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At revamped Brawley’s, a tasting room with 11 taps

By Daniel Hartis
Correspondent
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.
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GARY O'BRIEN - Staff Photographer
3/18/2008 - The Food Fifty - food experiences, people, places and things you don't want to miss. Brawley's Beverages is kept in line by Mike Brawley's dog XXXX. He greets customers wending their way through the large selection of craft beers and cult wines. GARY O'BRIEN - gobrien@charlotteobserver.com

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One of Michael Brawley’s earliest memories of the building at 4620 Park Road was of his father raising him up on an automotive lift, higher and higher until he towered over the hundreds of bottles of wine inside.

The lift was a remnant of the building’s previous life as a Crown service station, which was its purpose from 1948 until 1974, when Brawley’s father – Mike Brawley – signed a lease on the building and opened Mike’s Discount Beverages. The store was unlike any other in the area. Inside you could get a bottle of first-growth Bordeaux. Outside, you could fill your car with gas.

Michael’s mother, Jean, remembers pulling up to those pumps in her El Dorado convertible with Michael and his sister in the back. Today, she is often behind the register at Brawley’s Beverage, which Michael opened in 2003. (Michael’s father sold Mike’s Discount Beverages in 1987. The new owner stopped leasing the building in 2002 and moved his business next door. It is not affiliated with Brawley’s Beverage.)

Now, Michael Brawley is renovating the old building to appear much as it did in his father’s day. He tore down the rounded exterior wall and replaced it with floor-to-ceiling windows, those big expanses of glass that were so commonly seen in old gas stations.

On the corners of the building he resurrected the two large wings that shot past the original building’s roof. He hopes to complete renovations and open the tasting room later this summer.

Though these architectural details are a nod to the building’s past, many of the changes are aimed at today’s beer drinker. Behind all that new glass will be a tasting room with 11 taps. And on the wall past those taps, Brawley will recreate the old Crown sign, traces of which were only recently discovered beneath the paint. Outside, a patio and bocce court will sit in the shadow of the building’s wings.

Brawley hopes to create a family-friendly atmosphere, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen his 3-year-old daughter hanging with her dad and grandmother in the shop. Brawley doesn’t raise her on the old lift, as his dad did him.

The lift is out of commission, its metal bones barely visible beneath the concrete and so many cases of beer. But order a keg and she will follow her father into the parking lot as he loads it up, knowing that a ride back in on the hand truck is sure to follow.

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