings on. You can watch live and submit questions here.  Consider it a preview to the release of the beer, which will take place at NoDa Brewing from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12. The after party is at Salud Beer Shop at 7 p.m., with Yours and Mine on tap as well as other beers from the participating breweries.

Cabarrus Brewing Co. announces location at The Gibson Mill in Concord

Cabarrus Brewing Company in Concord, North Carolina

Cabarrus Brewing Co. announced today its plans to build in Concord’s Gibson Mill, which is currently home to a large antique mall. The mill is made up of two large buildings with a 15,000-square-foot building between them, and it is here that Cabarrus Brewing Co. will build. In March, High Branch Brewing Co. announced plans to build in a 1,400-square-foot space inside the mill as well.

Up until May, neither brewery would have been able to operate a taproom out of the mill — zoning didn’t allow for it. Steve Steinbacher, one of the owners of Cabarrus Brewing Co., began working with the city’s planning department in January to come up with a text amendment that would allow breweries to operate taprooms and sell beer on premise.

With that amendment now passed, Steinbacher has signed a lease in the Gibson Mill and is on the cusp of ordering his three-vessel, 15-barrel brewhouse.

“Cabarrus county has a very rich textile and manufacturing history,” Steinbacher said. “We have old mills everywhere. Some are falling down and dilapidated shells, and some are being repurposed.”

The Gibson Mill is squarely in the latter camp. Right now, The Depot at Gibson Mill is home to rows upon rows of old antiques and memorabilia that draw visitors from all over.

“It’s already really becoming quite a destination, not just during the weekend but during the week,” said Steinbacher.

Plans for the design of the taproom are still being finalized, but Steinbacher foresees an open floorplan that leaves in place many of the building’s historical elements. He points to San Diego’s Mission Brewery, whose building was once home to a Wonder Bread factory, as an inspiration.

“The interior of that space is eerily similar in terms of what our building will look like,” said Steinbacher.

Unlike many brewery owners, Steinbacher is not a homebrewer with dreams of going pro. He has brewed before, but doesn’t consider himself an avid homebrewer by any means. He’s just had a taste for and interest in craft beer for years. For the brewing, he will turn to Jason McKnight. If you’re familiar with your Charlotte beer history (shameless plug), you might remember that McKnight once brewed for The Mill Bakery, Eatery and Brewery during the 1990s. Now, the Siebel-trained brewer is once again picking up the mash paddle.

“A lot of people have been egging him to get back into the game,” said Steinbacher. “We’re thrilled he’s going to be a partner in this business.”

Joining Steinbacher as a founding partner is also Keith Griffin. As far as potential beers, Steinbacher said to expect good representations of traditional styles without getting “too out there.”

“We’re really going to focus not just on the beer, but the environment,” said Steinbacher. “We want this to be a really big showcase for Cabarrus county.”

To keep up with Cabarrus Brewing Co. as they build the brewery, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

The Unknown Brewing Co. to release Hospitali-Tea in cans

The Unknown Brewing Co. Hospitali-Tea Cans

As I walked up to The Unknown Brewing Co. last night I found Brad Shell not in the brewery, as is usually the case, but manning the big outdoor fireplace out front. As you might imagine given the weather, it wasn’t for warmth – Shell was using the makeshift grill to cook three huge chunks of beef for a staff meeting.

It was fitting since I’d come to talk to Shell about Hospitali-Tea, a beer I first had at the brewery’s Charlotte Smoke-Off last year.

“We first made Hospitali-Tea as a gimmick or a joke for our Smoke-Off festival,” said Shell, as he sprinkled seasoning and drizzled sauce over the sizzling sirloin. “It went over really well. We had so much demand we decided to put it on draft.”

The beer, an amber ale brewed with black tea and orange blossom honey, became a popular choice in the taproom last summer.

“And then everyone was like, ‘I want to take this with me to the beach, I want to take it to the ball game, I want to take this hiking,’” said Shell. “It just seemed like a natural fit to come out in July.”

This year, the brewery will put Hospitali-Tea in cans, with six-packs hitting shelves around the third week of July. Before then, however, they will be releasing bottles of “1.5ish,” a beer that was brewed for their first anniversary but needed a little more time in the barrel. The beer is a Belgian-style red rye aged and soured in French oak cabernet barrels with strawberries and vanilla beans. This one’s waiting for the screen-printed bottles to come in, but will be available shortly after that.

The brewery is also partnering with the Fillmore by brewing a beer called Opening Act IPA that will be released on July 11 at the Fillmore’s Craft Sessions. This will be the venue’s second Craft Sessions, which will be a quarterly event at the Fillmore.

Other news at Unknown includes an attempt at breaking a Guinness world record and planning for another Day of the Dead beer (more on those later). Shell has also built a new pilot system out of three stainless steel, 55-gallon drums, so expect to see more small-batch beers in the taproom.

Brewers Collaborate for the North Carolina Brewers Celebration

Gary Brown from Boondocks Brewing

Gary Brown, founder of Boondocks Brewing, measures out hops for the red IPA. The beer will be served at the NC Brewers Celebration at BB&T Ballpark on Saturday, June 27.

Representatives from breweries across the state met at NoDa Brewing this morning to brew a collaboration beer for the North Carolina Brewers Celebration, to be held at BB&T Ballpark on Saturday, June 27. The festival is presented by All About Beer magazine in conjunction with the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild.

The collaborative beer is a red IPA brewed with Pacific Jade, Equinox, Azacca, Chinook and Bravo hops, and it will be served at the festival as well as in the taprooms of participating breweries. The following breweries were in attendance to help brew the red IPA: Boondocks Brewing, Check Six Brewing, The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Four Saints Brewing Co., Mystery Brewing, Natty Greene’s Brewing Co., Triple C Brewing, White Street Brewing Co. and Wise Man Brewing.

The festival will feature around 50 North Carolina breweries as well as several local farmers, retailers and beer stores. At a small “cask ale festival,” six NC breweries will pour a variety of cask-conditioned beers.

General admission tickets for the festival are $45 and include a 4-ounce commemorative glass and unlimited samples of more than 150 beers from 1-5 p.m. VIP tickets are $70 and provide the aforementioned samples, early entry at noon, a festival gift, and access to 20-30 limited beers not available to general admission ticket holders, plus access to private bathrooms and an air-conditioned lounge in the club level.

Tickets for the North Carolina Brewers Celebration are available at NCBrewersCelebration.com.