Tag Archives: craft breweries

American Craft Beer Week!



It’s American Craft Beer Week! As I’ve mentioned in the past, the Official Alcoholic Beverage of the United States is Bourbon. But since there are more craft beer varieties and breweries in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world, let’s make beer the official beverage this week. Mkay? 😉

Naturally, all posts this week will be about beer. Here’s a few little tidbits to start you off…

Recipes with Beer:

Beer Mac & Cheese from Taste of Home

Bacon Cheddar Beer Bread from Suzie at Two Dogs in the Kitchen

Torpedo IPA Cupcakes from Alex at Alex Tries it Out

My Previous Posts on Beer:

How I became somewhat of a Beer Snob

How Craft Breweries started to pop up in the Twin Cities!

Western Twin Cities Metro Beer Trolley Tour

Charlotte Breweries

And for those of you in the Twin Cities:

Are you “man” enough for this beer crawl? {Or do you have a sober cab for it?!}

What is your favorite craft beer?


Charlotte Breweries


Did you know that National Beverage (containing alcohol) of the United States of America is Bourbon? Yes, Bourbon. We learned this on the Beer Trolley Tour we took in December. We were told that “They” are trying to get this changed to craft beer. There are more craft beer varieties and breweries in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world!

And guess what? Next week is…asdfad

When we visited our friends in Charlotte, North Carolina, it was North Carolina Beer Month!

TripC-NC Beer Month

And, boy, did we celebrate! Tay and Brendan took us on a tour of the city’s breweries. I never knew that North Carolina was such a brew-happy state! First, we sampled some great local beers while dining out… First at Mac’s Speed Shop, then at Mellow Mushroom. {Not to mention the beer we stocked up on for back at the house!} The Mellow Mushroom Beer Menu stated,“North Carolina boasts more craft breweries than any state in the American South.”

Let us compare with some of those other southern states, shall we?


Each numbered black dot represents a brewery! It looks like there are at least 80!

Now check out Alabama:


Not quite as many, you think?

Even Tennessee and South Carolina have considerably less:


Quite a difference, don’t you think?

Hooray for North Carolina! While breweries are popping up quickly everywhere across the country, it seems North Carolina breweries do really have their mark on the map. We had the opportunity to stop at five of them!

Brewery Stop #1 – Four Friends Brewing

Our first brewery stop was on our second night in Charlotte after dining (and consuming a few beers) at Mellow Mushroom.

This taproom reminded me of the ones that we have visited in Minnesota… Kind of off the beaten path, nothing too fancy, just a garage opened up for tasting. The dog above was just one of the dogs we saw, met and petted. Most of the breweries we visited were very dog friendly. We LOVE this!

At Four Friends Brewery, I had my first Jalapeño Beer!


Tres Hombres Jalapeno Beer

Nothing else looked interesting to me that night, so I almost just ordered a glass. Everyone warned me that I should sample it first. I loved it! And I did order a glass. {…With one of the brewers in the background, tee hee!} Some said that the jalapeno was a little too much for them, but I found it very well balanced. If you’ve ever read my posts on cooking like a Homesick Texan, you’ll know that I like heat in terms of spice, not necessary overbearingly-hot. And this is exactly what this beer offered. Plus, I had never had a jalapeno beer before… Why not try my first one in North Carolina, of all places!?

Rob says that this place was the least commercialized of the ones we visited and felt more like you were stopping at a friend’s place, who just happened to have a back warehouse where he made beer. 😉


The next night, we continued our beer tasting tour of Charlotte…

Brewery Stop #2 – Birdsong Brewing Company


I like the bird logo. Can you point it out?

Birdsong Brewing is located in the NoDa (North Davidson Street) area of Charlotte. The nice back deck was crowded with folks sipping brews. Inside, we pulled up seats to the tasting bar and listened to some music by a guy strumming a guitar with Eddie Veddar’s voice. I found the ambiance quite relaxing, something people might not associate with a taproom or brewery.

But look again closely at the photo above… They had a Jalapeno Beer, here, too! Why hadn’t I been introduced to these before Charlotte? However, here, I went with the Lazy Bird Brown. I just wanted something different from the IPAs, porters and stouts I’d been enjoying as of late.

Look at the photo above for a third time. I wondered why a brewery wouldn’t offer flights (small pours of samples of some/all of their current beers). It seemed a little strange to me. However, before I emptied my glass, the bartender flipped the sign over to read “flights.” My guess? They were out of sample glasses! Once washed, they can offer them again.

With our glasses empty, we had no problem sauntering over to the next brewery, as it was right next door!

Brewery Stop #3 – NoDa Brewing Company

Appropriately named, considering it is located in Charlotte’s historic arts district of the same name, no?

Building Mural at NoDa

Building Mural at NoDa Brewing Company

This place was packed! We threaded our way through the crowd to the bar to find this overwhelming beer menu!

