Got a one night layover in Charlotte and don’t have a clue what to do? Or maybe you’re a local and you think you’ve done it all? I suppose there are a few things you COULD do, but I’m going to recommend something you SHOULD do. Why? Because it was one of the most fun tours I’ve had while visiting another city. Whose tour, you ask? Well it’s the Charlotte Brews Cruise, that’s whose!
What is it?
The Charlotte Brews Cruise is a tour of some of Charlotte’s local craft breweries. Craft beers are becoming an increasingly popular way of enjoying one of America’s favorite past times – BEER (and you thought America’s past time was baseball…don’t you know you can’t have one without the other)!
The tour consists of three craft brewery visits with beer samples, discussion of said beer samples, more beer samples, and opportunities to purchase beer if you enjoyed any of the aforementioned beer samples. It’s kind of like going to Costco and eating your way around the store when they cook up samples, only with beer…and less line-ups…and without having to fake like you’re actually interested in buying the sample.
Anyway, we met up with our guide, Hannah, at Heist Brewery for a 6pm start time. Then, thirteen thirsty tour-takers tucked into our tidy transportation and travelled to our first terminus.
On route Hannah asked “where y’all from…”, and we chimed in “Canada”…and then the beer jokes ensued. As Canadians we are proud of our strong, manly, put-some-hair-on-your-chest type of brews. And our American guide was well aware of this and played up on it quite well. Yep. This was going to be a fun night! And to honour our Canadian roots I’ll be using Canadian spelling. So to any Americans reading this; honour, flavour, colour, and litre are actually spelled correctly, so if you were going to point them oot to us, then take off, eh!
Brews Cruise Stop 1: Birdsong Brewery
Prior to consuming alcohol people tend to be pretty quiet and reserved when among strangers. So it was time to get some tasty beers into those quiet mouths. Because the brewing process is similar at every brewery, Hannah took the time to explain it at this first stop, probably because our brains were still able to absorb info (even though our brains were anxiously waiting to absorb beer).
Craft brewing is an exploding market in the United States and worldwide, which is awesome news for lovers of beer. The flavours they infuse in some of the beers are both unique and eyebrow-raising. Case in point; we sampled a jalapeño flavoured beer at Birdsong. You could taste the peppery flavour, but it wasn’t spicy as you might expect. On the flip side of the jalapeño ale we tried a coffee infused stout. The best part of waking up isn’t Folgers in your cup, it’s coffee-flavoured beer!
Here’s something kind of cool; Birdsong Brewery donates their spent grain to farmers too – NICE! And here’s a fun fact of the day – almost all of Birdsong’s beers are named after song titles, and when brewing begins they take those old records off the shelf and have some fun…and that fun appears to spawn names like:
Shelly and I also sampled a strong cider afterwards and it was super good, sadly, they had none for sale. But alas, more samples were forthcoming at the other breweries. So, feeling good, we all packed into our van for the next stop…
Brews Cruise Stop 2: The Unknown Brewery
If you’re thinking this was as ‘mystery’ stop it wasn’t. It’s actually called The Unknown Brewery. They do things differently at The Unknown Brewery, and that was evident with the dogs lounging around (common in Charlotte) and the games of ping-pong and Cornhole that were taking place. Okay, quick Canadian side-note. Most of us Canucks don’t know what ‘Cornhole’ is. Actually, we know the word, it’s just used in a completely different context because it’s slang for part of the anatomy. I first heard about this ‘Cornhole’ game from an American expat while we were living in Panama, and the conversation went something like this:
EXPAT: Hey Al, you and your wife should come over some time. We’ll have some beers, take a dip in the pool, then maybe we’ll play some Cornhole.
ME: Uhhh. Cornhole?
EXPAT: Yeah, you guys know how to play Cornhole, right?
ME: Ummm…Can’t say that we do.
Expat went on to explain the game. You throw a bean bag into a box with a hole in it from another side of the yard (possibly referred to as the Cornhole Court). It’s kind of like horseshoes, only with a beanbag and a box with a hole in it.
