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For This Year's Beer Issue, 'CL' Presents: Cheap

Craft or crash

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When Craft Beer became all the rage several years ago, it opened a pandora's box of choices for American beer drinkers. And CL has followed this trend ever since — with beer-loving gusto.

But when the staff gathered to plan this year's beer issue, we decided we've offered up enough ink on fancy craft beer for a while. After all, there's plenty of folks in Charlotte who'd rather just pull up a stool at a local dive and order a PBR — or even a less hip brand like . . . oh, I dunno, Schlitz or Miller. Anything other than a beer with a name like Smooth Hoperator, Blitzkrieg Hops Double IPA or The Great, Big Kentucky Sausage Fest (all real names of craft beers in other parts of the country, by the way).

For our 2018 beer guide, we deployed a team of resident experts — plus one FOCL (that's friend of Creative Loafing) — to hit some local bars and assess the city's ROBs (that's regular old beers). We put news editor Ryan Pitkin in charge, because . . . well, he's the resident staffer who diligently monitors beer trends afterhours at Small Bar, the watering hole attached to the CL office here at the Music Factory. Ryan recalled a conversation he'd had last year with Small Bar owner Brian Heffron about local craft beer vis-à-vis ROBs.

"People will eventually figure out that spending $10 on a beer because it smells like a strawberry juniper is not the best decision," Heffron told Ryan one evening over some cold Miller Lites. "If you want to go across town and buy a beer for $8 or $10 because it has a blueberry in it or whatever, that's fine. But I believe at some point people will come to their senses and realize that beer and a good bite to eat should be reasonably priced the way it's been for generations."

That's language I understand, having stopped drinking beer years before the craft craze began. Back when I drank (entirely too much) beer, expensive brews meant imports like Pilsner Urquell, which we'd only have for special occasions. Otherwise, it was Rolling Rocks or Millers or Buds with a slice or a burger. Or, if we were on a really tight budget — a case of Milwaukee's Best and frozen pizzas at somebody's apartment after the Bad Brains show at whatever punk dive was in vogue at the time.

And we would never sit around assessing those beers like our FOCL, rapper Black Linen, did when the CL team was contemplating Miller High Lifes for our rather hilarious "Beer Guide for Broke Folks."

"It's watered down, but it's like they use Fiji water or something," Black Linen observes with a sense of nuance you'd expect from an ROB drinker raised in the craft beer era. "When they make High Life," Black continued, "they use that top H2O. They call themselves the Champagne of Beers, so they're selling an idea. It's got a lot of flavor, too, so it's not tasteless like Rolling Rock."

Oh, good lord. Kids today!

We didn't totally ignore craft beers this year, though. In this week's news feature, CL intern Alexandria Sands looks at where the Craft Freedom lawsuit currently stands. Craft Freedom, you may recall, is the coalition John Marrino of Olde Meck Brewery and Todd Ford of NoDa Brewing formed to fight a state law requiring craft brewers of a certain size to use outside distributors. The coalition calls this requirement unconstitutional and is now finally awaiting the court's decision.

Local brewer Chris Harker, of Triple C Brewing, told Sands that while he chooses to work with an outside distributor, he disagrees with the N.C. law and says brewers should be free to choose their method of distribution. "I think it's just common sense," Harker said. "There's a lot of alcohol laws that are outdated, hanging around since Prohibition, and this is a key example. It feels like there's a penalty here for being successful."

Speaking of successful craft beer endeavors — we've been quite successful with our own annual craft beer event, the Creative Loafing Moo & Brew Craft Beer and Burger Festival, which takes place here at the Music Factory this year on Saturday, April 28. The fourth edition of our popular bacchanal features some fantastic music — the great Americana duo Shovels and Rope, from Charleston, S.C., and country singer-songwriter Charley Crockett, a descendent of the original coonskin-wearing king of the wild frontier, folk hero Davy Crockett.

Charley told the Moo & Brew crew in a recent Q&A that his ancester Davy's "rugged individualism" is "most certainly part of what's driven me down deep."

It's that rugged individualism that allows you to choose whether you want to suck down a craft beer or a PBR. It's all about choice, and we're here to give you a few.


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