In 2009, Charlotte was the largest city in the U.S. without its own craft brewery. Now, less than 10 years later, Charlotte's craft beer industry is booming with 28 breweries in the Charlotte area and more than 15 in the works.
With the development of new breweries and the growth of more established taprooms come new events, unique brews and new ways to enjoy craft beer in the Queen City.
Urban Brewery Sprawl: In the last year, 12 breweries opened the doors to their taprooms, and more than half of them set up shop just outside of Charlotte city limits. Nearby Cabarrus County welcomed two breweries in 2015 and 2016: High Branch Brewing Co. and Cabarrus Brewing Company. Breweries have also opened in Belmont (Rivermen Brewing Company), Fort Mill, South Carolina (Full Spectrum Brewing Co.), Rock Hill, South Carolina (Legal Remedy Brewing Co.), and Shelby (Newgrass Brewing Co.).
Brewing Bigger: The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery has been blazing the trail for Charlotte craft beer since opening in 2009. In 2014, the brewery moved its headquarters to an expanded space off Yancey Road, upgrading to an 8.5-acre brewery and biergarten with a 60 barrel-brewhouse and 3,600-square-foot taproom. Last year, NoDa Brewing Company and Birdsong Brewing Co. followed suit, opening new taprooms in Charlotte's NoDa neighborhood. Lenny Boy Brewing Co. and Sycamore Brewing also have expansions in the works.
Beer Bites: These days, Charlotte craft beer doesn't just come in a pint glass; it can also be found on a plate. The FūD at Salud kitchen opened in 2015 as an expansion of Salud Beer Shop and now offers three dishes featuring Charlotte local beers: the beer cheese and pretzel appetizer, featuring Birdsong Brewing Co.’s Jalapeño Pale Ale; the Frambella waffle with NoDa Brewing Company’s Coco Loco Nutella; and the Jason-Gi-Ham-Brie sandwich with Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill’s Peach Cider. Charlotte’s Wooden Robot Brewery, which Beer Advocate magazine included on its “Class of 2015 – 33 of the Best New Breweries” list, has teamed up with Twisted Eats food truck outside its taproom to offer bites crafted with the beers on tap.
Can It: To meet the demand for local craft beer in Charlotte and the surrounding areas, brewers are starting to look beyond the taproom. Birdsong Brewing Co.’s upgrade to a 17,000-square-foot taproom in 2015 included a canning line to package 16-ounce cans of the brewery's Jalapeño Pale Ale, which it began distributing locally last spring. The Unknown Brewing Co. has also gotten into the canning business. It released its Pre-Game Session Ale, the second year-round canned beer for the brewery, following in the footsteps of its Over the Edge IPA. In addition to Birdsong Brewing Co. and The Unknown Brewing Co., NoDa Brewing Company, Sycamore Brewing and Triple C Brewing Co. all offer Charlotteans canned versions of local brew favorites.
Good Things Come in Small Batches: Small batches are becoming a big deal in the Queen City. Free Range Brewing, which opened in 2015, boasts consistently rotating short-run small batches found on 11 of their draft lines. With its 1-barrel brewing system, Lake Norman Brewing Company produces specialty brews, like the Man Overboard IPA and the Wakeboard Wit, one small batch at a time. Part nanobrewery, part CrossFit gym, Full Spectrum Brewing Co. combines the passions of craft beer and fitness and offers beers named after colors on the color spectrum.
Fitness on Tap: For beer fans looking to lace up their running shoes, unroll their yoga mats and dust off their drivers before putting back a pint, Charlotte's craft breweries have them covered. The Charlotte Runners recently started leading their Legendary Legion Run Thursday nights at the newly opened Legion Brewing in Plaza Midwood. NoDa Brewing Company, Triple C Brewing Co., Lenny Boy Brewing Co. and more also offer a schedule of weekly run clubs. The Unknown Brewing Co. launched its Saturday Bike & Brew in 2015, while Sugar Creek Brewing Co. and The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery offer disc golf and yoga, respectively.
The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Brewery: The next big wave in craft brews may have more to do with apples than hops. Hard ciders were the fastest growing segment of the beer and flavored malt beverage landscape in 2014, enjoying a 75.4 percent growth in sales. While national cider sales slowed in 2015, Charlotte's cider scene is just starting to blossom. The city welcomed its first cidery, Red Clay Ciderworks, last year with another, GoodRoad CiderWorks, on the way in 2016.
For more information about Charlotte’s craft beer scene, visit cltontap.com