Between warmer weather and March Madness, the Queen City has been pulsing with the urge to play outside. Travel sites state this is one of the best times to visit our fair city before the humidity settles in. The question is, where should we venture once the weekend arrives but want to avoid traveling far? A brewery, naturally!
Charlotte’s local beer scene fuels the city’s heartbeat, and Birdsong Brewing in the Optimist Park neighborhood is a mainstay. One of Charlotte’s first breweries, it opened in 2011 when the city’s brewery culture was budding. The brewery proudly holds the title of the first solar-powered brewery in Charlotte! But while Charlotte is arguably an IPA town, what brought me to Birdsong recently was their late March Thursty Thursday release: Golden Brown.
Golden Brown is a whiskey barrel-aged American Strong Ale with honey, lemon and chamomile tea. The best flavors in a Hot Toddy to soothe your throat have been instilled in a beer — just in time for allergy season!
Fun fact: The beer’s namesake was inspired by the song “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers, featured in a scene from Snatch (which was released the year I graduated, so I needed a refresh and YouTube’d it). It’s the scene where Brad Pitt’s bare-knuckle boxer character, Mickey O’Neil, knocks out Gorgeous George in a fight, putting the two folks who organized the fight (including pre-action star Jason Statham) between a rock and a hard place. But I digress.
Not a barrel-aged beer drinker? I also recommend the Jalapeño Pale Ale. The Birdsong team — women-led, as you know — starts by brewing Free Will Pale Ale and then adds fresh jalapeño peppers without the seeds so that you can enjoy the bright flavor of the jalapeños with a subtle kick.
And for my fellow bloody mary lovers, this one is for you: Open a can of Jalapeño Pale Ale, rim a glass with Falcon and Flash Jalapeño Pale Ale smoked sea salt, pour the beer into the glass, saving enough room to top with your favorite bloody mary mix, and serve with a citrus wedge and any other preferred bloody mary trimmings.
Falcon and Flash is a craft spice company in Charlotte focusing on small-batch blends, smoked sea salt and snacks. It’s a little early to consider the holidays, but you want to remember these folks when it’s time to start crossing names off your shopping list.
While visiting Birdsong Brewing’s North Davidson Street taproom earlier in March, I purchased a ticket to their Spring Oyster Roast on the March 25, which would have happened rain or shine. It was raining when I left the house, but the sun shone when I parked (happy spring!). I therefore spent the afternoon feeling overdressed in a hoodie and unprepared with no sunglasses.
My ticket covered two dozen oysters with lemon, crackers, cocktail sauce and hot sauce. While this standard array of condiments is typical to enhancing the oyster’s flavor, I can proudly share I have graduated to slurping the oysters straight off their shell. If vodka is within reach, I’m just as happy to shoot it.
A portion of the proceeds from the Spring Oyster Roast benefited the nonprofit Time Out Youth, whose mission it is to support LGBTQ+ youth by offering vital programs, fostering unconditional acceptance, and creating safe spaces for self-expression through leadership, community support and advocacy.
Birdsong isn’t the only brewery strategically partnering with nonprofits. Hi-Wire Brewing recently hosted “Books and Buddies Book Swap,” supporting Billies Buddies Animal Rescue. The manageable $10 entry fee goes to the pups and allows book lovers to read up to three gently used books.
Besides feeding my obsession with oysters and books, I also am nurturing my infantile green thumb. Did you know Hi-Wire Brewing also hosts a monthly plant swap? It takes place on the last Wednesday of the month, allowing folks to grab a beer, meet new people and swap clippings.
This warm weather has even had me looking beyond the Queen City, as far as the Wilmington ale trail and beyond. Makai Brewing in Ocean Isle Beach is a coastal favorite and has just celebrated five years of brewing. It crafts various styles, so there’s something for everyone — even someone like me during my extended beer hiatus. Plus, they now offer yoga and beer on Sundays in the taproom. Beware of the price tag, though. At $20 per person, expensive even by city standards, you can expect a dizzying tab at the end of your afternoon outing.
All you have to do next is grab your bibliophile buddies, plant parents, fellow yogis or beach bums and “cheers” one another during this season of sunshine, new beginnings and many beer-fueled adventures.
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