Hali’s NC Brew Tour Month 3: Birthday Beers and the Arrival of Spring

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but 2017 is zooming by. I feel like I am running behind a bus, trying to catch it as it leaves the station. Come on now, it was just Christmas yesterday. Is there a pause button we can hit so I can stop to catch my breath?

While I would love it if time worked like that, I was actually excited to flip my calendar to March.

The third month of the year is always my favorite because it is my birth month and we see the first signs of spring as new life begins to blossom in the warming sun.

Catawba Peanut Butter Jelly TimeMarch is also when Catawba Brewing releases Peanut Butter Jelly Time. 

I was lucky enough to come home on the evening of my 27th birthday — after a long day at work and school — and find two cans of PB&J tucked behind a birthday card in my refrigerator.

My husband-to-be knows me too well.

That first can was the perfectly sweet treat I needed to end my birthday. The light brown ale blends together roasted peanuts and raspberry puree to create a unique flavor that truly tastes exactly like a PB&J sandwich in a glass. I say this as I release a heavy sigh of pure joy and delight.


Brewery Firsts & Birthday Beers

March was marked with trips to a couple of new-to-me breweries in the Charlotte area.

First up was Ghostface Brewing in Mooresville, an Iredell County town about 40 minutes outside of Charlotte.

Here is what I like about Ghostface:

  • Location
    From what I can tell, this is Mooresville’s only brewery. I love when brewers open in untapped markets. Places like Charlotte, Raleigh, and Asheville are overrun with breweries with new ones opening every few months. Don’t get me wrong, I love those big brewery cities, but I am a huge fan of small town brewery vibes because I am a small town girl at heart.
  • Food
    Located inside Ghostface is Davidson Pizza Company, a NY-style pizza restaurant. I don’t see this a lot. Most of the breweries I have visited do not offer food onsite unless it is a food truck. We usually grab takeout on our way to a brewery and eat while we enjoy our beers. I appreciate this addition at Ghostface. I ordered a personal-size buffalo wing pizza from the Davidson Pizza Company counter space and within 20 minutes it was delivered to my table. The ingredients were fresh and the dough itself was delicious. I will definitely go back for some more ‘za.
  • Beer
    Of course. Since it was a cold night, I ordered their milk stout, A Knight to Remember. It is a dark, full-bodied brew beaming with coffee, vanilla, and brown sugar aromas that I ended up nursing for the two hours I spent at the taproom. It is a great sipper if you are looking for slow drinking beer you can enjoy while unwinding on a Friday night.
  • Logo
    As a graphic designer, I am often attracted to brewery logos and label designs. It is probably a minimal element to most patrons, but I truly enjoy Ghostface’s “Spooky Good” skull logo. It certainly is eye-catching and different.

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Ghostface is a unique space. Still young — they just celebrated their one-year anniversary — the taproom is smaller than most; and while it has ample seating, many of the tables were taken by families eating pizza when I arrived. The long bar also was full, so I had to awkwardly stand out of the way while I sipped my brew and waited for a table to open up.

Because they also are a pizza joint, Ghostface has a more Friday night family friendly atmosphere than other breweries. If you are going to visit and you don’t want to fight a five-year-old for a chair, I suggest waiting until later in the evening (past the traditional dinnertime hours) or going in the middle of the day — because, who doesn’t love day drinking?

My other first-timer visit in March was Wooden Robot for my birthday.

I am a huge fan of their Good Morning Vietnam, so I was excited to get to the brewery and check out more creations.

Wooden Robot Bad Ambre

Bad Ambre at Wooden Robot Brewery.

They had several IPAs on tap, but if you recall from February, certain IPAs and I do not get along and I am extremely careful about which ones I choose, so I played it safe on this day and ordered a farmhouse ale — Bad Ambre.

I liked it so much that I ordered two more instead of sampling some of Wooden Robot’s other beers on tap.

Bad Ambre radiates a gorgeous golden amber color and flavorful hints of caramel and spice make this bready beer an excellent choice for sipping while enjoying the spring weather from the brewery’s patio space.

Our group arrived at Wooden Robot as they were opening. Since the weather was nice and our bellies were full of fried chicken from Price’s Chicken Coop (a Charlotte staple), we decided to snag a table outside and enjoy the sunshine.

Before we knew it, we were surrounded by people.

