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Be a Cicerone for the Day

Charlotte offers plenty of places to buff up on your beer knowledge. Sample popular Queen City brews while learning their backstories.
Enjoy a large list of beers from several Charlotte breweries.
Enjoy a large list of beers from several Charlotte breweries.

By Lauren Levine

Wine drinkers have sommeliers to wax poetic to them about chardonnay and pinot noir options, and now beer lovers can enjoy that matched level of command by relying on local cicerones (beer experts) for guidance. But if you’re still trying to figure out how to pronounce the word “saison” and need a crash course, that’s okay, too. Charlotte offers plenty of places to buff up on your beer knowledge. Using a few local pros as your guide, sample a wide array of popular Queen City brews while learning their backstories.

Pick the perfect food and beer pairing with Jeff Tonidandel at Growlers Pourhouse

If you enjoy nights out in NoDa, chances are you’ve frequented one of Jeff Tonidandel’s establishments. He is co-owner of Growlers Pourhouse and the mastermind behind Crepe Cellar Kitchen & Pub and Haberdish. He’s also a certified cicerone—in fact, Charlotte’s first. If you need to know which beer would make the flavors in your meal shine, Tonidandel is your go-to guy. On the first Tuesday of every month, Growlers hosts a beer-related seminar. It’s the perfect way to bolster your beer prowess.

Brush up on your Belgian beer knowledge with Todd Franklin at Sugar Creek Brewing Company

For Todd Franklin, brewing beer isn’t just a job; it’s a passion. As Sugar Creek Brewing Company’s master brewer, Franklin takes what he does seriously. He’s a certified cicerone who previously spent time as a nuclear engineer working in Newport News, Virginia. Talk about a diverse background. Drop by the brewery to sample the authentic and dedicated Belgian-style beers that Franklin and the rest of the Sugar Creek team craft with precision and love.

Learn about hops with Rachael Cardwell at NoDa Brewing Company

Certified cicerone Rachael Cardwell is one of the spunky, spirited brewers behind NoDa Brewing Company’s irresistible concoctions. Beyond just serving up the ever-popular Hop, Drop ‘n Roll (winner of the 2014 World Beer Cup gold medal) and a whole host of others, NoDa Brewing Company is also home to a number of community events, like the NoDa Run Club, which meets on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. Stop by and say “hi” to Cardwell and the crew as you relax over—or race toward—a pint.


1) Charlotte Brews Cruise

Rather than sauntering into one of Charlotte’s many breweries and blindly sampling the offerings, head out on a Charlotte Brews Cruise for the ABCs of what you’re sipping. You’ll try between 12 and 15 four-ounce samples during your three stops, making it easy to determine which beers you like best. You’ll also get a behind-the-scenes peek at how all of the hoppy magic happens. Possible stops include The Unknown Brewing Co., Birdsong Brewing Co., Heist Brewery, Lenny Boy Brewing Co., Legion Brewing, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and Blue Blaze Brewing Co. Public tours kick off on Saturday afternoons. You can also schedule a private group tour. Reserve your spot online at

2) Charlotte NC Tours’ Bikes & Brews Tour

Hop on your trusty two-wheeled steed and journey to some of Charlotte’s favorite breweries and hangouts, including Wooden Robot Brewery, Sycamore Brewing, Growlers Pourhouse, Triple C Brewing Co. and The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Tours depart daily and start at 3 p.m. Book your tour online at

3) Brew-Ha-Ha Tours

Sample local suds in style this month on the Charlotte Brew-Ha-Ha Tour, which will be hosted by Charlotte Special Events Group, Tours in Charlotte and Taco Mac on April 30. With personalized tours along the way, you’ll enjoy deluxe motorcoach transportation, complimentary bites from Taco Mac and the knowledge of a professionally trained tour guide who will escort you to High Branch Brewing Co., Cabarrus Brewing Company and Primal Brewery. Snag your seat online at

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This article ran in the April 2017 issue of Charlotte Happenings magazine.