Get Hoppin' through Charlotte's Microbreweries!
Let's face it, anytime Southwest Airlines has a sale I am all over it. Not that I need an excuse to explore a new city or meet up with friends, but it certainly helps. I decided to take advantage of the three day weekend and pop up to Charlotte, North Carolina and see what the chatter is all about.
If you are heading there from the Nashville area, expect a bit of a longer drive, between six and seven hours. Can't spend that long in a car? I don't blame you. Flights from Nashville are a little over an hour in duration, just long enough to catch up on your favorite magazine and have a cocktail.
While I haven't read much on the Charlotte food scene, I knew microbrewery options were abundant. Even though I didn't have a chance to visit all of the ones on my list, below are a few of my favorites from the weekend.
2909 N.Davidson Street, Suite 200
Charlotte, North Carolina 28205
Featured recently on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Heist Brewery is a perfect way to start your brew crawl. Not only does Heist showcase their own creations, but they also feature a variety of guest taps that are worth checking out. Sitting out on the patio, soaking up the sun, I decided to start with Hive Fives, a delicious golden Belgian blonde ale brewed with local honey. I found the beer to be on the lighter side with just a touch of hops. It was perfect for this sun-kissed day.
I had only heard amazing things about their food, so of course, we had to check that out! Guy Fieri said that it was the best flatbread that he had ever tasted, so what's a girl to do! We started off with the Beer Cheese which is a combination of four cheeses mixed with seasonal Saison and served with warm pretzel sticks. FOOD HEAVEN. For a girl who loves cheese as much as I do, I could have easily devoured this entire dish by myself, but of course, I shared :)
Transitioning to something a bit more savory, we opted for the Sweet and Spicy flatbread. While I was torn between that and the Duck Confit, the Sweet and Spicy had all of my favorite flavors: pulled pork, grilled peaches, jalapeno, pickled shallots, mozzarella sriracha, green onions and to top it off, pineapple glaze. Seriously, you can't go wrong. Combating the heat of the flatbread, I ordered a Not From Concentrate which was a bit more on the hoppy side helping me keep me tears at bay. In all seriousness, the flatbread did pack a punch, but nothing you couldn't handle. Heist Brewing is a must. The food offerings are outstanding and the beer is great. If you are looking to sit outside, I would recommend arriving during an off peak time as Heist is quite the popular place.
Birdsong Brewing Company
1016 North Davidson Street
Charlotte, North Carolina 28206
Birdsong Brewing Company was naturally our next stop as it is less than two miles from Heist. Having some unusual beers on tap, I opted for a flight so I could sample a wide variety. Birdsong has several seasonal and limited release beers that are likely to pique any beer connoisseur's interest. Keeping with the spicy theme, I tried the Jalapeno Pale Ale. Honestly, I have to say it was my least favorite beer of the day. It was as if I was eating a raw Jalapeno, not exactly what I had in mind. Not to worry, as I had three other stand out beers : Paradise City (Session IPA), Rice Rice Baby (Sweet Milk Stout) and Lazy Bird (American Brown). Out of the three, my favorite was the Rice Rice Baby, which is a collaboration beer with Free Range Brewing. This beer was dark and smooth with strong hints of vanilla throughout. One thing to keep in mind, Birdsong does not serve food. They have an ample supply of peanuts to snack on but if you are looking for something a little more hearty, I recommend bringing it along.
NoDa Brewing Company
2921 North Tryon Street
Charlotte, North Carolina 28206
Looking for a place with a killer tap room and endless beer options? Look no further than NoDa Brewing Company. NoDa has quite a substantial selection of beers on tap. Every Tuesday, they host the NoDable series where they release a newly brewed creation. If you are interested in these beers, make your way to the tap room ASAP as they have limited quantities available.
Keeping with the theme of the day, I went the flight route because honestly I couldn't choose one or two that I wanted. SO MANY OPTIONS! My carefully selected flight had the following: Hop, Drop 'N Roll, which was a gold medalist in 2014 World Beer Cup, Mother Shucker, a collaboration with Front Street Brewing, Samoan Blonde, an American blonde with hints of chocolate and coconut and finally the Woody and Wilcox Hop Experiment. Out of the four places that I had a chance to visit, this brewery was my favorite. Not only do they have an exhaustive beer list, but they have a great outdoor area perfect for day drinking. In addition to the food trucks and picnic area, they have a cornhole, bocce ball and frisbee golf available. Nothing says summer like a cold beer and cornhole!
My favorite beer of the day was the Samoan Blonde. I have never tasted a beer that had such intense coconut and chocolate flavors that wasn't a stout or porter. It was refreshing to have a light beer chocked full of such intense flavors. Total WINNER!
Free Range Brewing
2320 North Davidson Street
Charlotte, North Carolina 28205
We concluded our day of microbrewery hopping at Free Range Brewing where they have the philosophy of " Let your taste buds roam." As a food and beverage gourmand, I pride myself on this very ideal. After all, experimentation is key! Focused on brewing with local ingredients, Free Range Brewing taps are ever evolving showcasing the latest and greatest creations. While I was there, I tasted the Cream of the Crop, a Carolina Cream Ale. This beer was very light and easy to drink. I had to stop myself or I would have had several more. Curiosity led me to try I Knead You, a sourdough IPA, but it was a bit too tart for my liking. Concluding my beer extravaganza, was Femmed and Foraged, a dark Carolina farmhouse ale with hints of pine and juniper. A fan of farmhouse ales, I thoroughly enjoyed the complex flavors. Each sip had hints of spice that lingered on your palate.
Cultivating creativity in the Charlotte community, Free Range Brewery works with local artists to display their work within the brewery. I fell in love with this work posted below. Not only do they feature local artists, but Free Range also hosts a weekly yoga class in their back room. After all, yoga and beer is the perfect combination. I only wish I lived closer so I could partake in the festivities!
I had to capture the photo below. This gentleman working on the mural below is capturing everyone that has played a role in the success of the brewery. What a very special tribute.
If you are embarking on your first trip to Charlotte to check out microbreweries, here are some of my tips:
1. As thirsty as you may be, try to limit the number of breweries you tackle in one day. Even though we had a hearty lunch and several snacks, you don't want to end up with beer goggles on before noon
2. Hydrate. I should have taken my own advice. Beer was coming out of my pores on my morning run. Nonetheless, it was TOTALLY worth it.
3. Uber/Walk: If you plan your breweries out, you can walk to several of them otherwise, keep your phone charged and your uber app open.
Until next time!