Tag Archives: North Carolina

Charlotte Memories…

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Because you can never capture an entire trip without writing a book, here are some images from the rest of our vacation in Charlotte last month…

Charlotte-Herself

Ever wonder how the city of Charlotte got its name? Well, now you know. (Click to enlarge.)

Charlotte

More Craft Beer

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Southern Fast Food Breakfast. Hey, Southerners, do you prefer Bojangles..?

…or Chick-fil-A?

Chick-fil-A was the winner for me!

Chick-fil-A was the winner for me!

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U.S. National Whitewater Center

A place for adventure sports and where American Whitewater Olympians come to train!

Shadow with her daddy

Shadow with her daddy 🙂

Can you guess what game we were playing?

Can you guess what game we were playing?

And lastly, a little something from the trip that keeps me laughing:

Hooman

I think that’s a nice note with which to end. Don’t you?

 Where are you spending your next vacation?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Charlotte Breweries

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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?

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

Now check out Alabama:

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Not quite as many, you think?

Even Tennessee and South Carolina have considerably less:

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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!

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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. 😉

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

Brewery Stop #2 – Birdsong Brewing Company

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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

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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

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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:

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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.

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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….

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… 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!)

Cheers~
Carrie

BBQ – A Confession

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I have a confession to make….

I don’t like barbecue sauce.

I know. Gasp. I live in America. For many Americans, it’s the essence of summer. {Although I’m not feeling very summerish around these parts with snow in May.} And since I write a blog titled Season It Already!, you’d think I’d have the best sauce to recommend!

I could blame it on the fact that I didn’t grow up with it. Our cookouts included hamburgers, hotdogs, potato chips and potato or noodle salad. If we were really lucky, we’d have a yummy steak on the grill.

But that probably isn’t why I don’t like barbecue sauce. I mean, my brother, who grew up in the same household as I did, loves it. And there are plenty of things that I didn’t really grow up eating that I adore now: asparagus, spinach, shrimp, scallops and black beans, just to name a few.

I’d  rather have a burger or fried chicken any day over barbecued chicken, barbecue pulled pork or baby back ribs slathered in the sauce. I don’t detest the stuff completely. I just choose not to order or eat it. I guess it’s kind of like me and ketchup. And that I loved as a kid, but I rarely use it now.

So when pondering why I don’t like the stuff I came up with the following:

  • It’s often too sweet.
  • If not, it’s too tangy. {Likewise, I prefer my cucumbers plain rather than marinated in that vinegary concoction people seem to love.}
  • I don’t like the smokiness. {I don’t like smoky flavors in general. Okay, now I’m really wondering if the title of my blog is appropriate.}

All of that being said…

I found one that I really enjoyed last weekend!

We were lucky to be visiting some friends in Charlotte, North Carolina. Immediately after picking us up from the airport Thursday evening, they took us to one their favorite barbecue joints: Mac’s Speed Shop – Beer, Bikes and BBQ.

First, Rob fell in love with the beer list.

Mac's

Mac’s Speed Shop Draft Beer List – April 2013

While he sipped some beers that he’s never/rarely been able to enjoy on tap {i.e Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Stout!}, I stuck to trying the local ones. {Little did I know that we’d be checking out some of these breweries throughout the weekend! More on that to come.}

While the rest of the crew ordered Pulled Pork BBQ, I chose the Beer Can Chicken:

bEER cAN

Beer Can Chicken (1/4) with collard greens, mac & cheese and Texas toast

This chicken was moist and juicy. I loved it! The sauce on the side was the VTX Chipotle. I chose it because it was said to be spicy, but it was still too smoky for me. The collard greens and mac and cheese here were just an afterthought compared to that perfect chicken.

Little did I know, the Pulled Pork BBQ didn’t actually come with any barbecue sauce on it. Apparently, in Carolina, they like to cook their meats low and slow to infuse a smokiness into the meat and the sauce is added later. If only this photo would have turned out a little clearer. I was more focused on visiting and catching up with our friends than taking stellar photos.

Pulled pork

Pulled Pork BBQ with onion rings, mac & cheese and Texas toast

The pulled pork was excellent. It reminded me of a great one that we get at Costco, but better, of course, because it was just cooked. This is a bit of smokiness that I don’t mind! {Are you confused yet?}

And that photo doesn’t depict the batter/breading on those onion rings well enough. My husband knows that I’m not a fan of onion rings. He always wants me to try his and I decline. They just aren’t worth it to me. I love onions, but I want to taste onion, not just batter with something slimy in the middle.

But I grabbed one of these onion rings off of his plate.

Why? Because you could see the spices in the batter! It looked really good – like the coating on good fried chicken {which he has never had, so he doesn’t know what he is missing!} And that is exactly what these tasted like! These are onion rings I would not only eat, but I would order.

Then there was an accompaniment of sauces on the table that you could pour onto your meat. I tried a couple, and found one that I liked so much that I dumped more and more on my plate for which to dip my chicken!

Mac's

This Carolina BBQ Sauce has won me over!

I texted that photo to my friend Jen, and knowing full well my disdain for the sauce, her response was, “There’s hope for you yet!”

What makes it Carolina BBQ sauce and why I liked it, I have no idea. Okay, so I have some idea. When I google “Carolina BBQ sauce”, it appears that the Carolina stuff is mustard and vinegar based as opposed to many ketchup and molasses based sauces.

However, one of the other sauces we tried at Mac’s was the SC Mustard Sauce, which was very different and much more mustardy. So now I’m a little confuzzled. I think what I liked about this sauce was not only that it was balanced {not too sweet, not too tangy}, but also that it had a little kick at the end! {Or maybe it was just all ambiance and the fact that I was in Carolina!}

I was so turned around by that sauce that while we were out shopping one day around Charlotte, our friend Brendan pointed out this sauce and said that if we are going to take one back with us, we needed to get this one:

I bought a bottle of bbq sauce!

And so I did. Jaw dropping yet? This one looks like it will be different than the one I loved because it is sorghum-based, so I think it’ll be sweeter. Still, this Carolina trip opened my mind. I’m willing to try. When we cook with it, I’ll post the results! Aren’t you proud of me?!

Thanks, Tay and Brendan for a wonderful introduction to Charlotte!

What is your favorite BBQ Sauce?

The sharing of brands, styles and recipes is encouraged!

Cheers~
Carrie