CHARLOTTE (Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016) – On Feb. 7, 2016, the Carolina Panthers will meet the Denver Broncos in the San Francisco Bay area for the ultimate faceoff: Super Bowl 50.
But football isn’t the only playing field on which Charlotte and Denver fiercely contend for glory. There’s stiff competition to prove that each city boasts more than winning NFL seasons. And what better measure than beer?
When it comes to serving up inventive suds, the two cities are both known for their strong craft beer presence. Denver and the state of Colorado’s craft beer prowess is no secret. But Charlotte’s 21.8 percentage increase in craft beer sales between 2014 and 2015 and its hopping brewery scene, which includes more than three dozen breweries in operation or soon-to-come, have the Queen City nipping at Denver’s heels.
Charlotte’s (Beer) Record: The Panthers’ record 15-1 regular season (17-1 overall) adds to a list of recent Charlotte accolades that is peppered with awards for homegrown hops and brewery tours. The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte has been named Best Brewery Tour in the United States by USA Today/10Best Readers’ Choice. In 2015, the brewery’s Mecktoberfest took home the gold at the European Beer Star International Competition for German-style Märzen, a category that that had not seen a non-German winner since 2011.
NoDa Brewing Company’s signature IPA, Hop, Drop ‘n Roll, has amassed its share of fame after sweeping the gold in the American-style IPA category at the 2014 World Beer Cup, held in Denver. Charlotte made its mark again in Denver at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival, when Sycamore Brewing’s Southern Girl Lager claimed the bronze as did Triple C Brewing Co.’s 3C IPA. Adding to 2015’s victories, Sugar Creek Brewing’s Belgian Dubbel earned the silver medal at the U.S. Open Beer Championship.
Personal Rivalries: Breweries in Denver and Charlotte are taking the Super Bowl rivalry personally. After some research, Charlotte’s Wooden Robot Brewery, which Beer Advocate magazine included on its “Class of 2015 – 33 of the Best New Breweries” list, found a robot-themed counterpart in Denver’s Little Machine Brewery. The two have agreed to a good, old-fashioned wager that places hometown pride on the line. The deal: if the Panthers win, Little Machine’s head brewer and president will don a Superman costume in homage to Quarterback Cam Newton and complete an undisclosed physical challenge. If the Broncos prevail, Wooden Robot’s head brewer will throw on a sheriff costume in honor of the Broncos and face the same physical challenge.
NoDa Brewing Company in Charlotte has also tacked on a wager with Strange Craft Beer Co. in Denver. The connection is that both breweries feature award-winning beers and are located close to their respective stadiums. What’s on the line? The losing team wearing the winning team’s jersey, donating to the winning team’s chosen charity and paying in the form of beer.
Top Taps: What’s on tap for Super Bowl Sunday? The folks at Untappd.com determined the top five beers within a 15-mile radius of each city. When it comes to wetting their whistles, Charlotte fans opt for: NoDa Brewing Company’s Hop, Drop ‘n Roll IPA or Jam Session; The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s Copper Amber Ale or Dunkel; and Birdsong Brewing Company’s Higher Ground IPA. In Denver, fans prefer: Great Divide Brewing Company’s Titan IPA or Hibernation Ale; Odell Brewing Company’s 90 Shilling; Denver Beer Co.’s Graham Cracker Porter; and New Belgium Brewing Company’s Citradelic IPA.
The Wing Factor: A final factor, beyond yards rushed and brews poured, may be at play. Nothing pairs better with beer and football than chicken wings, and research shows that the destination with the highest wing sales has won four of the past five Super Bowls. If the same holds true for Super Bowl 50, the Panthers will roll over the Broncos; Charlotte sells wings at nearly a 3 to 1 pace compared to Denver.
We’ve Got Spirits (Too), Yes We do: For fans who watch within Queen City limits and pass on cold ones, Charlotte’s recent craft liquor and creative cocktail boom brings backup. Mixologists across the city, like Bob Peters of The Punch Room at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, are concocting imaginative spirits. Peters will be featured at the Beard House in New York City this spring. The Cellar at Duckworth’s underground space was built in 1912 and radiates a speakeasy feeling, while Heist Brewery creates new twists on classic cocktail staples and Soul Gastrolounge boasts a rotating list of funky and eclectic options.
Local distilleries, including Muddy River Distillery, Doc Porter’s Distillery, Great Wagon Road Distilling Company and Southern Grace Distilleries, make pours ranging from rum and vodka to brandy and moonshine.
(This is a seven-part series leading up to Super Bowl 50 brought to you collaboratively by the City of Charlotte, Charlotte Center City Partners, the Charlotte Chamber, the Charlotte Regional Partnership and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. This series features facts and information about the Carolina Panthers’ hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.)