As amazing as it's been to watch certain regions of Charlotte embrace craft beer, not all areas of town have been as fortunate. NoDa and South End have experienced a meteoric rise in breweries and craft-beer-centric bars, but our city's center has historically lagged behind. While real estate prices and city ordinances ensure no brewery will set up shop within the I-277 loop, I can't help but feel folks in Uptown are underserved.
Downtown Charlotte has come a long way in the last few years. While it once was a veritable craft desert, the area now boasts several spots serving quality craft beer. Dandelion Market holds down Fourth Ward. Brixx Pizza features 27 beers on tap, albeit with several non-craft draft options. Carolina Ale House leans a bit too macro, but craft still has a home there. Newcomer Mellow Mushroom joined the party just over a year ago. Tiny Tank's Tap sates visitors to the 7th Street Public Market, and also offers growler fills. Queen City Q features one of the strongest local-suds selections in the entire city, with a strong 40-tap selection. Even the Charlotte Hornets boast a Craft Beer Garden featuring local and regional favorites.
And while we've certainly been moving in the right direction, Uptown's craft beer scene hasn't kept pace with the rampant population boom the area's undergone. Too many times, I have encountered center-city citizens far outside of their neighborhood, pining for the day when the light rail opens up the NoDa corridor's beer oasis. Personally, my Uptown jaunts are few and far between; my craft needs are better served elsewhere. Unless I'm in the mood for amazing barbeque, other places have my attention.
Now, an Uptown newcomer is poised to change the game — not just for the area but for the city. Condo denizens, you might want to sit down for this.
Duckworth's is poised to open its doors in early March, and it's bringing a massive 150-tap all-craft selection along with it. This will be the fifth area location for the local franchise, with existing locations in Ballantyne, Huntersville, Mooresville and Myers Park. Its new crown jewel occupies the corner of North Tryon and 7th Street, in a spot that had sat vacant since Fox & Hound departed in December 2013. The century-plus-old building is getting much more than a simple facelift; it's undergone some major surgery. Per Chris James, Duckworth's district manager, "there was no way to put a Band-aid on anything here."
Over the last year, they've had their hands full with the upfit. A brand-new kitchen has been installed. Tons of conduit snaking needlessly through the rafters has been unceremoniously removed. An incomprehensible 170 televisions hang from the ceiling. Kegs in the cavernous upstairs cold room will be on full display, courtesy of well-executed viewing windows.
And the basement. Oh man.
Don't hold me to a date, but the basement will eventually go speakeasy-esque with the concept "The Cellar at Duckworth's." A mere 80 seats will be served by another 20 taps, pouring nothing but limited-release liquid goodness with not a single television in sight. If you're in the mood for a cheesesteak, better stay upstairs; a Cellar-specific menu is more likely to feature charcuterie. Once fully stocked, the bottle cellar will house at least 700 different labels. As of right now, they're eyeing a separate opening date two months behind the rest of the restaurant, but this will certainly change.
I'll be honest. If I wanted to go on a beer excursion, I'd either trek up to the NoDa area or stay in my South End backyard. But finally, Uptown will have a craft beer destination to call its own, and I'll have a reason to hop on the light rail more often.
Perhaps other center-city spots will follow Duckworth's lead and switch their draft lines to only carry craft beers, or follow Queen City Q's example and allow a generous allocation to local offerings.
Either way, it's refreshing to see Uptown catching up to the craft beer movement in Charlotte. You'll certainly be seeing more of me there. I'll be the one with eyes to the cranes in the sky, marveling at how my Queen City is growing up.