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D9 and Unknown brewing companies expand Charlotte beer scene

By Daniel Hartis
Daniel Hartis
Daniel Hartis is the author of “Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing in the Queen City” and the editor of the website CharlotteBeer.com.

One of the Charlotte area's smallest breweries opened last Friday, and one of the largest opened the day after that.

The former is D9 Brewing Company, a Cornelius brewery in the same business park as Ass Clown Brewing, at 18627 Northline Drive, Unit E. “D9” is short for District 9, a reference to the film of that name as well as to the one of the districts in the “Hunger Games” franchise.

These films focus on characters who rebel against totalitarian regimes, and D9’s three founders – Andrew Durstewitz, John Ashcraft and Aaron Burton – believe craft beer can also unite people.

Their taproom is small at 1,200 square feet, and the one-barrel system on which they brew is not unlike those used by advanced homebrewers. At the launch party, they unveiled core beers such as Battle Hymn Black IPA, Outpost Tea Ale and Peruvian Ale, as well as one-offs like Head of the Horseman Imperial Pumpkin and Barely Legal IPA.

Hundreds of people poured into the small space throughout the night. The next day, hundreds more descended into the Unknown Brewing Company's gray-and-neon-green taproom, three blocks south of Bank of America Stadium, at 1327 S. Mint St.

At around 25,000 square feet, the building is 20 times the size of D9 Brewing. The brewhouse itself is capable of brewing 30 times more beer than D9 in a single shot.

For most of the opening night, the taproom was at maximum occupancy. An employee had to allow people in only when an equal number of people left. Lines formed outside where beer was poured at tables in the parking lot, with throngs of people watching bands onstage.

For the opening, the brewery poured three core beers: Over the Edge USPA (an IPA), Head First Pale Ale and No Shame Wheat. While those are pretty standard, true-to-style offerings, Unknown filled the rest of its 12 taps with inventive beers like the sriracha-infused Fire Down Below and Drop Top Saison, which was brewed with lemon-drop candies.

Unknown founder Brad Shell has spent the last decade working for large breweries such as SweetWater Brewing Company, Terrapin Beer Company and Rogue Ales, and the approach he has taken is to go all in. It couldn't be more different than the small, slow and organic path taken by the guys at D9, who have full-time jobs outside of the brewery.

When you get past the differences in square footage and brewing capacity, though, you see that both the folks at D9 and Unknown share a passion for beer and a love for the local community.

In an industry that prides itself on variety, there is space here in Charlotte for large and small breweries alike.

Daniel Hartis is the author of “Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing in the Queen City,” and the editor of the website www.charlottebeer.com. Email: cltbeer@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter, @charlottebeer.

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