If you’re a beer fan who’s new to Charlotte, there’s something you need to do before you start exploring craft brewing here.
Get a glass of great local beer – with a dozen breweries, you have lots of choices – and stand facing north-northeast, the general direction of Durham. Then raise your glass to Sean Lilly Wilson.
Now the owner of Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, Wilson was the leader of Pop the Cap, the well-organized lobbying effort almost 10 years ago that raised the level of alcohol allowed in N.C. beer.
Signed by Gov. Mike Easley in 2005, that was the first step that led to an exploding craft-brew movement. Today, North Carolina is one the country’s best states for beer, with more than 100 breweries and brewpubs.
Charlotte has so many breweries, brewpubs and bottle stores that we can’t list them all for fear of missing something. Instead, here are five things you need to know to get a handle on the tap scene:
1 N.C. Craft Brewers Guild: Executive director Margo Knight Metzger was a promoter for N.C. wine, then did a stint with state tourism. Now she’s helping brewers get organized statewide. Beer drinkers can play a part, too: For $45, you can sign up to be a Pint Hound, with various benefits. www.ncbeer.org.
2 Beer events: Festivals and brewery events happen almost every weekend. The two you can’t miss are Charlotte Oktoberfest, Sept. 27 at the N.C. Music Factory, and Charlotte Craft Beer Week, usually held in mid-March. Details and tickets: www.charlotteoktoberfest.com and www.charlottecraftbeerweek.org.
4 Cider, the other beer: As one of the nation’s leading apple-growing states, hard cider is a natural here, too. The old-timer locally is Windy Hill Orchard in York, S.C. ( www.windyhillorchard.com). Two others – Red Clay Ciderworks and GoodRoad CiderWorks – are in the works.
5 Beers: Yes, NoDa Brewing’s Hop, Drop ‘N Roll won the 2014 World Beer Cup as the best American IPA. But there are so many others, from Olde Mecklenburg’s popular Copper to new breweries like Sycamore, Three Spirits and Free Range.
Grab a glass. You have some tasting to do.