Ditch your dad’s light beer: Try these local—and refreshing—craft brews

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The Unknown Brewing Co.
Courtesy of The Unknown Brewing Co.

Charlotte’s summer heat is unforgiving, so why pound a bunch of heavy craft brews in the sun?

A recent New York Times article covered the story of Dogfish Head Brewery, based in Delaware, which switched gears to target customers more concerned with living an active lifestyle than consuming heavy, high-ABV beers. Researchers found 52% of beer drinkers cited “opting for a healthier lifestyle” among their reasons for wanting to reduce alcohol consumption, the story stated.

Whether you’re seeking to pair your newfound fitness inspiration with a lighter beer, or if you just want a refreshing, citrus-infused brew, these local breweries offer something for every pool and patio in Charlotte.

(1) Armored Cow Brewing Co.

8821 JW Clay Blvd., Suite 1

What to try: Not Your Mama’s Kitchen
ABV: 4.3%
What to expect: Light-bodied and refreshing, this gluten-free beer has herbal and citrus notes from lemon zest and fresh basil.

What to try: Strawberry 6 & 20
ABV: 4.5%
What to expect: This strawberry blonde is a best seller, likely from the perfect harmony of smooth malt and fresh strawberries.

(2) Birdsong Brewing Company

1016 N. Davidson St.

Courtesy of Birdsong Brewing Company

What to try: Rewind Lager
ABV: 4%
What to expect: Inspired by traditional Czech pilsners and laid back afternoons, Rewind Lager is a deliciously well-balanced brew that’s clean, crisp and refreshing.

What to try: All Knight Long
ABV: 4.5%
What to expect: Brewed in conjunction with the Charlotte Knights, this sweet Belgian blonde ale with slight sweetness and a dry finish will be canned for distribution in the ballpark and select outlets across North Carolina this summer.

[Related: Eat your way through BB&T Ballpark]

What to try: Paradise City
ABV: 4.8%
What to expect: Bright tropical notes and a clean finish help to create a flavorful, aromatic IPA.

(3) Blue Blaze Brewing

528 S. Turner Ave.

Photo by @queencitybrews/Courtesy of Birdsong Brewing Company

What to try: S’mores Blonde Ale
ABV: 4.5%
What to expect: Prepared with real cocoa nibs and vanilla beans, this blonde ale gives way to hints of lightly-toasted graham cracker, reminiscent of a summer evening around the campfire.

What to try: #NPS100 Centennial Irish Red Ale
ABV: 4.7%
What to expect: #NPS100 is a traditional Irish-style red ale (similar to American amber) that’s been single-hopped with Centennial hops to celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service.

(4) Bold Missy Brewery

610 Anderson St.

Courtesy of Bold Missy Brewery

What to try: Find A Way
ABV: 4.9%
What to expect: This unfiltered Belgian wheat beer is brewed with all-natural tangerine peels for a sweet citrus flavor, which balances out the spicy esters from the Belgian yeast. It was named for Diana Nyad, a champion swimmer who swam between Cuba and Florida without a shark cage.

(5) Cabarrus Brewing Company

329 McGill Ave.NW

Courtesy of Cabarrus Brewing Company

What to try: Travelin’ Light Lager
ABV: 5%
What to expect: Carolina-grown pilsner, Vienna malts, corn, rice and German noble hops blend to create this light, refreshing summer beer with a dry finish.

What to try: Cackalack
ABV: 5.1%
What to expect: This Southern IPA is brewed with Carolina-grown barley, flaked corn, and American Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado hops. It’s crisp and refreshing with a pulp-free, juicy flavor.

(6) Catawba Brewing Co.

933 Louise Ave. #105

Courtesy of Catawba Brewing Co.

What to try: Peach of Mind Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 4.5%
What to expect: Peach of Mind showcases the fruity esters of its farmhouse ale yeast strain. The late addition of Carolina peaches elevates the beer while honoring the Belgian tradition of infusing beer with local flavor. Expect aromas of stone fruits, subtle undertones of banana and clove, a touch of malted wheat character and a prominent peach finish.

