The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery
The story: Seeking to find a German beer he had grown accustomed to while living in Dusseldorf, John Marino opened OMB in 2009 as one of the first successful craft breweries in Charlotte.
The sip: This traditional German-style brauhaus is known for its most coveted beer, Copper, which is a 4.8 percent amber-colored lagered ale that is full-flavored, yet not thick like a porter.
The secret: OMB only brews beers that adhere to the Reinheitsgebot, a German Beer Purity Law passed in 1516, which states that only four ingredients can be used to craft a beer: pure water, malted barley or wheat, hops and yeast.
Triple C Brewing Company
The Story: Started by two Chris’ and a gal named Christina, this aptly named brewing company quickly became the contemporary taproom hangout for folks, from beer geeks and bike riders to young professionals and execs, seeking un-traditional craft beers.
The Sip: Its dog-friendly taproom is constantly churning out batches of the fan favorite, Up All Night, a breakfast porter brewed with locally roasted coffee, lactose, honey, flaked oat and German chocolate malt.
The Secret: Head brewer Scott Kimball sources as many local ingredients as possible including artisan malts from Riverbend Malt House in Asheville. He even cultivates hops right on-site, which he picks and uses for small batches, like the Urban Hop Project IPA.
The Unknown Brewing Company
The Story: Brad Shell, most recently of the internationally acclaimed Oregon brewery, Rogue, carefully chose the brewery’s name as an ode to Hunter S. Thompson’s famous quote, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”
The Sip: In keeping with its Thompson-esque spirit, the experimental brewery challenges the boundaries and gets crafty with funky ingredients yet keeps a steady foundation reliant on three beers, Over the Edge U.S.PA (a cheeky nod to the IPA), Head First pale ale and No Shame wheat, a beer for those who aren’t and shouldn’t be ashamed to drink a laid-back wheat beer.
The Secret: While working in the Pacific Northwest, Shell had the unique opportunity to form significant client relationships, walking fields with hop growers and their families. Thus, he’s able to access hops and other ingredients that are hard to come by for the typical just-opened brewery.
The Story: Kurt Hogan, formerly a bioscience and tech student who worked for Pfizer, took his home brewing hobby and paired his MBA from Vanderbilt to open Charlotte’s first true gastro pub, serving craft beer, funky cocktails and inventive food under one renovated mill-style roof.
The Sip: Its German vats produce varieties ranging from a creamy oatmeal stout to an easy drinking light lager, but its most popular is the aggressive I2PA, a big and bold aggressive sip, teeming with hops and malted barley.
The Secret: The kitchen isn’t the only to cater- in fact, brew master Zach Hart will take your palate into mind to craft a perfectly tailored beer for your next event, whether it’s an I Do IPA for a beer enthusiast’s wedding or a 29 Again blonde ale for a milestone birthday bash.
NoDa Brewing Company
The Story: Todd and Suzie Ford, a former pilot and banker, poured their retirement savings into an old textile factory off of North Davidson with the mission to pour quality, craft beer. Now, the brewery is a communal hangout which hosts NoDa Run Club weekly as well as offerings like food truck fare and live music on the weekends.
The Sip: This NoDa brewery gained national recognition at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, considered “the Oscars” of beer, when its Robust Porter, brewed with chocolate and toasted coconut, won a silver medal. Currently, its most popular brew is the aptly named Hop, Drop and Roll, an IPA with a kick.
The Secret: Every Tuesday, head brewer Chad Henderson releases a “NoDable” 12-gallon experimental batch for adventurous beer enthusiasts to try out exclusively in the taproom. The NoDajito, a mint and lemon zest infused Belgian wit is one current offering that started as an experiment in the weekly taste test series.
Birdsong Brewing Company
The Story: Unlike the usual home brewer turned brewery owner story, this biz was started by seven owners and one snoring baker turned brewer, Conor Robinson whose sleeping habit was mistaken for a birdcall, comically inspiring the brewery’s unique name.
The Sip: The brewery specializes in crafting ales, rather than lagers, with its most popular being the high gravity and citrusy Higher Ground IPA, which won a silver medal at the 2013 Carolinas Championship of Beer.
The Secret: The sustainable-minded brewery grows produce and herbs like jalapenos, tomatoes, lemon thyme, rosemary and basil in recycled herb pots on its outdoor tasting patio, using some ingredients for specialty beers like the limited release Jalapeno Ale.
Four Friends Brewing
The Story: Childhood friends Jon Fulcher and Mark Kaminsky grew up together, and were drinking Canadian and American craft beers as soon as they were legal. Keeping their childhood dream alive, they joined forces with their wives to start one of Charlotte’s first craft breweries, a friendly hangout serving the quality beer they had grown accustomed to and wanted to share with the community.
The Sip: The good vibe brewery focuses on British and Belgian style beers, though ironically its flagship beer is the i77, a crisp American IPA crafted with an abundance of hops from Warrior and Chinook to Willamette and Cascade.
The Secret: Dedicated to sustainability of the local community and economy, the conscious brewery sources local hops and grains from Hickory and lives by “the more local, the better” philosophy. Recently, owner and head brewer Jon Fulcher made a 15-barrel batch using only the hops he picked from his personal backyard.
Ass Clown Brewing Company
The Story: Matt Glidden left the mortgage industry to open a brewery, and choose a cheeky name, which was inspired by his common frequenting of beer festivals where his memory rarely allowed him to remember the names of the breweries he favored.
The Sip: The Cornelius craft brewery makes around 150 brews ranging from trendy sours to traditional stouts, with multiple that are equally favorable. The five most popular are the unique flavored varieties; orange spice, lemon wheat, chocolate sea salt, raspberry jalapeno, and the seasonal buttered apple pie.
The Secret: Glidden churns out small batches five days a week, in which he turns culinary inspirations into liquid form. His mission is to craft unique, quality food pairing beers; case in point: the bacon oyster stout.