Compared to other North Carolina beer cities, you could say that Charlotte came later to the dance. Though places like Asheville (Highland Brewing, 1994) and Chapel Hill (Carolina Brewery, 1995) have had a lively brewery scene for more than 20 years, Charlotte’s first local brewery, Olde Mecklenburg, opened in 2009.
But Charlotte has made up for lost time. More than 20 local breweries offer residents and tourists something more to do than watch football and basketball games. And many of Charlotte’s breweries are clustered near the city’s light rail system, making it even easier to visit a few and still get home safely.
On a recent trip to Charlotte, we found a cluster of breweries within a two-block area, starting with the county’s first brewery, Olde Mecklenburg. As a brewery that specializes in Bavarian-style lagers, Olde Mecklenburg also offers a great selection of German food and sandwiches. So we started there for lunch – German sausages with sauerkraut and potato salad. We tried these beers – Hornet’s Nest Hefeweizen, Yule Christmas Bock, Captain Jack Pilsner and Fat Boy Porter – all were good.
Later we returned for the Olde Mecklenburg brewery tour. We heard more about the commitment to brewing according to the Law of Purity – using only hops, yeast, water and malt. The brewery is now building a second location in nearby Cornelius, reported to be larger than the Charlotte location, which means it will be, well, huge.
Nearby Sugar Creek Brewing Co. is located at the site of the first Olde Mecklenburg. This brewery is also a friendly place, with good bar food – a fun place to watch football games on a Sunday afternoon. Sugar Creek had a nice fire burning pit outside on a cold afternoon.
Finally, we stopped at Good Road Ciderworks, a smaller place, with a variety of ciders. We tried four – New England Heritage, a dry cider, almost like a pilsner; Stayman, also dry, made with North Carolina-grown apples; Waymaker, a sweeter cider, flavored with ginger; and a seasonal mulled cider, served warm, hard or without alcohol. A nice way to warm up on a cold afternoon. The ciderworks had a large event space and a good selection of board games to play with your group.
Just around the corner was the Breweries at 4001 Yancey – a large shared space featuring Southern Tier Brewing Co. and Victory Brewing Co. This location appeared to be really popular with the football crow.
Scaleybark light rail station is just a five-minute walk from this area. Enjoy yourself all afternoon without ever having to get behind the wheel of a car.