If like Seinfeld’s Frank Costanza you, too, have had it up to here with Christmas, you’ll want to head to Brawley’s Beverage on Tuesday, Dec. 23 (the date referenced in Seinfeld) for a Festivus party. Yes, there will be a metal pole, and Brawley also promises an “airing of grievances” and “feats of strength.” But after all that, you’ll be able to enjoy the following beers: Great Lakes Christmas Ale, Fullsteam First Frost, Bell’s Christmas Ale, Sierra Nevada Celebration, Olde Hickory Event Horizon and Olde Mecklenburg Yule Bock. The party starts at 6:30 p.m., and lasts until you pin someone down during the feats of strength.
The Beer Growler, Charlotte’s first growler shop, will open to the public on Thursday, July 10. The shop is located at 1427 South Boulevard, across the street from World of Beer.
Growler shops were legalized in Georgia in 2010, and shortly thereafter Dennis Young, Paul Saunders and Sean Galvin opened the first location of The Beer Growler in Athens. Though they have seven total franchises in Georgia, this will mark the first in North Carolina.
Opening this franchise are three Charlotteans — Brandee Winkler, Kristen Knox and Jessica King — who think that North Carolina in general and Charlotte in particular will embrace The Beer Growler. And they plan to support their state’s breweries in turn, as all 45 of the store’s taps will feature North Carolina beers when they open their doors (save for one kombucha from Charlotte’s Lenny Boy Brewing Co).
“We wanted to showcase the vast array of craft beers that North Carolina has to offer for our grand opening,” said Jessica King. “Being that we are locally owned and operated this was important to us. Plus, there are so many great craft beers produced in NC!”
All of The Beer Growler’s 32- and 64-ounce glass, screw-top growlers will be half-off during their opening week of July 10-17 (this deal applies only to the growlers themselves; the growler fills are regular price). The growlers are usually $5 and will be selling for $2.50 during this time, with fills ranging from $4.99-$12.99 for 32 oz. growlers and $9.99-$22.99 for 64 oz. growlers.
I don’t want to be a curmudgeon.
Really I don’t.
But I recently realized I was being just that, through an interaction with Nick McCormac aka Drink Blog Repeat, a favorite beer blogger of mine (sorry Daniel…second favorite). Nick was tweeting about Hopslam arriving at various spots in his area, with a “keep calm” qualifier befitting the breathless hype that too often accompanies this and other “whale” beers. I replied, “I’m quite calm,” and received the following back:
@ryanselfbeer Ah, the annual ritual of you reminding me and anyone with a pulse you don’t care about Hopslam.
— Drink. Blog. Repeat. (@drinkblogrepeat) January 31, 2014
This might seem like the typical pithy back and forth the Internt is so famous for, except that it came from someone I read, respect and consider a friend. So it got me thinking. What is the appropriate response to Hopslam (and KBS, and Cold Mountain, and whatever absolutelyinsaneohmygodgetitno
1. Go nuts, buy all you can.
2. Casual interest. Buy it if you see it, don’t take to social media searching for it.
3. Take an antagonistic view of the hype, become esentially anti-Hopslam and holier-than-thou.
I’ve been doing number three, which means I’ve been doing it all wrong. Hopslam (nor any other rare beer de jeur) is not the sickness in our beer scene, it is merely a symptom. We have become a beer scene that talks openly about a return to craft beer enjoyment over collecting, fundamentally solid beers over hype, and local artisanal brewing over jumping from one new barrel aged imperial boozebomb to the next. We talk a good game, but our actions (and our tweets) say differently. I don’t know one beer blogger who doesn’t agree with the sentiment that a hype driven beer scene is unsustainable, and yet when the newest beer drops, most immediately jump to join the hype train. Maybe beer writers are just responding to public demand, what the people want to read. But how much of public demand is established and driven by what’s being pushed out there, and what’s being sold as “Get it now, rush rush it’s the best ever and it’ll be gone soon!” It’s a vicious cycle. We’re telling newcomers to the craft beer scene that craft means only extreme, high alcohol, and rare; creating a barrier to entry and the appearance that buzz rules over taste.
That being said, it’s even worse to be an insufferable prick about it, telling anyone who will listen how you’ve already had it, it’s no big deal, I’m evolved and I’ve moved on to this other beer you newbies aren’t even aware of. Hipsters are annoying, whether in music, fashion or craft beer. The people who collect beers don’t love beer, they just love being the smartest guy in the room. I think the tweet above was subtly calling me out for doing so, and he was right. It’s easy to get so weary of the hype train that one becomes more insufferable than any Hopslam hoarder, and in the same boat as the craft beer elitist looking down their nose at the Sam Adams or Yuengling drinker.
