There's a lot to consider when finding the perfect summer spot to crack open a cold one.
Thirsty Thursdays at the Knights game is a great summer beer destination for groups of friends. Tickets are $6, brats are $4 and brews are $2. And you get a selection with your money: Natural Light, Pabst Blue Ribbon or Miller High Life. Drinking out of a clear plastic cup might not be the most savory way to enjoy a brew, but it would be sacrilege for ball-game beer to taste much better than piss. If you go during a game when knuckleballer Charlie Haeger pitches, like I did, after $10 spent on beer, the knuckleball dances a little extra. As the game progresses, so does the heckling. (But to be perfectly honest, in hindsight, the opposing team's pitcher really was a belly itcher.)
City Tavern's Dilworth rooftop is always a popular pick, but if you need extra outside room (or outside ping-pong) Thomas Street Tavern is the obvious choice. If just being outside isn't enough, and you need a brew with a view, Vinnie's Sardine at Lake Norman is a relaxing alternative.
The second-floor deck of the Loft 1523 has the best brew view of the city, beating out Presto's rooftop by a slim margin. The Loft's swanky martini bar wasn't exactly created with beer or beer drinkers in mind, although on a nice night, sitting on the red backless couch and watching the sun go down behind the west side of downtown is worthwhile even with a skunky, overpriced Hieneken.
For selection, nothing tops the Flying Saucer in the University Area. It features more than 210 beers, 82 of which are on draft. Guinness is the highest-selling beer, says general manager Matt Gardner; the Scaldis Prestige, a Belgian strong pale ale that goes for $60 for a 750 ml bottle, is the most unique. The Saucer has been carrying the Prestige for three weeks and has sold nine bottles of the brew, which is aged for six months in French oak barrels. In the summer, the Flying Saucer doubles the amount of wheats, Belgium whites and summer ales it normally carries. Summer ales have more carbonation, less color and hints of fruit. While not a summer ale, Franziskaner, a German hefeweizen, with touches of banana and coriander in the nose, is Gardner's favorite ale to drink during the warmer months.
If you want to know where your beer came from, Carolina Beer Company's Mooresville brewery is open for tours on Saturdays between noon and 2pm. For $5, you can see the magical process of grains turning into beer. You also get five tokens to try some of the Beer Company's 14 brews on tap in a plush new tasting room. The Company is best known for its Carolina Blonde, although I enjoyed the American Wheat (a light beer brewed with oranges) and the Indian Brown (a happy accident that was supposed to be an IPA and tastes like oatmeal). But a warning to those who drink beer for quantity instead of quality: the sample size is only about five ounces. The Mooresville brewery is the second-largest in North Carolina and the only major brewing place in the Charlotte area. Craft brews make up only 2 percent of the beer market in North Carolina, paltry compared to the sophisticated craft beer market in Washington state (14 percent).
But for my buck (and there aren't many to go around), a $6.50 12-pack of Pabst or High Life is the way to go. Sipping suds on the porch in my outdoor rocker is the perfect summer beer spot for a wannabe old man like myself.