Unlike most breweries in Charlotte, Sweet Union Brewing Co. isn’t surrounded by craft beer bars, coffee shops and condos. The brewery counts as neighbors a Cook Out, Waffle House and Biscuitville, as well as a gym a few doors down to burn off any calories consumed at those Southern staples.
Before Sweet Union Brewing moved in at 13719 E. Independence Blvd., the space had stood vacant for years. Once upon a time, it held a Blockbuster. Yet the strip mall is the perfect spot for a brewery, according to Travis Caudle.
“This intersection is Indian Trail, for all intents and purposes,” said Caudle, head of brewing and operations. “Look at where people are moving. You’ve got thousands of people on this side, thousands of people on that side. We’ve got all the amenities right here.”
Sweet Union, Indian Trail’s first brewery, will host its grand opening 3-10 p.m. Saturday, April 29.
A Union County native, Caudle and his father, Tom, opened Monroe’s Beer and Wine Hobbies Int’l homebrew supply store in 2012. They have partnered with Tim O’Neill, head of finance and marketing, to open the third brewery in the county (after The DreamChaser’s Brewery in Waxhaw and Southern Range Brewing in Monroe).
O’Neill met Caudle through the homebrew store after moving to Charlotte from Portland, Ore., in 2012. While the shop is now closed, you can count on the brewery to stay true to its homebrewing roots.
“I’d see dozens of recipes every day,” said Caudle. “I’ve seen and tasted a whole lot of beers brewed with a lot of different things. You have to understand what every single component brings to it. Coming from homebrewing, quality of ingredients to me is the most important thing.”
Both Caudle and O’Neill geek out over ingredients in the same way homebrewers do, discussing the nuances of lesser-known hops or heritage malts from the 19th century. They are already discussing a collaboration with a local coffee roaster, and are eager to dive into beans grown at varying elevations and on different farms to see how they are expressed in the finished beer.
The Psycho Brew system in the brewery isn’t far removed from their experience as homebrewers, either. It’s a five-barrel system that features two mash tuns and two boil kettles. This lets Caudle brew either a single five-barrel batch of beer or two 2.5-barrel batches.
“You can’t get much closer to homebrewing,” said Caudle. “It gives us some more flexibility.”
Expect Sweet Union Brewing to offer a variety of beers, rotating through many different styles. Caudle hopes to offer some approachable beers to Union Co. residents who might be new to craft beer, as well as more specialty offerings.
Down the road, he plans to offer some kettle-soured beers like goses and Berliner weisses. He’d even like to use locally-grown fruits like muscadines to create a syrup to serve with those Berliner weisses (with plans to also brew a beer with muscadines, or perhaps age in muscadine wine barrels).
For the grand opening, the brewery plans to tap an IPA, session IPA, dark mild, rye mild, porter, oat pale ale and blonde ale (with potentially a few more if they are ready in time).
Though the brewing system itself is small (Caudle says it’s right on the edge of what you would call a nanobrewery), the taproom is pretty spacious. Between the taproom and a small outside patio, Sweet Union Brewing can hold around 100 people.
O’Neill and the Caudles have done most of the work in the taproom themselves, from the wood used throughout (red oak, maple, cedar and more) to the railroad-inspired purse hooks and kick rails beneath the bar.
They’ll show it off during the grand opening April 29.
After that, the brewery will be open 3-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 3-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1-9 p.m. Sunday.
Photos: Daniel Hartis