ME: Ohhhhhhhh, you mean bean-bag toss.
EXPAT: No, it’s called Cornhole.
ME: Oh, okay. (…ya f@ckin weirdo…)
So this, my Canadian friends, is the game of Cornhole:
And now back to the beer. Samples at The Unknown Brewery were as follows:
- Citrus Warlock – 5.9%. Love these citrus flavoured ales. More please!
- Ginger Whaaat – 5.1%. Actually, it’s Ginger Wheat and I can honestly say I liked this Ginger much better than Ginger from Gilligan’s Island. Truth be told I was always a Mary Ann fan, and you probably were too.
- Awkward in Auckland – 5.2%. They explained this one as a “liquid sour patch kid candy”. It was interesting and had a surprisingly smooth finish. Again, more please!
- El corozon que sangra morada (the heart that bleeds purple) – 9%. We weren’t a big fan of this one, but just like a game of Cornhole, you can’t win em all…
Back in the van we were on our way to our last stop. Some Queen City locals on our tour pointed out the colour of the Duke Energy building being orange and they were perplexed as to why. Evidently when local sports teams win,the building lights change to that teams colours. Or if it’s St. Patrick’s Day it’s lit up green. When the local Carolina Panthers football team wins, the building is lit up with the team’s teal colour. The orange colour prompted someone (not me) to say “…maybe it’s orange because the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl”…Ouch! Too soon.
Brews Cruise Stop 3: Heist Brewery
Now at our final (and original) destination and feeling no pain, we were all given a free flight…destination – my mouth! My wife had to give me her flight because she was driving, so with two flights, I was flying high! I did feel a little bad for her though, for like, half a second.
The samples at Heist went from pale to amber to dark, as you can see below. And that’s how this flight is to be flown as well, light to dark.
Here are the details from our Heist flight, from left to right, which also topped off our night. Man, those rhymes were tight!
- Pater Tots
- Dank Williams Sr. – my favorite. Very smooth and tasted like more please!
- C’est la vie
- Cataclysm III
Okay, brutal honesty here. Heist’s beers didn’t seem as flavour-infused as the other two breweries we visited. Don’t get me wrong, they tasted great and our flight had good range, but they were more like a craft beer I would probably drink several of (possibly to get intoxicated), unlike some of the flavored craft beers from the other breweries. And because I had two flights and was thus two flights to the wind, my note-taking and memory skills weren’t in full…flight. So here’s a snapshot of the Heist menu describing their craft beers:
After our samplings we and the rest of the Brews Cruisers ordered some food. Heist is one of the few craft breweries that serves food, so it’s an appropriate last stop on the Charlotte Brews Cruise. And if you thought the Colonel’s chicken was finger lickin’ good, wait until you try some of the food at Heist. My wife had the Lamb Neck Gnocchi – super good. Others ordered Nashville wings, and judging by the gnawed-to-the-bone drumsticks they were probably pretty tasty. They also served up Beer Cheese with super-yummy bread sticks. I opted not to eat (much) because, to quote a friend…I didn’t want to ruin my buzz!
We did have some questions during our tour, so to help you out, here are our answers which are all 100% correct, trust us.
Flight: Samples of beer.
Growler: Jug of beer that holds about 4 pints (for Canadians, aboot two litres).
IPA: India Pale Ale.
Ale: My name with an ‘e’ at the end of it like some Olde English worde.
Lager: A guy who cuts down trees.
Stout: A short fat dude.
We later saw a map of all the craft breweries in the Charlotte area and there are an endless supply. Three breweries was the perfect number for us though. And as our guide, Hannah, said; “Four breweries becomes a completely different tour”. You might not visit the same three breweries on your Charlotte Brews Cruise, but that’s the beauty of it, it’s kind of like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get unless you poke your finger into one.
We’d like to thank the Charlotte Brews Cruise for hosting us. What a truly unique tour and just another example of something you too can experience rather than buying material possessions.
For more information about the Charlotte Brews Cruise you can…
Now go sell all your stuff and drink some craft beer!