"Charlotte has a brewery?" I am amazed that, to this day, I still get this baffled question on a regular basis when I'm talking to folks around town. It is a reminder of how insulated those in a particular niche business can be from the mainstream consciousness. When I tell these same people that Charlotte has not one, but several breweries, they usually respond with a blank stare, as if they simply can't imagine that fact as even a remote possibility.
Today, Charlotte has nine operational breweries, two brewpubs and two other production facilities that have secured locations to begin construction. Back in the spring, there were only six. That is a massive jump and an indication that a second major wave of breweries is moving through the Queen City. It also means that what many people saw as a quickly fading fad a couple years ago is becoming a legitimate local business category that is here to stay.
So, who are these new breweries, where are they, and what kinds of beer are they bringing to Charlotte?
Lake Norman Brewing Company
Located in Mooresville, this family-owned brewery is distributing a small stable of ales to the Lake Norman area, including an American wheat, a blonde, a pale ale and an amber. They can be found in several establishments in that area, including Duckworth's and Galway Hooker. While none of Lake Norman's beers would fall into the "extreme" category, it is making fresh, locally themed, true-to-style American beers.
District 9 Brewing Company
A newly minted nano-brewery located right down the street from Ass Clown in Cornelius, District 9 specializes in small batches of experimental brews, including a black IPA (India pale ale), an ale brewed with black tea, and a light Peruvian ale brewed with chocolate. You can expect a variety of other creatively inspired seasonals to accompany its standard brews. District 9's adventurous brews mirror its name, which was inspired by the Peter Jackson film.
Unknown Brewing Company
Located on Mint Street near Uptown, Unknown opened its doors earlier this month with a bang, hosting a party that included several bands, many special one-off brews and a game of donkey roulette — a glorified take on a cake walk, only involving donkey feces (yes, you read that correctly). Unknown's core lineup features a USPA (its version of an IPA), a pale ale and a wheat. Its one-offs that day were more experimental, including a lemondrop saison and an imperial IPA.
Free Range Brewing Company
After a long search, brothers Jason and Jeff Alexander have finally secured a permanent location in NoDa, at 2320 N. Davidson St. No strangers to the local beer scene, these guys have actually been around for some time, searching patiently for the right spot to open up. Look for a variety of styles from them, including farmhouse ales and their popular Rice Rice Baby, a stout that they brewed with their now-neighbors, Birdsong.
Sycamore Brewing Company
Construction on Sarah and Justin Brigham's South End brewery, Sycamore, will begin Dec. 1. Having worked for Coors during the summers while he attended college in Colorado, Justin brings a unique beer industry experience back to his hometown of Charlotte. Sycamore's goal is to be as hyper-local as possible. They have already harvested a unique strain of local wild yeast and plan to brew an all-North Carolina beer with it. Look for these guys to open their doors in late spring of next year.