Continuing the beer travelogue of my Spring Break road trip through the heart of Appalachia — eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.
One of the highlights of our 2013 Spring Break trip was our excursion to Charlotte to see my sister. After a full day exploring the beer scene in Asheville on Thursday, we left our campground early Friday morning and drove towards Charlotte to meet up with Jen and her roommate Meghan.
We decided to meet at Tiger World, a small zoo in Rockwell, NC that rescues exotic animals, mostly big cats. The low-key zoo houses about two dozen lions, tigers, and other wild cats, including three cute cubs. After being entertained by the odd assortment of animals at Tiger World, it was time for lunch…and beer!
Almost a week into our trip to TN and NC, we still hadn’t had any barbecue, so Jen took us to Mac’s Speed Shop, a biker bar known for its BBQ and beer selection.
Mac’s has a huge beer menu of over 200 beers, and I focused on the drafts from local North Carolina breweries. My pulled pork BBQ sandwich was complemented by:
- IPA from Green Man Brewery in Asheville, NC, an excellent IPA (6.2%)
- I-77 from Four Friends Brewing in Charlotte, NC, a strong and crisp IPA (7.7%)
The lunch at Mac’s was awesome and I definitely want to go back the next time I’m in Charlotte. After our late lunch, we killed some time walking around Charlotte’s historic arts district, NoDa, known for its art galleries, bars, and one of North Carolina’s premier breweries.
I had been looking forward to visiting NoDa Brewing Comapny for a long time. Jen is friends with the couple who started the brewery and she has been telling us about the great beer being brewed at NoDa since it opened. Jen has been bringing me growlers from NoDa whenever she visits us in Maryland, and it was awesome to finally set foot inside the brewery and try the beer straight from the source.
I ordered a four-beer sampler from the large menu of intriguing beers:
- Hop, Drop ‘n Roll, an expertly balanced IPA (7.2%)
- NoDaRyeZ’d, a delicious Double Rye IPA (8.7%)
- Woody & Wilcox, a hoppy American IPA (6.0%)
- Monk’s Trunks, this Belgian Pale Ale is an intriguing palate pleaser with flavors of apple, banana, vanilla and grapes (5.6%)
I also sampled Beth and Jen’s pints of Weizen Up (Hefeweizen), Ramble on Red (Red Ale), and Cold Crash (Winter Ale).
We arrived at NoDa when they opened at 4:00 p.m. and the large tap room was packed by the time we left. After sampling the brew, it was easy to understand why — the beer from NoDa was among the best brew I sampled during our entire Spring Break trip. I bought a 22 oz bomber to-go — Pacific Reign, a Double IPA that clocks in at 9.8% and 1,000,000 IBU, according to NoDa. I brought it home to Maryland and decided to cellar it for a bit, but as I write this post I’m tempted to break it out now – I bet it will be amazing!
We didn’t want to leave NoDa, but it was getting late and we had to get back to the campground. But we couldn’t resist a quick visit to Birdsong Brewing Company, which was literally across the street from NoDa. We found a table in the back of the tap room and I ordered a four-beer sampler of the first four brews on the menu:
The Jalapeño Pale Ale was the second jalapeño-brewed beer I had during my Spring Break trip – and the second I’ve had in my entire life. Seems to be a popular thing in North Carolina but I won’t be disappointed it the trend doesn’t make its way to the DMV. Birdsong was fun, but I think the next time I visit Charlotte I’ll go to Birdsong first then NoDa, to save the best for last.
The brewery two-fer was a first for me – I don’t know of anywhere else in the country with two breweries across the street from each other (please leave a comment if you do). As the day came to an end, I left Charlotte with a new respect for the beer scene in the Queen City, and North Carolina’s beer reputation took a major step forward in my mind. And I still had another full day in Asheville yet to come!