After opening in Charlotte’s West End last summer, Blue Blaze Brewing is putting its beer in new cans and new markets.
Soon the brewery will distribute cans of its Yellow Blazer Kölsch and Black Blaze Milk Stout not only at the taproom and in bottle shops around Charlotte, but across the border in South Carolina. Comer Distributing Co. will distribute the beers from Fort Mill south to Columbia, and The Yahnis Company will handle distribution east of that territory out to Myrtle Beach.
The cans will first be released at the brewery next Wednesday. The beers will be available in four-packs of 16-ounce cans, with the Yellow Blazer Kölsch retailing for $11 and the Black Blaze Milk Stout for $13. The brewery will celebrate its first can release with hourly giveaways, A Worthy Dog food truck and live music from Citizen Swing at 6:30 p.m.
“Both of these beers do really well for us in the taproom,” said co-founder Craig Nunn. “It was an easy decision to choose those two.”
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In some ways, these two beers are on opposite ends of the spectrum – the Kölsch light and straw-colored, the milk stout creamy and opaque. Yet both are easy-drinking takes on their respective styles, both weigh in at 5 percent ABV, and both are beers that the brewery thinks will appeal to outdoor recreationalists and beer geeks.
“Part of the experience of both cultures is mobility and exploring,” said Nunn. “And so cans in that package type make a ton of sense. We chose cans because of the ability to enjoy whatever activity someone prefers, be it backpacking or being on the beach, skiing or mountain biking.”
The brewery’s name refers to the paint stripes used to mark trails, with blue blazes often leading to sources of water or refreshment. In addition to entering the South Carolina market last month, the brewery has also been trucking its beers to areas well known for these outdoor activities. It has personally taken kegs of its beer to mountain towns like Boone, Banner Elk, Franklin and Hot Springs, and is trying to become more involved with trail days in Western North Carolina.
“Think of it as a street festival focused on thru-hikers, with a bunch of beer there,” said Nunn of the trail days. “It’s in celebration of thru-hikers going through at that time.”
Though the brewery is now sending beer to the mountains of North Carolina and the coast of South Carolina, Nunn also notes that Charlotte has plenty of adventurers of its own.
“There’s a huge group of outdoor recreationalists who enjoy both ocean and alpine activities who live in Charlotte,” he said. “I think maybe there’s a perception that that kind of culture doesn’t exist here, but there’s a pretty huge crowd of people in Charlotte that enjoy those activities.”
The brewery has already become involved in the local cycling community through The Spoke Easy and Uptown Cycles, and it has even held mechanic’s challenges at the brewery. It occasionally use its custom-built Bullitt bicycles to deliver kegs uptown via the Stewart Creek Greenway, located just outside its door.
Blue Blaze will be using Land of the Sky Mobile Canning (now a division of Iron Heart Canning) to get its cans packaged and ready for the market. The brewery will look to expand its canned portfolio later this year.
Event of the week
Dirty Commie Heathen release at The Unknown Brewing Co.
When: 11 a.m. Saturday.
Where: The Unknown Brewing Co., 1327 S. Mint St.
What: The Unknown Brewing Co. will release Dirty Commie Heathen, its 12.4 percent ABV barrel-aged imperial stout aged on cherries, at the brewery this Saturday morning. Bottles of the beer will be available for sale at $13.99 a piece, with a limit of two bottles per person. The beer will also be available on draft, and the Kabobsters food truck will be parked outside the brewery. Dirty Commie Heathen will be released on draft and in bottles around town starting Feb. 28, but distribution will be limited.