‘We home-brewed our wedding beer’


LunahZon Photography

A mutual love of craft beer has always been a constant in my relationship with Dana.

Our second date, nearly three years ago, was at NoDa Brewing. We named our chocolate lab Barley Hops. And when we travel, we always find the local breweries and bring back bottles for our friends to try.

Our neighbor in north Charlotte, Bill Mars, a master homebrewer and former U.S. Marine, invited us to join his local homebrewer club. Bill lives behind us, and when he had to replace the fence between our yards, he dubbed it the “beer fence” and installed a gate to make it easier for us to go back and forth, sharing brews from our travels.

So it came as no surprise when—after we decided to get married on Oct. 8 at the rustic Historic Beaver Dam House in Davidson—we also decided to brew beer for our big day.

Dana Choate (left) and Tracie Stafford were married Oct. 8 at Historic Beaver Dam, where they served up some of their own home-brewed beer. LunahZon Photography

I’m into pale ales, while Dana is of the hoppier-the-better mindset. Because of our guests’ different tastes, we made both: an IPA we called “You Make Me Hoppy” and a honey pale ale we called “I Do Too” (Dana had brewed a similar batch for our friends’ weddings in June.)


We started brewing the wedding batches at end of August. I took off work one day—I’m the creative director for all of the magazines in the Charlotte Observer’s Content Studio—and Dana got us started.

She was biology major in college and is now a technical field manager at pharmaceutical company Grifols. She’s always been interested in the chemical side of brewing.

Dana starts the process in our garage, which also has two beer fridges. Then she lets the beer ferment in our spare bedroom—which has a portable temperature-control unit to help us keep the perfect temperature for each brew. The process usually takes two to three weeks, sometimes longer.

We planned to serve some of the 15 gallons at the rehearsal dinner, reserving most the rest for the wedding. We borrowed Bill’s jockey box kits, which converts picnic coolers into portable draft-beer dispensers, and wrote the beer names on chalkboard plaques.


We offered some of the standard beer brands at our wedding, but the favorites were the home brews, served in plastic cups from our caterer.

Now Dana and I have turned our eyes to our five-year plan: opening a brewery on Dana’s family farm in Sparta, N.C.

The former dairy farm sits on more than 100 acres. We want to have a garden, grow our own hops. For now, we plan to call it the Dancing Cow Brewery.

We love making beer together. Beer is social, something with friends and family. My dad brews with Dana. My brother loves it. We all love the taste of it and seeing the depth of home-brews and micro-brewed beers.


As for our special-batch brews served at the wedding, everyone raved. By the time I got to it, they were nearly tapped out. I didn’t even get a full cup for myself before it was gone.

But that’s OK. Because I know this much: There will be more.

—As told to Caroline Portillo. Lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Photos: LunahZon Photography



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