Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Day on the Charlotte Brew Trail

Alixandra and Brett
A visit to Charlotte, NC and my eldest son--who still needs a kidney, by the way--gave the missus and me an opportunity to hit some of the spots in an area where good beer is simply exploding in popularity.

I had visited some great spots, like Ass Clown and Crafty Beer Guys last summer during a visit, but here was an opportunity to do more serious exploring.

Yet, our noontime adventure had a rather inauspicious beginning in Cornelius, NC. The first brewery we stopped at was not open at all from Monday through Wednesday, and the second didn't open until 4 PM. I began to think that these Tar Heels were not all that serious about their beer after all.

Turns out they are. En route to a third destination, my son's lovely lady Alixandra, a beer nut in her own right, smartly suggested that we turn into a joint named Bottled & Tapped, a smallish looking little establishment on West Catawba toward I-77. It didn't look very promising from the highway, but I learned the "Books vs. Covers" lesson long ago. Se we pulled around back and went in.

A pleasant lass named Shelly welcomed us into an interior that was, at best, spare. But the bottled collections and the Tap List were anything but, hence the name Bottled & Tapped. There was a preponderance of Sour Beer in the bottle section, many from Wicked Weed in Asheville, another ground zero in the nuclear beer map. Shelly allowed that sours were indeed taking off, and that fact was corroborated by every brewery we visited that day. Beyond Rodenbach Red and Grand Cru, The PubScout is not a devotee of sour beers. But any who are (are you reading this Natalie Lay?) would be in beer heaven at Bottled & Tapped.

Shelly and son...
And the seventeen tapped offerings were nothing short of  incredible, with stouts, porters, wits, IPA's (Imperial and otherwise), gose and even one from Evil Twin which was described as "soft dookie." And no, that's not a typo.

I had a New Belgium Hop Kitchen Botanical Imperial IPA (8.5%), and it was absolutely phenomenal. As it turned out, we had come on on $4 pint Tuesday, a promo, among others, that Shelly said has made business pretty good for the place, which opened only this past September. 

Of course, she and husband Dan are doing the right things to keep the beer interest high, like running home-brew classes right in the shop. Participants drink whatever they make for free. Shelly gave us a sample of the Belgian Golden Ale, and it was darned good, indicating that the instructors knew their business. In sum, Bottled & Tapped turned out to be a hidden gem that will not likely stay hidden for long, especially for people "coming off the lake." (Norman, that is.)

Then, still in Cornelius it was off to D-9, a brewery which specializes in "fanatical ales." A very affable and knowledgeable Bree (like the cheese) was our bar mistress and served us beers and a raft of information about each one. The missus enjoyed a Twelve, a citrusy, medium malty pale ale, and I had a Hakuna Matata, a delicious, medium-bodied golden IPA with an explosion of citrusy notes. 

I did have a tasty sample of something called Black Ice, a 10% Imperial Black Ale, and you can believe the statement that it's "not for the faint of heart." Nor is it for those whose stomachs are empty, except for the beers we had already tasted. I'd go back and try it after having a good meal, for sure. Like Bottled & Tapped, no food is available at D-9, though you can bring your own in.

Alix enjoyed a flight of beers, including Viking Fraoch, a 4,000 year old Scottish Sour recipe that she said was incredibly delicious. She had similar praise for D-9 Systema Naturae, a 6.3% sour/mild ale. Then again, she's a sour beer fancier, and I am not, so I'll take her word for it. After all, she was the one who turned me on to Saw-Whet Saison from Highland Brewing in Asheville, and that beer is hands-down awesome.

After a much-needed, belly-filling late lunch at the iconic Lupie's Cafe in Huntersville, we headed over to Primal Brewing, just a short jaunt away. Primal operates a three barrel system with ten barrel fermenters, churning out about five hundred barrels per year. Giant, hand-carved and painted handles--including one with light-up eyes-- adorn the taps, pulling beers made by Brewer Scott like Grim Creeper, MOHK Hazelnut Stout, Lawn Boy and an interesting Pumpernickel beer called Devil's Gas. 

It's worth inserting at this point that two of my long-held beliefs, and ones I have shared countless times, were shattered this day. The first was pointed out to me by Master Chef Alix when I told her that sweetbreads were calves' brains. Nope, she said, it's a pancreas. She was right, the whippersnapper. Damned chefs.

The second was in my flawed etymology of the term pumpernickel. I was taught that it derived from a lower quality brown bread fed to Napoloeon's horse, Nicole. Pain Pour Nicole, as it were. 
But it ain't as it were. It actually refers to anal gas expelled by the devil. Learn something new every day, I guess. I so loved my authentic, impressive French accent when I said pain pour Nicole. Devil's Gas just doesn't have quite the same Continental ring to it. But despite the name, the beer is good, with nary a flatulent note to be found. 

But the Grim Creeper was a keeper. 8.1% ABV, gorgeous color, malty and extraordinarily smooth, it went down very easily--which might be a warning if you're driving to and from Primal. With a lovely outdoor seating section, it's a great spot to enjoy some good beers and maybe even play a spirited game of Cornhole like we did--though, being in a geezer's time-warp, I do wish they gave that game another name.

And, speaking of names, what about the name Primal? The story I got was that Owners Jim, Dave and Ray, three guys with very divergent life outlooks,  finally agreed on one definition they found for the word: Primal: Essential, required for living.
Of course, the Urban Dictionary says that it can also mean to "lose all self control." Which, after a few Grim Creepers or some Devil's Gas, also applies.

In all, it was a wonderful day despite its inauspicious start, and we capped it off by heading to the NoDa district and the famous Tex-Mex restaurant called Cabo Fish Taco, which also has a decent beer list. But by that time, even I was "beered out," so I had two Margaritas with my spicy Tex-Mex food.

The Devil's Gas came later.

The PubScout

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You should head up to Ghostface Brewing in Mooresville.