After knocking at the wrong door for several rain-soaked minutes, my friend Melissa and I finally found the tap room's entrance. To our credit, it wasn't exactly well-marked; judging by that and the barebones plywood bar in the corner of the taproom, it was clear that Olde Mecklenburg had spent more time perfecting their beer recipes versus polishing their appearance.
If not for those few minutes fruitlessly seeking entrance, we would've been stepping into the modern era of Charlotte beer right at its inception. Instead, we were but a few minutes late to the party, and I haven't left it since.
I had no idea what an Altbier was at the time, much less a Kolsch. The concept of having a local brewery to call my own was foreign enough, but I suddenly couldn't imagine life before that first sip of something made here.
Up until then, local breweries were simply something other cities had.
Looking back, it's staggering how far we've come. I used to be able to list all of the area's breweries without even a comma. Now, I need more than just fingers and toes to count them, and I always forget a few.
Quantity is far from the best way to measure the movement's health, and thankfully the quality of Charlotte's craft beer scene has similarly matured. In recent memory, simply being in the city limits was enough to gain tap placement at area bars and restaurants. Thankfully, those days are increasingly behind us, and breweries are carving out their unique style niches while raising their production standards.
Local brewers are also getting necessarily political, fighting state-mandated self-distribution limits that throttles their production ability and threatens local jobs. It blew my mind when Charlotte got its third brewery, but now I don't bat an eye at news that same outfit has jointly hired a consulting firm with another local brewer to fight a deep-pocketed political powerhouse.
I was digging through old emails this afternoon, trying to put my own Charlotte Beer journey in perspective. Six years ago this very day, I affirmed my decision to walk away from the Assistant Brewer position at Olde Mecklenburg and try my hand at something new, exciting and terrifying. It's certainly quite coincidental that today, after much thought, I decided to step away from writing this Creative Loafing column.
On a rainy March afternoon seven years ago, I found myself outside the proverbial doors of Wonka's factory. Over the weekend, I plan to join a host of other well-wishers at OMB's new brewery, an expansion necessitated by skyrocketing local demand, and toast to their continued success. Locally-made beer is no longer a foreign concept to Charlotteans, but has become the new normal. I look forward to seeing how the landscape continues to evolve.
Similarly, I look forward to seeing what a fresh voice will bring to Creative Loafing's coverage of local brewery goings-on. It's been a great ride over the last few years, and I'm grateful for the opportunity. Cheers to Charlotte Beer!