John Marrino fell in love with two things when he lived in Germany in the 1990s: his wife and locally produced beer. Over there, it's common for each village to have their own brewery ... and he thinks it's about time the Queen City had her own local brew, too. So as Olde Mecklenburg Brewery's beer master, he's modeled the beer off of one of his German favorites, even importing a Bier-Meister to make sure his all-natural, four-ingredients-only brew is in line with the German beer purity law, established in the late 1500s. Good news: It is. Better news: Charlotteans can now pick up freshly brewed beer by the growler Thursday through Saturday. Best news: Growler refills are only $4-8.
Creative Loafing: What kind of beer did you drink in college? Be honest.
John Marrino: When I was an 18-year-old college student in New Orleans, I drank Michelob. That was when I was too dumb to know any better. It was the best beer Budweiser made; it's the only one they make that doesn't have corn and rice in it, which cheapens the beer. My favorites now, of course, are German pilsners.
Do you really think people will come by your brewery for a beer refills?
There is a renaissance going on in the U.S.; breweries are coming back. In the 1880s, there were 1,500 breweries in the U.S.; everyone got their beer locally just like they got their bread. Then, of course, there was prohibition and in the middle of the century the Wonder Bread generation crushed all of that. Now everybody is going back to getting their fresh baked multigrain bread and everything, as it should be. It's the same with beer. We went to the homogenized, mass-produced American light lager. Now it's all going back to flavorful, fresh beer.
You've lived all over the country and the world why settle in Charlotte?
It's a wonderful town; we live in the city but feel like we're in the suburbs. You know, we lived in Hoboken, N.J., right on the Hudson River with a view of uptown Manhattan that was a great place to live. But, I have two daughters, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, and Charlotte is much nicer for them (and the weather's great). Plus, Charlotte was probably the biggest city left in the U.S. without its own brewery. Asheville has six breweries and there are only 150,000 people there. Charlotte has a young, urban, professional population and it's a growing city. It also has a great beer culture; it's amazing they didn't already have a local brewery.
The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery is located at 217 Southside Dr. Find out more at oldemeckbrew.com.