For the past five years, the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery has crafted some of the nation’s best German-style ales and lagers right here in Charlotte. Now, it is doing that in a space as authentic as the beers themselves.
The new brewery at 4150 Yancey Road opens to the public at 11 a.m. Friday. It sits just a few hundred feet from the brewery’s old location, but feels wonderfully out of place in this industrial part of town, just off South Tryon Street near Interstate 77. Then again, this sprawling 8.5-acre brewery and biergarten would seem out of place just about anywhere, save for Germany.
“The new brewery is sort of an amalgamation of a lot of breweries I’ve visited,” said founder John Marrino, who lived and worked in Germany years before he came to open the brewery in 2009. “I just remembered all the places I’d been, and drew from that.”
Inside, the faint smell of fresh paint is the only indication that this brewery hasn’t welcomed thirsty patrons for many years. At 3,600 square feet, the taproom (or “Brauhaus”) is larger than the previous brewery’s taproom, event room and bathrooms combined. The walls are covered in dark wood and brick, with 160 antique beer steins running along the top. Rows of long tables stretch beneath the dim glow of several chandeliers, creating an altogether comfortable and communal spot in which to enjoy a liter of lager.
“The idea inside is to give a cozy, warm environment,” said Marrino. “I didn’t want to get so clever with the design that it actually becomes uncomfortable.”
Like the brewery’s flagship Copper amber ale, the taproom takes its inspiration from Düsseldorf, Germany. The outside biergarten, however, is more akin to those in Munich. A fence encircles the property, allowing children to roam while their parents sit at the tables, umbrellas catching what little sun the large pecan and oak trees miss. It is one of the most family-friendly breweries you will find this side of the Atlantic.
A path cuts its way through the biergarten’s river stones on its way to a vibrant mural, beside which sits a facade of wood and glass that looks in on the brewery’s 60-barrel BrauKon brewhouse. It is a gleaming, state-of-the-art system capable of brewing four times the amount of their old system in a single batch, and doing so mostly through automation.
On this system, they will continue to brew year-round beers like Copper, Captain James Jack Pilsner and Southside Weiss, as well as a host of seasonals. While they are inspired most heavily by the beers and breweries of Germany, they have always been fiercely dedicated to Charlotte. They are on track to produce 14,000 barrels of beer this year, with almost all of it staying within Mecklenburg County. And the brewery has the potential to eventually reach 100,000 barrels in this space.
In other words, said Marrino, “We’re here to stay.”