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Unique craft beers always on tap

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/01/13/12/13ws6U.Em.138.jpeg|209
    JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
    David Fox, owner of the Skull Coast Brewery opening in the old Hollar Hosiery next month. JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/01/13/12/HvyRz.Em.138.jpeg|212
    John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
    A pint of traditional red ale, Red #7, also known as Firehouse Red, sits on the bar at the Heist Brewery. Seven breweries now call our area home. John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/01/13/12/10CYKS.Em.138.jpeg|218
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    Kevin Slater, bartender at Fullsteam Brewery

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If you’re a newcomer and a beer fan, we need to do something important: Raise a toast to you.

Because you have come to the right place at the right time. North Carolina is at the heart of the current rage for American craft brewing. While Asheville is the high point and the Triangle – Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh – is a heavy player, Charlotte hasn’t lagged behind.

The Queen City has enough small brewers, pubs and beer stores to keep you busy for a month of Saturday afternoons. The number of independent breweries in Charlotte has grown from just a couple a few years ago to the current list of seven with more being built.

Until recently, most Charlotte-area breweries were located in industrial areas because of zoning regulations. Those rules have changed, though, so new projects can go into more urban areas. For the moment, though, the best spots are in warehouse districts and outlying industrial parks.

There are more bars and stores than we have room to include – look up Flying Saucer, VBGB, Bulldog and Growlers as soon as you get unpacked. For starters, put these 10 on your list:

1. NoDa Brewing, 2229 N. Davidson St. One of the most ambitious local breweries, with a wide range of styles. They debut a new beer every Tuesday. www.nodabrewing.com.

2. Birdsong Brewing Co., 2315 N. Davidson. Don’t be fooled by the address: It’s right next to NoDa, on the edge of the North Davidson Street arts district. The style is laid-back, all corrugated metal and concrete block. Higher Ground IPA is on taps all over town, but there also is a heated following for Jalapeno. Yes, seriously. www.birdsongbrewing.com.

3. Heist Brewery, 2909 N. Davidson: A short drive from NoDa and Birdsong, this is a restaurant with brew tanks. The food is ambitious and unusual, from a shrimp dish that involves cotton candy to flatbread pizzas. Don’t miss the addictively tasty baked beer cheese with warm pretzel sticks. House-made sodas are welcome for the designated driver. www.heistbrewery.com.

4. AssClown Brewing Co., 10620 Bailey Road, Cornelius. You have to work to find the ’Clown: It’s at the back of the industrial Baley Office Park and it’s not allowed to put that name on the sign. If you do find it, though, it has a comfortable tasting room and usually at least nine beers on tap, including edgier stuff like tart beers and sour beers. www.assclownbrewery.com.

5. The String Bean, 106 N. Main St., Belmont. One of the great things about the craft beer explosion has been a move by retailers to sell singles, which gives you the chance to experiment without blowing a lot of money on something you end up hating. This market west of Charlotte has an impressive selection from North Carolina and beyond. www.stringbeanmarket.com.

6. Four Friends, 10913 Office Park Drive (off John Price Road on South Tryon near Carowinds Boulevard). When the garage door is rolled up and people are hanging out on a relaxed Saturday afternoon, it’s as friendly as its name. It features easy-to-drink beers like I-77 IPA and Queen City Red. www.fourfriendsbrewing.com.

7. The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, 215 Southside Drive (between South Tryon and Old Pineville Road just south of Scaleybark). The brewery’s popular Copper is available at so many local restaurants, you almost don’t need to visit the brewery. Go anyway, for the fresh beer and the German biergarten vibe. www.oldemeckbrew.com.

8. Triple C, 2900 Griffith St. (off New Bern between South Boulevard and South Tryon). One of Charlotte’s food trucks is often parked outside, and the tables inside and out are busy even on weeknights. www.triplecbrewing.com.

9. Brawley’s Beverage, 4620 Park Road. Mike Brawley has been the go-to guy for Charlotte beer buyers since the beginning of local-beer mania. He packs a big selection into his tiny digs in an old filling station. Wine, too. www.brawleysbeverage.com.

10. Good Bottle Co., 125 Remount Road. Sometimes it’s not the size, it’s the selection. This store isn’t huge, but it’s entirely focused on American craft beers, including a well-chosen selection of N.C. brews. There’s a small beer bar at the back. www.goodbottleco.com.

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