Charlotte Microbreweries: An Up-and-Coming Contender

Culinary adventures have always been a staple of the Journey’s experience. Sampling local delicacies will always add to the excitement of traveling to a new place.  With that interest in mind, Journey’s has decided to start showcasing tasteful travels from all around the world! When we asked ourselves where we should start, we decided the best place to begin would be in our own backyard. Some of North Carolina’s top breweries are right here in Charlotte, and I set out to review the best microbreweries that Metrolina had to offer!

Beer brewing and the culture surrounding it has always been a passion of mine, even causing me to take up home brewing at different points in my life. The experience always left me with a certain satisfaction that can only come from enjoying the results of a labor of love. Perhaps it is something akin to having a home cooked meal that was meticulously prepared. Looking around, I began to pick out breweries that reflected that meticulous preparation. My destinations were the Ass Clown Brewery, NoDa Brewing Company, and finally Birdsong Brewery. All offered their own unique take on the brewing process, with a litany of interpretations on the classic staples of micro-brewing.

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Nestled outside of the greater Charlotte area, the Ass Clown Brewery is a mere twenty minutes north of the Queen City. For the beer snob in us all, this cozy brewery is a worthy stop! Voted the 2012 Brewery of the year by NC Brewers and Music Festival, Ass Clown boasts a respectable selection of expertly crafted beers. The invitingly quirky (and almost European) interior is sure to make you feel at home while enjoying a few of Matt Glidden’s unique beers. His operation started in April of 2011, after being a hobby that Matt had hoped to turn into a career. Ass Clown chose their name due to the simple belief that such an unusual and memorable moniker would stick out in the minds of beer drinkers, even those with some lapses in memory! 

When I stopped in and spoke with Matt I was able to sample three of their beers, and I can say each stuck out to me with its own endearing appeal. The first sample was the exceptional Juniper and Rose Hips Sour. This beer starts with an expected sour flavor, but ends with an amazingly refreshing floral finish. It seems to me to be the perfect beer for a summer time escape. The next was the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Stout. This creamy stout offers a delightful chocolate texture that ends with a subtle hint of saltiness. The Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Stout is the kind of beer you could imagine drinking to escape the elements. It brings to mind a cozy ski lodge complete with a quaint fireplace. The last beer I tried during my stop at Ass Clown was the Jalapeno Raspberry Stout, and this is a beer that I can say I personally recommend trying. While it may not be for the faint-hearted beer drinker, the Jalapeno flavorings give this stout a taste like a slap to the mouth. Perhaps a beer best suited to the adventurous (or masochistic!), this beer offers a bold experience for those looking for the unconventional!

NoDa Brewing Company was the next destination on my weeklong tour, and proved to be a rewarding experience! The doors of NoDa Brewing Company opened in October 2011, and subsequently received the distinction of being the NC Brewers and Music Festival 2011 Brewery of the Year. This brewery has a variety of well-crafted offerings on tap, and the large windows behind the bar offer a view into the brewery itself, allowing one to watch the fermentation process. Be sure to stop in Friday’s at 6 p.m. or Saturday’s at 5 p.m. for a free tour!

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During my visit I tried the Hop, Drop n’ Roll IPA and the Jam Session IPA.  The two beers are now being offered around the greater Charlotte area, and are certainly worth taking the time to enjoy! The Jam Session offers a pleasant fruitfulness that goes well with the hoppy aftertaste. This is a beer that offers a floral bouquet with a taste of tropical fruit that will be sure to please. It ends with a rich almost piney aftertaste that I found to be a perfect match to the tropical sweetness. The Hop, Drop n’ Roll is an IPA with a tasteful flavor reminiscent of mangoes. Its light hoppy tones offer a welcome complement and certainly give this beer a distinctly citrus complexity. A personal favorite of mine from Noda Brewing Company, and one that I highly recommend!

My third and final stop took me next door to the Birdsong Brewery, located off of North Davidson Street. This local beer brewer has enjoyed a great deal of success since their doors opened in December 2011. Perhaps the secret to their success is the relaxed and friendly environment they have worked to create. When I stopped in and spoke with Jackie "JP" Parker one of the first things she mentioned was how well the staff all got along with each other and it was reflected in the sociable air. There is certainly a welcoming atmosphere to Birdsong, and it pairs well with their innovative beer selection. Many of their beers feature ad hoc ingredients such as honey and coffee, all of which are obtained locally. Even having a single beer at Birdsong can help to support many local businesses!

                 While I was there I was able to try three of their year round beers, the Jalapeño Pale Ale, the Lazy Bird Brown, and the Higher Ground!  The Jalapeño Pale Ale has quick bite to it, but it balances out nicely with the light hoppy aftertaste, giving the beer a pleasant drinkability. The Lazy Bird Brown offers a smooth nutty flavor, and is good for those that favor a richer beer. It invokes a more subtle beer drinking experience, and is certainly flavorful and rewarding. The Higher Ground is an IPA that I found to be incredibly well-rounded. The strong hoppy flavor doesn’t come off as overbearing, but instead presents a delicate finish. A good beer for kicking up your feet on a Saturday afternoon.

After this tasting Jackie presented me with two of their seasonal beers, the Honey Pie Double IPA, and the Snowden’s Jig Black IPA. The Honey Pie is another beer that finds its ad hoc ingredients provided by local business, with local bee farmers helping to add the flavor to this delicious concoction. The Honey Pie has a traditional IPA flavor, but the added honey masks the bitterness of the hops. This leaves an enjoyable aftertaste that intermingles well with the sweetness of the honey. My overall favorite of this experience was undoubtedly the Snowden’s Jig IPA. This beer is named after a Carolina Chocolate Drop's song, and not the NSA whistleblower! History fans may recognize the song being about the famed Snowden Clan of the Carolinas. This beer is perhaps one of the richest and fullest flavored black IPA’s I have enjoyed in a while. The chocolate malt flavor offers a velvety texture with a rich finish and pleasant mouth feel. This beer has just been unveiled, and is definitely worth checking out!  And be sure to check out Birdsong on Thursdays, when their weekly beer is released, a five to ten gallon offering that will be sure to please!

If you’re ever travelling to the Charlotte area, be sure to schedule a stop at these breweries. They will be sure to entice and offer beer drinkers of all backgrounds and knowledges a pleasant experience! These breweries, along with many other fine establishments, can be regularly found at beer festivals all over the state, and certainly justify any weekend trip!