(7) Divine Barrel Brewing

3701 N. Davidson St., Suite #203

Courtesy of Divine Barrel Brewing

What to try: Cadillac Rainbows
ABV: 4.6%
What to expect: This classic German sour is heavily fruited with over 500 pounds of passion fruit, pink guava, mango and peach for an intensely tropical nose and flavor supported by light malt sweetness.

What to try: Zest Intentions
ABV: 5.5%
What to expect: Over 300 pounds of lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit were zested and juiced to create a classic witbier base with balanced tartness and citrus notes.

What to try: The Big Lubelski
ABV: 3.9%
What to expect: A silver-medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival, this 100% oak-smoked wheat beer is light and smoky.

(8) Free Range Brewing

2320 N. Davidson St.

Photo by Jay Sinclair/Courtesy of Free Range Brewing

What to try: Tiny Bubbles
ABV: 3.6%
What to expect: Prepared in collaboration with Fonta Flora Brewery, this 98% local beer is inspired by the rustic beers of Belgium that provided an early technique for both breweries’ techniques. This petit saison is crafted with local barley malt and a pinch of wheat malt, fermented with saison yeast and conditioned with chamomile flowers and aged hops.

What to try: All You Knead is Love
ABV: 4%
What to expect: A hybrid of two favorite weekend favorites — bread and beer — this funky ale is brewed with 100% North Carolina malt and fermented with a tart sourdough culture from Duke’s Bread. Expect a hint of the seashore from the Hatteras Sea Salt for the ideal citrusy summer IPA.

What to try: Wake Up, Wake Up
ABV: 3.7%
What to expect: Brewed in collaboration with Snooze Eatery, this Carolina breakfast stout with coffee celebrates fresh beginnings with new friends.

(9) Heist Brewery

2909 N. Davidson St., #200

Courtesy of Heist Brewery

What to try: Pick’n Series
ABV: 4.1%
What to expect: A collection of berliner weisse-style ales, the Pick’n Series has the base of a sour beer complimented by the sweet, citrusy notes of fruit. Look for Strawberry Peach, Blackberry and Mango, among others.

(10) Lenny Boy Brewing Co.

3000 S. Tryon St.

Courtesy of Lenny Boy Brewing Co.

What to try: Dye It IPA
ABV: 4.4%
What to expect: A new, lighter beer, Dye It clocks in at only 110 calories per serving and 4 grams of carbs. The generously-hopped IPA is light and refreshing with a low bitterness — the ideal beverage for a hot summer day.

(11) NoDa Brewing Company

2921 N. Tryon St. and 2229 N. Davidson St.

Courtesy of NoDa Brewing

What to try: Par 4
ABV: 4.4%
What to expect: Brewed with nearly four pounds of hops per barrel and mashed with oats, Par 4 has a smooth and balanced body to even out the flavor from a bouquet of select West Coast hops.

What to try: Cavu
ABV: 4.6%
What to expect: Inspired by NoDa Brewing Company’s owner’s experience as a pilot, Cavu (Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited) is a flight term used to describe clear skies or ideal conditions. The light, brisk ale presents hints of tropical fruit and citrus notes from West Coast hops and finishes clean and bright like a clear, breezy summer day.

What to try: NoDajito
ABV: 4.8%
What to expect: Called “vacation in a glass,” this mojito-inspired witbier tastes like mint leaves fresh from the garden, finished with a fresh lime zest.

(12) Pilot Brewing Company

1331 Central Ave., Suite 104

Courtesy of Pilot Brewing Company

What to try: Mimosa Gose
ABV: 4.3%
What to expect: This classic style gose is prepared with blood orange puree, which gives it the aroma and flavor of a mimosa.

(13) Protagonist Clubhouse

 3123 N. Davidson St. STE 104

Protagonist
Courtesy of Protagonist Clubhouse

What to try: Ariel
ABV: 5.5%
What to expect: This IPA is the second beer Protagonist brewed on-site and features tropical tones of melon, passionfruit and lychee with a gentle, rounded touch of sweetness.

