Every year, John Marrino returns to Germany, the country where he once lived and worked before drawing upon those years to build The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in 2009. The trip he took last May was an especially important one, as he was taking notes from every brewery and bar visited, looking for design elements or little touches that he might apply to the second brewery, which he just opened last month.
He wasn’t the only one. Accompanying John on this transcontinental trip were Eric Flanigan, Joe Vogelbacher and Todd Franklin. They are the trio behind Sugar Creek Brewery, which purchased OMB’s old brewery and taproom at 215 Southside Drive. Like Marrino, they too were keeping an eye out for inspiration, especially when the trip took a western turn into Belgium.
You can see the fruits of this trip at Sugar Creek Brewery during their grand opening celebration weekend on Oct. 10-11, when they will feature barbecue, live music, games and tours of the brewery. The brewery is open between 4-10 p.m. on Fridays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 12-8 p.m. on Sundays leading up to the grand opening, after which they will be open seven days a week.
Belgium’s brewing heritage is as rich and storied as Germany’s, but their approach to brewing couldn’t be more different. German beer is brewed in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot (aka the “German Beer Purity Law”) using four ingredients: malt, hops, yeast and water. But jump over the border into Belgium, and anything goes. Fruit, herbs and wild yeast are all commonly stocked in the Belgian brewer’s toolbox.
It is this latter culture that appeals to the guys behind Sugar Creek, and their beer lineup will consist primarily of Belgian-inspired styles. Their core four include a pale ale, a witbier, a saison and a dubbel, all brewed on the 15-barrel brewhouse that provided OMB its start.
And just as OMB has a menu of pretzels and brats, so too will Sugar Creek serve up Belgian-inspired street food. On wax newspaper print they will serve Döner kebabs, a gyro-like meal of Turkish origin, but common in food stands throughout the streets of Belgium. And though we know them as French fries, there’s an ongoing debate that “pommes frites” actually originated in Belgium.
Sugar Creek Brewery’s taproom has undergone quite a transformation since their German neighbors moved down the street. Reclaimed lumber is used throughout the taproom, with blue tiles providing some color behind the bar. Above, great lengths of shipping rope span the full length of the taproom and serve as a mock ceiling (and also a nod to Vogelbacher’s time in the United States Merchant Marine).
This Belgium-meets-steampunk look is also apparent in the company’s logo, which depicts a fish tied to a rowboat, which is itself kept afloat by a hot air balloon. The logo was inspired by a poster for the film “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” and it can also be found atop the brewery’s tap handles, which are currently trickling into Charlotte’s bars.