When I moved to Charlotte six years ago the city was void craft breweries, or micro-breweries as they were called way back then. Sure, there was Rock Bottom Brewery in Uptown, but have you checked recently? There’s a Rock Bottom in nearly every major city and then some. They are as corporate as Anheuser (sorry, InBev). There was also some brewery up near Mooresville that nobody new the name of, but they bottled a somewhat popular beer called Carolina Blonde. That was the closest we had. The problem was, the owner was more focused on canning energy drinks that brewing beer. Carolina Blonde has since been sold to Foothills Brewery out of Winston-Salem along with the rest of their recipes (didn’t even know they had any others).
Oh, I almost forgot, there was another brew pub out on South Blvd that obviously nobody went to since they closed. Icehouse now occupies their old facility void of any brewing capability. Their equipment is rumored to have sold to Olde Mecklenburg Brewery which was at the forefront of Charlotte’s now bourgeoning craft beer scene. Yes, you heard me, six years later we now enjoy a healthy option of kick-ass local craft beers. The latest addition to the mix was Triple C which opened its doors to the public in late August. We celebrated the occasion by doing a brewery tour of those that we have yet to visit yet – Birdsong and NoDa Brewing.
Our first stop was Birdsong Brewing. I immediately dug the vibe. It had a vibrant, art feel that I haven’t yet scene in a brewery. From the hand carved wood sign out front to the local artwork for sale on the walls, I could tell this place was different. As a smaller brewery, their selection wasn’t as vast as their neighbors. But what they lacked in quantity, they made up in quality. I started with a pint of the Jalapeño Pale Ale which is the best pepper beer I have ever tasted. Most pepper beers I have sampled knock you out with heat. But not this one. Everything about this beer was balanced – the heat, the pepper flavor, the hops. Next, I had a pint of the Doin Thyme Witbier. Before I get into the spice portion of the beer, I’d like to note that this beer stood up well as a legitimate Belgian Witbier. It wasn’t Americanized like the imposters from Blue Moon and Shock Top (I know Miller makes one too that begins with an L but I can’t spell it so I’m not mentioning it). On top of the tradition is the earthiness from the thyme which blends well with the coriander aromatics and citrus hints. I also had a taste of the Raisin Rye. It wasn’t for me. It was a strange blend of flavors that I can’t quite describe.
Next, we walked across the street to NoDa Brewing. The facility was substantially larger than Bird Song’s as was their selection. I went for a sampler of four of their 12 selections. Here’s where I am anal. I drank them in the direction of hop profile starting with the least hoppy and moving to the most hopped. I find that starting with heavy hops can ruin a palette for future tasting. Mrs. G on the other hand switched from sip to sip. She is a work in progress…
First was Ramble on Red which is often a mainstay for me. It has a smooth malt structure with a crisp hop finish. Next was Woody and Wilcox IPA. I found it to be a typical American IPA (and that ain’t a bad thing). It had malt for balance along with a very assertive hop character. What it didn’t have was that suck on a lemon feeling that accompanies many IPAs (once again, not a bad thing). It balanced the citrus and the bitter well. Third was NoDaRyeZ’d. When it’s all said and done, it was still a rye, and I don’t like ryes. They taste like dirty dish water to me. Like sweet potato fries, I always give them the benefit of the doubt and try one only to be disappointed. Last was NoDajito which was cross between a mojito and a beer. I know. It sounds strange, and it was. It was totally right up Aunt Alice’s alley. But I liked it. It was oddly refreshing, and the mint cleansed the taste buds for Triple C.
Triple C – the star of the day. I was immediately swept away by the tasting room. In my opinion, it has the most aesthetically pleasing tasting room in town. From the white cedar wood to the flat screen TVs, I can picture myself there on game day sipping a pint or three. I also like the blend of private tables and shared tables. What I like most about beer gardens and halls in Germany were the shared tables. Beer brings people together and I enjoy an atmosphere that aids it. The beer was also good. I had the Smoke Amber. While it wasn’t as smoky was what I found in Bamberg, Germany, it was a nice foray in smoked beers for beginners. I still prefer mine like campfire smoke but would order the Smoke Amber at Mac’s while eating BBQ. I also tasted the Greenway IPA. It was perfect – citrus, floral, and piney.
I hate that I had to leave out the other three breweries in the metro area, but I can only handle so many in one day. But don’t worry Four Friends, Ass Clown, and Olde Mecklenburg, you will get your day on the Wandering Gourmand.