NoDa beers

Beers on Tap? Beers in the bottle? Kombucha? Guest taps? Where to begin! Eventually, I chose the CoCo LoCo, a porter made with organic coconut. While I would never turn it down, there’s something a bit better about the Kona Brewing Company Koko Brown I had in Hawaii. Maybe it’s just location, but coconut does really take me back to Hawaii, not usually North Carolina! {On another note, the Koko Brown has proven to be a somewhat lucky poker beer for me since I’ve found it on tap and in bottles in Eagan!}

We spent much of the time outdoors, although it had just rained, sipping our brews in the cool air away from the crowds:

Rob and our lovely hosts Tay and Brendan

Rob and our lovely hosts Tay and Brendan


We hopped in the car to make the five-mile trek to hit the last brewery (of the night).

Brewery Stop #4 – Triple C Brewing Company


Sure, it looks like the night is just beginning as we make our way to the door. However breweries and taprooms in Charlotte generally close at 8 or 9pm. I think this is a good thing. Most don’t serve food. And people need food before and/or after consuming a few too many beers.

The first thing I noticed at Triple C was the TV screen connected to their beer menu:


Since Charlotte is the home of NASCAR, it’s only natural that they’d be televising races right next to the beer menu! Since there were two IPAs on tap, Rob and I decided to order one of each for comparison.


Greenway and 3C IPAs

You can’t tell because of the color of the table behind them, but these two IPAs were very different in color. Which one did I like better? I have no idea. We were having too much fun… listening to this band {which happened to include an old friend Brendan hadn’t seen in a while!} and sitting at this long table….


… And taking blurry, cheesy photos of ourselves!

We did do just one more brewery… but for brunch the following day. Come back tomorrow to read about our Heist Brewery Brunch!

All I can say is that after this fun beer tour, Rob and I think we are ready to do this one in The Cities. Well… almost.

What is your favorite local brewery and why?

(It just make our must-do list while traveling!)


Wine vs. Beer


Things sure have changed in the Twin Cities since I moved here in 2002 and met my husband-to-be in 2003. He had moved here, too, from Seattle. It was quite a change for him not having a bunch of craft brews on tap. His best bet for local beer in the Twin Cities at the time was Summit.

I was more of a wine girl teaching him about wine and he was beer guy turning me into a beer snob.

Carrie meets Rob.

Carrie meets Rob.

Then came the Surly Bill.

Surly is a local craft brewery established right around 2005/2006. The vision to expand into a brewery/restaraunt where they would serve their own pints challenged Minnesota laws. But the bill passed in the spring of 2011.

And many local artisan and craft breweries have been popping up all over the Twin Cities since.

We are so spoiled now!

It used to be that when we’d dine out, we’d order a bottle of wine. However, over the past few years, I’ve learned that the quality has gone down. It’s really hard to find a good value when enjoying wine with a meal.

You all know that I prefer quality over quantity. However, finding a quality wine by the glass is virtually unheard of {more detail on this in the coming weeks}. But most “value” wines by the bottle average about $40 in a restaurant. That’s about $8 to $10 per glass. And buying by the bottle is always the better way to go because you know that the wine hasn’t been sitting around open for days or weeks on end. Besides, most wines by the glass average $7 {if you’re lucky} to $12.

Here in the Twin Cities, local tap beers are a much better value. Well, it’s always been a better value if you are Michelob Golden Draft Light drinker. However, if you want an adult beverage with character to go with your meal, go for a pint of something different.

Ales, nut browns, IPAs, porters and stouts can be intimidating to those who haven’t tried them before. But when you are in a restaurant, there is no better opportunity to try them out, especially here in the Twin Cities. Why?

  • I’ve never had a bar nor restaurant not allow we to have a sample {just a taste} of a beer from the tap before ordering it. In fact, I often forget about it and they offer me one if I inquire about a beer.
  • It’s cheap. Pints these days run about $4 to $7 each. This is much cheaper than a mediocre glass of wine. Some higher alcohol beers will come in smaller glasses, but there’s no complaining as to why.
  • They may not advertise it, but a many bars/restaurants will offer a half-pint.
  • Furthermore, if there are lot of different kinds of beers on taps, a flight or a beer sampler is often offered for a surprisingly low price. Try many styles at once. It’s great for people like me who just can’t decide!
  • Whenever possible, support the locals.

Since beer can be confusing, I will be talking about specific beer types and maybe even reviewing local breweries over the coming months.

But don’t worry, my heart still lies with the wine. It’s just that there’s lots of local crafts to choose from on tap right now when I’m out. And for four pints of excellent local beer, we’ll pay $16 – $28 versus $40 for a bottle of mediocre wine sporting four glasses? It’s kind of a no brainer.

Right now, I’m in beer country… and I’ve learned well that I should drink wine in wine countries and beer in beer countries.

How ’bout you? Beer or Wine? Why?