(14) Resident Culture Brewing Company

2101 Central Ave.

What to try: Raw Beauty
ABV: 5.8%
What to expect: Resident Culture’s version of a tart strawberry lemonade is a no-boil Berliner-style weisse ale. Raw Beauty is brewed with Florida company Magnanimous Brewing and fermented on fresh lemon zest made with lemons from Florida and 1,000 pounds of South Carolina strawberries.

(15) Salud Cerveceria

3306-C N. Davidson St.

Courtesy of Salud Cerveceria

What to try: Paloma Gose collaboration with Three Amigos
ABV: 5%
What to expect: This gose-style sour has hints of grapefruit juice and peel, lime zest and Tajin chili salt.

(16) Sugar Creek Brewing Company

215 Southside Drive

Courtesy of Sugar Creek Brewing Company

What to try: Raspberry White Ale
ABV: 4.4%
What to expect: Sugar Creek’s seasonal spring and summer beer will be available in a 16 oz. can for the first time this summer. A vibrant, rosy-hued beer, the Raspberry White Ale is prepared with a traditional 14th-century recipe revived by beer engineers using over 500 pounds of fresh raspberries. The clean, subtle tartness makes this the ideal drink for an afternoon in the Carolina sunshine.

Fun fact: Sugar Creek Brewing Company owners recently starred in a feature-length documentary called Beers of Joy.

(17) The Suffolk Punch

2911 Griffith St., Suite A

Courtesy of The Suffolk Punch

What to try: Pool Party
ABV: 4.7%
What to expect: This Witte is brewed with orange peel, coriander and elderflower, creating a wonderfully aromatic summer beer ideal for pool parties on a hot day.

(18) The Unknown Brewing Co.

1327 S. Mint St.

Courtesy of The Unknown Brewing Co.

What to try: Feather Light
ABV: 3.8%
What to expect: This low-calorie, light Berliner ale is slightly tart and has a crisp taste from kettle sour blend. 

What to try: Sunshine Over Phuket 
ABV: 4%
What to expect: Citrus-forward hops and grapefruits inspire an afternoon outside with thoughts of South Pacific shores.

What to try: Bright Ass Tank Top  
ABV: 4.1%
What to expect: Aged in 15-year-old Nicaraguan rum barrels, this Gose is blended with fresh key lime juice and a touch of sea salt.

(19) Thirsty Nomad Brewing

4402 Stuart Andrew Blvd. A

Courtesy of Thirsty Nomad Brewing Company

What to try: Pickle Rick
ABV: 3.6%
What to expect: Herbal dill aromas mingle with notes of black pepper and coriander for a tart, yet effervescent mouthfeel in this Gose-style ale.

What to try: Sassy Companion
ABV: 4.5%
What to expect: This tart, American-style ale is light, lemony and pleasantly dry on the tongue.

What to try: G + T
ABV: 5%
What to expect: Thirsty Nomad brings back the G+T Rye Wit for its annual release on July 6. Hyper-local juniper berries (from the bushes out back) and cinchona bark add a touch of pine and some quinine bitter bite.

(20) Town Brewing Co.

800 Grandin Road

Courtesy of Town Brewing Co.

What to try: Mariachi Static
ABV: 4.5%
What to expect: This light, crisp Mexican-style craft lager is brewed with pilsner malt and North-Carolina-grown corn. They’re also offering micheladas (with lime juice, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and salt served over ice) made with Mariachi Static this summer. 

(21) Triple C Brewing Company

2900 Griffith St.

Courtesy of Triple C Brewing Company

What to try: Citra Acid Test
ABV: 4.7%
What to expect: Citra Acid Test is a sour session IPA, tart but full of juicy tropical fruit. The Citra hop takes the stage in a mind-melting, unbelievable tropical flavor backed by the tartness you’ve come to love in a sour.

(22) Wooden Robot Brewery

1440 S. Tryon St., #110

Courtesy of Wooden Robot Brewery

What to try: American Pilsner
ABV: 5%
What to expect: This pilsner is brewed with local Epiphany Craft Malt and their house lagering yeast for a fresh summer sip.

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