Hali’s NC Brew Tour Month 2: Gearing up for summer brews and my aversion to hops

For those who aren’t aware, North Carolina had exceptionally beautiful weather in February with weekend temps hitting the low-80s and providing us with a small taste of what to expect in the coming months.

With warm weather comes good, cold beer, and I must admit that I broke the stout streak that I had going from January. It has simply been too warm for those dark, heavy beers I do so enjoy.

My first NC brew of February was tapped while sitting lakeside one Saturday. I stopped atimg_1888 Cornelius Drafthouse and Bottle Shop and grabbed a 16-ounce single of White Zombie white ale (Catawba Brewing in Asheville and Morganton) from the cooler before heading to the dock for a couple of hours.

I thought this particular day would be a great time to sample a possible summer beer contender. Since our weekends between May and September are typically spent soaking up the Carolina sun while floating on Lake Norman, I am hunting light beers that will easily replace my old summer staple of Bud Light. That is why I chose White Zombie.

Just as I thought, White Zombie is going to be one of my go-to summer NC beers this year. It is brewed in the Belgium witbier tradition using unmalted wheat to create a light body. At 5.1-percent ABV with lightly detected hops, this a refreshing choice for summer days on the lake.

Sticking mostly to Asheville-area and Charlotte-area breweries this month, I finally got my hands on Wicked Weed Brewing’s (Asheville) Milk & Cookies imperial milk stout while checking out Davidson Beverage Company for the first time.

This malty beer was worth the wait, though, with hints of cinnamon, vanilla, and milk. I didn’t care that it was 77-degrees outside, Milk & Cookies left me with a warm, cozy, and homey feeling one might desire during colder months.

DBC is an excellent spot for craft beer enthusiasts in Davidson with patio seating to accommodate these warm Carolina days. You can grab a seat at the bar with a cold single or sip one of the 12 beers on their rotating tap.

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Milk & Cookies imperial milk stout from Wicked Weed Brewing.

It has taken me several years to love where I live. I struggled to find my place in Charlotte after moving from Asheville in 2013 — at times feeling like Alice when she first arrived in Wonderland and everything was peculiar until she found her way.

Exploring restaurants, breweries, and craft beer bars in my new city is one of the things that helped me adjust to life as a flat-lander.

This month, I ventured over to Moo & Brew, a craft beer and burger joint in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood of Charlotte.

There I enjoyed a Good Morning Vietnam from Charlotte’s Wooden Robot Brewery while chatting with friends and devouring my “Farmer’s Daughter” burger on the large deck in front on the restaurant.

I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered Good Morning Vietnam and was quite surprised when it arrived at the table.

It is a coffee vanilla blonde ale, and I do not recall ever having a coffee blonde before. I expected the beer to have a darker color from the coffee, but it arrived with a gorgeous amber hue. It is an easier sipper at 5-percent ABV, and the coffee and vanilla combine to give it a smooth, mellow, and enjoyable taste.

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Wooden Robot’s Good Morning Vietnam at Moo & Brew.

After lunch at Moo & Brew, our group migrated to NoDa Brewing for the release of their coveted Hop Cakes, an imperial IPA with a hefty 10-percent ABV. My friends go crazy over this beer each February when it is released. I, however, am unable to enjoy the maple syrup goodness that is Hop Cakes.

This is where I make confession, friends. I am unable to drink IPAs. 

Gasp away. I know, it completely goes against the craft beer bible, but I just cannot drink IPAs. I don’t know if it is certain hops that cause the aversion, but IPAs make me violently ill — even with one smell and sip.

It took me several years to figure out that IPAs were causing me to get sick. I would go out for a beer with friends, order an IPA because those are most popular among the craft beer community, and within minutes my stomach would start turning, I would get a headache, my face would turn bright red, and I became nauseous. I thought for a long time that I was allergic to beer in general, so I stopped drinking. Then, one day, I tried a red ale and was fine — I did not get sick. Then, I tried a blonde ale, and then a wheat, and so-on and discovered that maybe, just maybe, there is something in IPAs that does not agree with my body. I have not done extensive research or consulted a medical professional as to what it might be, but I do avoid IPAs for the sake of my health.

OK, back to our day at NoDa for Hop Cakes.

To give you an idea of how popular Hop Cakes, it was standing room only inside the taproom and outside on the patio. And because NoDa did not put a cap on how many four-packs of cans customers could purchase, folks were buying multiple flats because once Hop Cakes is released around town, it is nearly impossible to find because people snatch it up so quickly.

Our foursome was lucky to snag a table inside next to the main bar where we could easily people watch while we talked and passed our brews around the table for all to sample.

And guess what, y’all. It is Girl Scout cookie season which means that it is cookie and beer pairing season.

Since I was the odd man out and couldn’t drink Hop Cakes — believe me, I tried — I ordered the Lemon Shortbread Kolsch, a NoDable released on February 7. It was part of the brewery’s cookie-inspired series, and it made my cookie-loving heart flutter with joy.

I believe this was my first kolsch, and I was impressed with the tart lemon flavor and light body. It was certainly reminiscent of the delicious and lemony Girl Scout cookie.

When that was gone, I ordered NoDa’s Two to Tango, another NoDable that was released on January 30.

I suppose I was on a coffee blonde kick after the Good Morning Vietnam I had with lunch because Two to Tango also is a coffee blonde.

As a blonde, it remains light, but the coffee notes are much heavier in Two to Tango than they were in Good Morning Vietnam.

My last brewery stop of February was Lake Norman’s Ass Clown Brewing in Cornelius. Ass Clown is one of my favorite spaces because it is a cozy hideaway accented by eclectic decor and rustic wood details. Plus, it is walking distance from my house — only if I am feeling particularly frisky, though.

Ass Clown boasts a lofty list of beers with unique flavors. I kept it simple, though, and ordered their Blonde on this day.

Like any blonde, it was a light and easy beer for relaxing on the big, soft, and inviting leather couch and watching rain slowly fall on the opposite side of the window.

Coming Up …

March, oh March. There is a lot to look forward to in the coming month.

To begin, it is my birth month, which means that I have 31 days to celebrate 27 years of life. Plans for a brewery crawl are currently underway.

Also in March, Catawba Brewing is set to open their new facility in Charlotte (date currently unknown) and they will release their delicious Peanut Butter Jelly Time on March 3. Be on the lookout out for it, friends, and when you find it, you better snatch it up quick because it goes fast.

Until next time, cheers y’all!

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