Blue Blaze Brewing will walk its own path when they open June 25, but co-founder Craig Nunn is quick to note they will do so on a trail blazed decades ago. While the brewery has put its own spin on its beers, they are firmly rooted in classic styles.
“We’re just hearing that a lot of people are ready for these kinds of beers,” said Nunn. “Every brewer has their own path, and this is ours.”
Approachable beers were everywhere when Nunn first tried craft beer in the ‘90s. It was Bell’s Brewery’s Kalamazoo Stout that served as his “Eureka” beer and put him on the craft beer path while living in Michigan.
He and co-founder Sven Giersmann, along with master brewer Steve Turner, will put out a lineup of beers primarily from three different brewing traditions — American, English and German — but all focused on approachability and balance.
The brewery, located at 528 S. Turner Ave in Charlotte’s West End, springs from a friendship between Nunn and Giersmann. The two homebrewers would get together on the front porch to play music and drink beer, all while fantasizing about an exodus from the corporate world.
“That’s how this all started,” said Nunn. “We had to recreate the genesis of it all.”
And recreate it they did, down to a row of rocking chairs outside and instruments that can be checked out inside. To the left of the bar hang two acoustic guitars, a mandolin, a banjo and a ukelele — all the makings of a jam band.
“What we’re hoping is that it’s a connection point, that someone will be piddling around and playing and someone else will say, ‘Oh, I can play that,’” said Nunn. “And they’ll come in and grab another instrument. Then those people have made a connection and formed a bond which will hopefully carry over outside of the taproom.”
The beer, then, isn’t necessarily the endgame at the brewery but merely the way to get to those connection points. It puts you on the path.
“For us it’s not always necessarily about talking about the beer,” said Nunn. “It’s about having a beer while you’re talking to someone.”
That’s how Giersmann knew beer to be, even as a child growing up in Germany.
“Growing up in Germany, beer is something different there,” said Giersmann. “We grow up with beer. After church you go to a pub and you see your mom and dad drinking beer. For the French it’s wine, and for the Germans it’s beer.”
The brewery’s core beers, dubbed “the five pillars,” are all named after different trail markings (the outdoors motif is played out elsewhere in the taproom, through soft wood and photos of various waterfalls along the Appalachian Trail).
In the taproom “Blue Blaze” refers to the brewery’s Altbier, but on the trail it typically leads to a watering hole. Double Blaze refers to the two white blazes that sometimes signifies a junction of two trails, which is fitting since the black IPA is a junction of a porter and an IPA. Yellow Blaze is a Kölsch, and also slang for hitchhiking (a reference to the dotted yellow lines on the road).
Black blazes mark old trails, which some purists prefer to hike. The brewery’s Black Blaze is a milk stout that is brewed to be a touch drier and thinner than most to be all the more approachable. And the Amber Blaze is (what else?) an amber ale, but it’s also slang for a beer run into town.
You can make a beer run of your own to Blue Blaze Brewing (528 South Turner Ave.,
Charlotte) for their grand opening celebration from noon-10 p.m. on Saturday, June 25. The grand opening will feature live bands, food trucks and valet bicycle parking (the brewery sits at the edge of the Stewart Creek Greenway, about a 15-minute walk from uptown Charlotte). In addition to their own beers, they will also feature guest taps from other local breweries.
Photos: Daniel Hartis