I could not believe how busy the brewery got in such a short period of time. Folks in our group could not even move their chairs out enough to stand up, and if they were able to get up and make their way inside, they had to push through people standing shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the bar. Fighting your way to the bathroom was at least a 15-minute ordeal. I am no fire marshal, but I am certain that some fire code was broken on this day.


A Miss

Since I began Hali’s NC Brew Tour in January, I haven’t met a craft beer that I did not enjoy.

That changed in March when I had Cabarrus Brewing Company‘s Cotton Blonde Ale.

Love the name, do not love the beer.

I am certain that my family back in Asheville thinks I live an exciting life down here in this big ole city of Charlotte, but really I am doing the lamest things a person could do; things that I should probably be embarrassed to admit, but I am going to go ahead and share anyway.

On a Friday night in March, my fella and I loaded into his truck and headed north, away from Charlotte, to check out the new Lowes Foods in Mooresville.

We did not need to shop for groceries as our refrigerator was fully stocked. We simply wanted to see what was so special about this food store and why everyone was raving about it.

Now, we know.

Lowes Foods has taps. A lot of taps. Taps with good local beer. And you can grab a pint of brew to take along while you shop. Talk about a game changer in the world of grocery stores.

So, what did Justin and I do? What any craft beer loving couple would do, of course. We each ordered a beer, sat down in the lounge area (I think it was a lounge area, at least) at the front of the store, and watched people come and go. We’re wild, folks.

This is where I had Cabarrus Brewing’s Cotton Blonde. It was crisp and refreshing, but the hops were much stronger than I anticipated for a blonde. I could not even finish my pint and tossed out nearly half a pour.

This particular Lowes also has a terrific selection of NC craft beers in stock. I was more than impressed with their bottles and cans and plan to go back when I am searching for hard-to-find beers.


Bottle Shop Picks

Blowing Rock Brewing Company's Midnight Raspberry Wheat

I was able to snag a couple of singles at my local Total Wine & More this month. I actually jumped for joy when I was strolling down one of the craft beer aisles and found single cans of Blowing Rock Brewing Company‘s (Blowing Rock, NC) Midnight Raspberry Wheat.

IMG_2143I enjoy wheat beers and have been trying to get my hands on this particular one for a few months now.

The raspberry shines through and provides robust flavor with a mellow finish — just like eating a handful of fresh raspberries.

While I greatly enjoyed this one, it would have been better in colder weather. Sunshine and 75 made it feel heavier than it actually was. But that did not stop me from enjoying it on my front porch from my “I’m outdoorsy in that I like getting drunk on patios” glass.

Blowing Rock Brewing prides themselves on using fresh, local ingredients to brew their beers and this one is a prime example of their commitment to quality. Midnight Raspberry Wheat, a Carolinas Championship of Beer gold award winner, is part of the brewery’s Ale House Series, a group of artisan brews crafted with local ingredients and mountain resources.

I highly suggest it if you run across it.

Last up, Bryson City Brown Ale from Nantahala Brewing Company (Nantahala, NC).

Bryson City Brown Ale from Nantahala Brewing CompanyAs a Carolina mountain girl, this tiny town (pop. 1,711) deep in the Western North Carolina hills holds a special place in my heart. Known as the “land of the noon day sun,” Nantahala is a beautiful and peaceful piece of the Smoky Mountains that my dad’s family has called home for generations. Drinking beer from here makes me feel a little closer to that part of my heritage.

Bryson City Brown is a session beer that is dark in color but extremely easy drinking with an earthy aftertaste from the chocolate and nutty character. It tastes like Nantahala, and if you have ever floated down the river from the NOC or taken a scenic Sunday drive through the gorge, you know exactly the down-to-earth vibe I am talking about.

I would have it again if it were easily available to me, but I wouldn’t seek it out. Nantahala Brewing actually has a blonde, Dirty Girl, that I tried probably a year ago and really enjoyed. Perhaps I will have to grab a bottle of it next time I see it.

What a month. March was packed with adventures in the Charlotte area and good beers from across the state, but I am officially ready for April brewery travels.

Asheville is first up followed by a visit to the High Country to experience Appalachian Mountain Brewery and Lost Province Brewing Company in Boone and Blowing Rock Brewing Company in Blowing Rock.

If you want to see more of my beer chronicles, follow me on Instagram @halidawnledford, and remember to check back on Dammit, Hali for monthly brew updates!

Cheers, y’all!

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