Before stepping onto the Charlotte Brewery Tours party bus, each tour-taker is handed a pint glass to hang on to, which they are sure to put to use throughout the day. Once on the bus, participants are ushered to some of the city's finest craft-beer producers. Sip samples of beers along the way, and enjoy one pint of complimentary beer to slake the unique thirst conjured only by drinking beer all day.
Deep in the Umstead Industrial Park, something stirs. Amid the clank of modern machinery, a group of workers busy themselves with one of the world's oldest crafts: brewing. At Gizmo Brew Works, this meeting of contemporary technology and ancient know-how produces a tempting slate of small-batch beers. Inside tanks that hold the equivalent of 1,000 pints each, brewers prep favorites including the smooth and sweet Black Stiletto Stout and the complex Palisade Wasp India Pale Ale with the same care that has earned many of their past beers medals at the Carolina Championship of Beer. They also save room for seasonals, carefully adding a sweet caramel flavor and spicy Noble hops to their altbier, which they serve in a traditional stange glass or a large mug in celebration of Oktoberfest. These beers and more make frequent appearances in the brewery's taproom, gracing pint glasses for impromptu toasts or filling up growlers for at-home sips. Never ones to shy away from curious guests, brewers also open up their facility for Saturday tours, walking groups through the beer-making process during 30-minute explorations.
A fortnight is an English term for a period of two weeks, which is coincidentally the amount of time needed for an ale to age to full maturity. In England, the beer often spends that time in casks. It's these principles that inspire the name and techniques of Fortnight Brewing Company, whose cask and keg ales?made in the English tradition?are rich yet balanced in flavor. The founding brewers, who hail from the US and the UK, use English malts and hops to craft four main beers: an English Ale, a Porter, an ESB, and a Blonde Ale. Special seasonal releases experiment with flavors and tours give visitors a closer look at the exotic brewing process.
The people of Panacea Coffeehouse designed their cafe as a place that fosters a sense of community where patrons can sip a fresh brew on the back deck that overlooks Richland Creek or within the cool, restored industrial space. The staff of savvy baristas also serves up homemade desserts, cafe treats, and improvised haikus.
After Dustin Canestorp returned home from his tour of duty in Iraq, he and his Marine Corps buddies would gather to play poker and sample the beer Canestorp brewed at home. His dream: to brew beer professionally by opening a microbrewery in eastern North Carolina, a beach-filled haven with a craft-beer desert. That dream came to fruition, though with one additional element: Beer Army would raise funds for local charities and communities. Now, Canestorp holds festivals that introduce revelers to local and regional craft beers while gathering money for those in need. He also runs the brewery, which currently pours four of its own brews, and manages the Beer Army Outpost, a 3,000-square-foot store with a plethora of craft brews for purchase.
Though it's largely a male-dominated industry, the origins of beer-brewing suggest it was women who were behind the original barley pop?and the ladies behind Bombshell Beer Company are quick to remind anyone who asks. Co-founder and co-owner Ellen Joyner had been home brewing for more than a decade when she joined forces with co-brewers Michelle Miniutti and Jackie Hudspeth, and together, they started Bombshell. There, they employ careful and exacting brewing practices to brew great beer, from their Lost My Way IPA to specialty seasonal beers that include a ?Dunkelweizen and a Dirty Secret Coconut Stout. Visitors can take tours of the brewery to learn more about the process, and head to the 1,400 square foot tasting room afterward to taste the beers of their labor.