I’ve wanted to write a blog for quite some time so I approached the guys at Cheers Charlotte to see if they were interested in me contributing to the site instead of publishing yet another independent blog. Jay Weezie got back to me saying they’d love for me to report on Cheers Worthy Events and the first one was (big deep breath to say all this without pausing or passing out) “The Cheers Charlotte Pre-Oktoberfest Beer Festivals of Beer Festivals to Ruin All Other Festivals Jamboree Fest & Hootenanny.” (gasp). Well not only is that a mouthful but hard to get into a tweet with only enough room for a time and date. So I accepted the assignment, put on a proper reporters hat, and made my way to Salud in the Historic North Davidson neighborhood (NoDa).
Back in July 2012 I was producing a couple of plays at one of the locations in NoDa. We decided we were going to do some old fashioned promotion by just walking around in our costumes and interacting with pedestrians and business owners in character. It was while wandering around that I stepped into Salud for the first time. Now I was a newbie to craft beer and didn’t know what an IPA was or even why India was such a hotbed of beer. But while I was in there, wearing this crazy outfit and using a very silly voice, I met a wonderful person named Jason Glunt. He took the time to explain some different beers to me and invited me back “anytime”. That day I learned the craft beer equivalent of my A,B,C’s. Now almost three years later I am walking into Salud with a lot more knowledge and finding myself passing forward the same knowledge Jason gave me that day. However I am still getting schooled in beer, ales, and ciders, especially at this Cheers Worthy event.
I’ll start off with the bad first. Sorry Jay, Cesar, and Ford but I think you really named this event all wrong as I don’t think the name lives up to the Cheers Worthiness of this event. But that’s okay because one thing I think you three have learned about me by now is that I am quick to chime in with my two cents. So here it is. Yes the name is too long, that is given, but within the craft beer community there is a culture to come up with long complex names for beers so it is understandable that this event needed a really long and complex name. However after attending, meeting individuals from all walks of craft beer, feeling the camaraderie in the room, and just the overall awesome time I got the name. (drum roll). CHEERS CHARLOTTE BEER HOMECOMING! That’s it in its simplicity.
The event felt like a Homecoming. Just look at who all attended. There were representatives from NoDa Brewery, D9 Brewing & Red Clay Ciderworks just to name the ones I met. Bring Back the Buzz was in the house. Homebrewers and homebrew clubs from Cabarrus, Charlotte, & Iredell. Shop owners attended. Bloggers and authors showed up. Seemed that everyone who has a vested interest in local craft beer showed up. Why? To drink some fantastic beer, eat some great Empanadas (spelled correctly, thank you), and hang out with each other face to face. I even had a chance run in with a couple I knew from outside of the craft beer community who I hadn’t seen in a few years. And isn’t that what a Homecoming is?
Think about a school Homecoming for a minute and what it is traditionally. A Homecoming is an annual tradition of the United States. People, towns, high schools and colleges come together, usually in late September or early October, to welcome back alumni and former residents. And to point out a fact that it coincides with a big game as the highlight. In this context our “big game” is Charlotte Oktoberfest. I think all that is needed to make it a proper Homecoming is a royal court. Well in the case of the event this past Saturday Red Clay Ciderworks, Sabor Latin Grill, and Salud Beer Shop made for a great royal court.
Red Clay is planning on opening later this year on Clanton Road. Jay Bradish, Owner and Cidermaker at Red Clay Cider Works, and his team brought some wonderful ciders for the Cheers Charlotte team to sample. I consider myself lucky that I was offered samples as well. I tried Queen City Common, Bourbon Barrel aged Cider, and a Cider variation of a Wit (Wits in general are my favorite style). And all of them were really good. However the Hop Cider was off the charts good. Jay Bradish stated it had taken Bronze at a recent competition and I’m surprised it didn’t take Gold. The hops blended superbly with the apple cider (made from local NC apples thank you) but the thyme and lavender gave it a floral profile without being overly sweet, tart, or bitter. SImply well balanced. Jay told me he’s been making cider for 20 years and that experience and love for the craft shows up in the product.
I would have been happy leaving with this experience alone but the Cheers Charlotte guys made arrangements for Sabor Latin Grill to show up. Offering beef, chicken, and chorizo empanadas along with Mexican street corn and homemade Habanero sauce was wonderful. The gang at Sabor definitely has a love and passion for their product also. Everything is made fresh and authentic. I ended up getting in trouble over their food when I got home and my boss asked, “Did you bring any home?” I will say with Sabor’s close proximity to my day job they are going to know me by name this time next year.
Now all these wonderful food and cider samples couldn’t have happened without the proper host facility and they got it with Jason Glunt and Salud. The tap selection for the event was perfect. The Greater Pumpkin from Heavy Seas Brewery was my official first pumpkin beer for this season. This one was aged in bourbon barrels and I’m glad it was the first pumpkin beer I had. The other beers worth noting were the Autumnal from Stillwater Ales, a wonderfully crisp Saison, Allagash Bourbon Barrel Black and NoDa’s Old Voyager American Barleywine. Pouring a beer proper, having a vast knowledge of products, and making sure the business runs smoothly are just the fundamentals. The team at Salud took the time to open their doors to us all and did so warmly. I am looking forward to Saluds expansion coming later this year.
You would think food, beer, free samples, and free swag would be enough to make this a truly Cheers Worthy event but the attendees at this event stepped up as well. If I met a stranger or someone I didn’t know at the event, I did before the evening was over. Excitement for September 27 was paramount and if Oktoberfest is the “Big Game” this was the banquet the week before. Glancing at Twitter feeds and comments during and after the event all shared one theme “gathering of family and friends”. I know even now writing out the evenings who, what, when, where, and why does not do the event justice just as the name doesn’t do it justice.
I do want something to happen though. This event needs to happen every year; in the fall; a week before Oktoberfest; and the same people need to attend. This will be our Homecoming and a night filled with Cheers Worthy moments for the Charlotte Beer scene. I can’t wait for Oktoberfest and amlooking forward to being a volunteer. I know it will be a blast because I am going to see a lot more familiar faces. All because of Homecoming.
Raise Your Glass High (or your glass eye if you want). Cheers!