We’re supposed to be an inclusive, welcoming scene, fighting the fight together for quality over inferior ingredients and monolithic advertising agencies that happen to make beer. So, in that spirit, allow me to spell out the case against the white whale of the week in a more nuanced way.
Craft beer is not just a product, or a label, or a personal identifier. Reduced to its core elements, beer is beer. What makes craft exceptional are the people behind it. The brewer hand crafting a recipe he developed with the greatest of care, the beer shop taking great pains to store their stock appropriately, the beer bar serving beer at correct temperatures, in proper glassware, at its freshest; because all know the end use customer cares. Buying a beer because it’s the rarest is essentially succumbing to the same marketing tactics of buying a beer because it’s the coldest can or pours fastest. We’re ignoring the steak and buying the sizzle, which demeans the brewing process and puts our local bottle shops in a terrible spot: sell the beer first come first serve, or hold it back for regulars and be forced to lie to customers or face the Wrath of the Message Board. I’ve had many chats with Mike Brawley of Brawley’s Beverage, a beloved local institution, about handling distribution of rare release beers. His policy is to save them for his regulars, rewarding their loyalty with access to the rarest releases. However, he also refuses to lie to his customers. He won’t tell a first time shopper looking for Hopslam he doesn’t have it; he’ll tell them he has it but it is reserved for his regulars. Most folks don’t take kindly to this news (and have no compunction about saying so publicly), but what is his alternative? Tell a regular, “Sorry, I know you buy all your beer here, but I sold my Hopslam to a guy I’ve never seen before who doesn’t support my shop the other 51 weeks a year?” It’s a no-win situation that we help to create by telling folks who are still new in their craft beer journey, “Forget everything else, THIS is the beer you want.”
We’re not going to create the craft beer scene we want by ignoring tried and trusted favorites over the rare beer of the week, and feeding the hype cycle. We’re also not going to get there by acting elitist, as if we’re above anyone who is still looking for these beers. That’s my mistake, and on Hopslam release day, I’m going to atone for it by staying quiet and visiting my favorite local bottle shop to buy a sixer…of Bell’s Two Hearted, or Dale’s Pale Ale, or Noda’s Hop Drop and Roll; my hoppy beers that never disappoint. They won’t trade for much on BeerAdvocate or sell on eBay, but they’ll drink damn fine at half the price.
Beer is almost deified in Belgium, and with good reason: many of the beers are brewed in hallowed monasteries by monks, or sponsored by centuries-old abbeys. While there are no Trappist breweries in North Carolina, Rob Jacik thinks the state’s beers should be treated with the same esteem.
Where better to worship NC’s beers than at Carolina Beer Temple, the bottleshop/bar that Rob and his wife Megan will open early next year in Matthews (131-1C Matthews Station St). The name was inspired by their trip to Belgium, where they were amazed at how much beer was a part of Belgian culture. Gas stations carried beers like St. Bernardus Abt 12 and Rochefort 8, and bars served Belgian beers almost exclusively. That hardly seems surprising given the many world-class beers brewed in that country, but could this concept work in NC?
Rob thinks so. He hopes the store will have Charlotte’s best selection of beers from the Old North State, including many that are not easy to find in Charlotte. He plans to have between 8-16 taps, half of which will be devoted to beers brewed in NC. And pouring those beers? Cicerone Certified Beer Servers (once the staff is trained, of course).
“With 70 breweries currently in operation in North Carolina we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fantastic if North Carolina embraced its beer industry in much the same way as Belgium?’” Rob said. “In an attempt to elevate the beer scene in North Carolina to a similar level as Belgium we felt our store should resonate with a similar reverence for the beers made here.”
While Rob readily boasts about the state’s beer scene, he says he chose the Matthews area because “there really isn’t a good quality bottle shop that specializes in craft beer anywhere near the area.” He also noted wanting to be part of a downtown environment away from strip malls. One of Carolina Beer Temple’s neighbors will be Black Chicken Wine Cellar. Black Chicken sells some craft beers, but their main focus is wine.
“We fully intend to be great neighbors with the Black Chicken,” Rob said. “I’ve already spoken to several potential customers who love the idea of a fine wine shop next to a craft beer store. I think our stores will compliment each other very well (and there will be no wine sold at Carolina Beer Temple).”
