It may be hard to believe about a city located so close to Asheville—considered by many to be America’s best beer town—but until a few years ago, Charlotte didn’t have a single local brewery to call its own. That changed with the opening of The Olde Mecklenberg Brewery in 2009, and the flood of beer has continued washing over the Queen City ever since. Close to 20 breweries now call Charlotte home, and more are opening up each month. Here are just a few of the city’s newbies and soon-to-be’s that we’re excited about.
Bold Missy Brewery: Celebrating its grand opening May 13, this spot in NoDa (short for “North Davidson”, the city’s arts district) honors the achievements of great women. It’s even owned by one of them: Carol Waggener, a veteran of corporate America as well as the beer industry (she spent a decade with Anheuser-Busch before the brewery’s 2009 merger with InBev). Dan Baker, who worked in packaging lines at Deschutes and Sweetwater, brewed at Atlanta’s Monday Night Brewing and is a graduate of the Certified Brewmaster Course at VLB, heads up brewing duties; he’s crafted several beers for the opening commemorating history’s bold missies, including Rocket Ride, an IPA that gives a tip of the space helmet to astronaut Sally Ride; Git Yer Gun, a golden ale named for sharpshooter Annie Oakley; Solo Flight, a brown ale honoring Amelia Earheart; and Find Your Way, a wheat ale brewed for Diana Nyad, the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage. “I wanted it to be a celebration of women’s accomplishments,” Waggener says. “It’s easy to be negative and talk about the glass ceiling or other things, but there are so many things to celebrate.”
Cavendish Brewing Company: Homebrew buddies Scott Cavendish and William Warren put in about five years of work before they were finally able to open Cavendish’s doors in April. Garage doors, that is—the brewery’s housed inside a Studebaker dealership built in 1952. The 15-barrel brewhouse is located in what was once the dealership’s repair shop, and the former showroom now houses the bar and tasting room. The space has been remodeled and polished, but many of the beers made there still hearken back to a bygone era. “I like the idea of reviving old styles,” says Warren, Cavendish’s head brewer. “I think a lot of the newer styles are interesting, and I enjoy making those as well, but I think that old-style beers have a lot to offer, and they’re really just starting to mature in popularity here.” Case in point: Cavendish’s Steam Whistle Dampfbier, a sort of German farmhouse ale that was common in the early 20th century but is rarely seen today. Warren says new-world beers will sneak in, however. A modern American-style IPA hit the taps last week, and bourbon barrel-aging and sour programs are both in the works.
Divine Barrel Brewing: Though Divine Barrel is still a ways from churning out its first beers—co-owner and head brewer Ben Dolphens says it’ll likely open in September or October—you may already have some idea of the brewery’s focus. Hint: It’s in the name. “We want to do wood fermented, barrel-aged beers in Charlotte,” says Dolphens, who spent several years as a trade brewer for Tenth and Blake, MillerCoors’ craft division, before striking out to chase his decade-old dream of opening his own brewery in 2015. “There’s a number of breweries here in town getting into that stuff, but we saw an opportunity to really run with it.” Dolphens and his fellow owners, Scott Davis and Gavin Toth, are doing that by building out their brewery space in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood with a climate-controlled space for that will eventually hold close to 100 oak wine and spirits barrels as well as two 30-barrel foeders, purchased brand-new from an American supplier. “Those are my babies,” Dolphens says. “I’m really excited to see what we can do with them.” When complete, the space will also include a 3,000-square-foot taproom, a large outdoor patio, and a separate brewing area for the 10-barrel brewhouse and a two-barrel pilot system for test runs and fun small-batch brews. “People think from the name that we’re only doing barrel-aged stuff, but we’ll focus on the whole array of beers,” Dolphens says. “There are amazing beers out there that don’t spend any time in barrels, and we’ll definitely brew a lot of those too.” When the brewery finally does open, it’ll have six to eight beers on tap initially. Dolphens says he’s still working through what, exactly, those beers will be, but the rough starting lineup includes a gose, a gratzer, a brett saison (which should be the first beer to come out of the foeders), a fruited Berliner Weisse, a kettle-soured IPA and a standard IPA. The majority of these beers will only be available at the Divine Barrel taproom, Dolphens says. “Our goal is to go back to the model of the neighborhood brewery,” he says. “Our only ask when people come in is that they keep an open mind and make themselves at home, and everything will work out from there.”
Resident Culture Brewing: Charlotte’s. First. Coolship. That’ll be one highlight of Resident Culture once the brewery opens the doors to its location in the city’s Plaza Midwood neighborhood. Some others: a tasting room and 4,000-square-foot beer garden, a giant barrel room to house those coolship beers once they’ve been inoculated, and a rotating selection of draft brews crafted by Chris Tropeano, a former cellarman at Independence Brewing Co. who also logged a couple years as a brewer under the tutelage of Vinnie Cilurzo at the legendary Russian River Brewing Co. Tropeano’s been working with a yeast lab to isolate strains from fruits and flowers around the brewery (he already has a couple dozen ready to go), so there should be plenty of fermentation happening once the brewery opens. That day’s not far off; founder Slates Snider says he’s shooting for June.
Eleven Lakes Brewing: Ray Hutchinson and Jack Lippy are “your typical homebrewers who took a leap of faith,” Hutchinson says. The pair, along with their wives Christy Hutchinson and and Teri Lippy, started the process of opening their own brewery almost 11 years ago and were able to reach their goal while working full-time jobs (Jack is in consulting full-time; Ray is a high school art teacher). Their brewery, which is named for the 11 major lakes that lie within the Catawba River Basin, soft-opened in early May and has its grand opening scheduled for June 3. Hutchinson says he’s coordinating with a catering company located across the street from the brewery to have a full menu that integrates his beers available for hand-delivery to the 49-person taproom. As for the beers? “Our focus is on drinkability,” Hutchinson says. “The craft beer scene is full of amazing twists and turns on people’s taste buds, but our foundation is a spin on traditional styles with a goal that it goes beyond, ‘Well, that was interesting.’” That’s not to say there isn’t a little room for creativity. Hutchinson is an art teacher, after all. “I have a bit of a food background, and when you combine that with art, I am going to put some twists on it,” he says.