Rob hopes to have Carolina Beer Temple open by mid-January to mid-February. Until then, keep up with the store’s progress on the Carolina Beer Temple Facebook page.
“Good Bottle Company” will open in Charlotte’s South End (125 Remount Rd next to Canine Cafe) on October 12. They will be donating some proceeds to 24 Hours of Booty and will also be giving away a bike. One of the owners, Chris Hunt, agreed to answer a few questions to tell me what’s good about Charlotte’s newest bottle shop.
Why the name “Good Bottle Company”?
“When we think of beer, we often begin our description with ‘that’s a good beer.’
It’s that simple. Bottles will represent the majority of our store; we will have more bottles than anything. And the “company”? It comes from our desire to feel like our place has been in SouthEnd for years, like one of the old companies housed in a warehouse just off the tracks. Also, company to us is how beer is best enjoyed, with somebody or somebodies.”
“We will have bottles, cans, growlers, draft pints and draft half pints. Our store will be divided up by style, making it easy to find a beer or beer style that you are looking for. We will focus on local, regional, and national breweries. We are not going to focus on how many beers we have, but on how good the beers we have are. We hope to help tell the story of each and every brewery, one good beer at a time.”
“We will have 10-12 taps rotating frequently while having at least 2-3 taps dedicated to Charlotte beer at all times. We will serve both pints and half pints. We believe that craft beer is about choice and variety and with our half pints folks will have a chance to maybe try a few different beers while they are here.
With the father-in-law tap, my father-in-law typically drinks lighter beers. So we will try and always have something light (craft beer of course) just in case he decides to stop in. Also, it will be a way for folks to understand that craft beer is variety, not just dark, heavy, high gravity beers.”
What will set Good Bottle Company apart in the Charlotte beer scene?
“What we want to do is concentrate on celebrating craft beer. We want to connect the brewers to our customers. We want to be a place beer geeks can come together to talk beer. We want to be a place where people can meet after work, or during work, and have a beer together. We want to be a place where you can learn about beer and just how good it can be.”
“SouthEnd has quickly become a destination for craft beer in Charlotte. Common Market, World of Beer, The Liberty and Mac’s Speed Shop have been exposing people to craft beer through tasting, beer pairings, dinners and plenty of other events. We are excited to join the community and continue to help make SouthEnd and Charlotte known for craft beer.”
“I grew up in Asheville, NC, so I was exposed to craft beer back in the mid-90s. I wish I could tell you that I loved it from day one, but that’s not exactly true. I remember friends smuggling bad beers into Barley’s Taproom because we were all too scared to try something new/dark/heavy.
I started trying beers from different breweries and began to appreciate the passion that the brewers/breweries had for their beers. After attending the Brewgrass Festival and stopping at Bruisin’ Ales a few years ago I began to research the industry and a possible career in craft beer. It wasnt until I met Sean Lilly Wilson a few months before he opened Fullsteam Brewery that I really thought this career was possible. His passion for his brewery, his focus on NC and the South for his ingredients, and his connection to to his customers showed me just how real the craft beer community and culture is.”
Two local Charlotte beer stores — Vintner Wine Market and Brawley’s Beverage — were recently included in Rate Beer’s 2011 list of best beer retailers.
Vintner Wine Market was voted the 20th best beer retailer in the world in the online poll. In addition to the hundreds of bottles, Vintner Wine Market also boasts 16 beers on draft. Though they offer hundreds of bottles to take home, you would be remiss not to sit and have one of their 16 drafts, especially when paired with their chocolates, cheeses or entrées. Stop by on a Tuesday night and you’re likely to find a beer being infused through their Randall. Make sure to sign up for the free beer club — you can get free beers, glassware and discounts on food! If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Erika, Emily, Grant, Jeremy or the many Vintner regulars, you need to take a trip to Vintner Wine Market to see why they are much more than just a great Charlotte beer store.
It’s not surprising that Brawley’s Beverage in Charlotte would take No. 39 out of the 50 best beer retailers in the world. Beer geeks from all over the region make it a point to seek out the small, nondescript building on Park Rd. The building may seem tiny, but it is packed with one of Charlotte’s best beer selections. Mike has been a staple in the Charlotte beer scene for many years, due in large part to his great customer service. He’s happy to make recommendations, and if you’re a first-time customer he’ll give you a free glass of your choice. Be sure to check out the cooler in the back, which contains vintages of popular beers like Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.