Freshly tapped: Protagonist in NoDa, Armored Cow in University City open this weekend

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Photo by Katherine Peralta
Protagonist Clubhouse

If you plan to visit a brewery this weekend, you have a couple of new options.

Protagonist Clubhouse quietly opened its doors this past week in NoDa (3123 N. Davidson St.). You can grab a beer at the bar like any other brewery, or take a seat and a server will come to you.

“Part of our philosophy is that we do want to provide service to people,” said Jeremy Claeys, Protagonist’s head brewer. “If you sit down, you’re going to get served. People are going to interact with you and explain the menu. Part of the concept here is letting people ask questions and being interactive with customers, which I think is really important when you’re building a robust menu and putting a lot of things that aren’t from around here on it.”

Photo by Kelsey Kline
Protagonist Clubhouse opened this past week in NoDa.

That menu currently features two beers from Protagonist, both brewed in collaboration with other breweries. Wilder Hirsch is a Helles lager that Claeys brewed in collaboration with Charlotte’s Town Brewing and Greensboro’s Little Brother Brewing (all three of the brewers attended Germany’s Doemens Academy together). Leeloo, a 5.1 percent ABV saison brewed with American hops, was brewed in collaboration with Protagonist’s neighbors up the road at Divine Barrel Brewing.

Claeys, who brewed previously at Asheville’s Wicked Weed Brewing, is aiming to fire up the two-barrel brewhouse for the first time next week. With the smaller brewhouse, Claeys anticipates being able to keep at least four Protagonist beers on tap at all times (they will also open a larger production brewery in Optimist Park next year). The rest of the bar’s 24 taps are filled with a diverse taplist curated by Chris Westgard, the brewery’s beverage and education director and an Advanced Cicerone. The inaugural taplist includes often overlooked styles like a dark lager, Scottish ale and a mead, as well as hazy IPAs, sours and barrel-aged stouts. Beers can be ordered 5, 8 or 14 ounces at a time, or by the 32-ounce Crowler (a canned alternative to the traditional glass growler).

A cooler stocks an additional selection of bottles and cans, and the bar also offers a selection of rotating beer cocktails. The seasonal shandy blends sour beer, agave syrup and orange juice with coriander, an orange slice and thyme, while the Smoked Apples and Hops marries an IPA with maple syrup and smoked apple cider, plus cinnamon and a dehydrated apple slice.

Photo by Katherine Peralta
Protagonist Clubhouse

A small menu includes dishes like a soft pretzel from Dukes Bread, a charcuterie and cheese plate or a hot dog with pimento cheese and chow chow.

Protagonist Clubhouse opens at 3 p.m. every day. The brewery closes at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Armored Cow Brewing opens in University City

Protagonist’s home in NoDa is one of the city’s richest areas in terms of breweries, but now the University City area will have an option to call its own in Armored Cow Brewing (8821 JW Clay Blvd.). Andrew Kalinoski, the brewery’s president and head brewer, was previously the head brewer at Sycamore Brewing. A brewer for 10 years, Kalinoski will offer traditional styles while also catering to people seeking gluten-free or gluten-reduced options.

Courtesy of Armored Cow Brewing

Kalinoski first started making gluten-reduced beers for his mother-in-law, who has celiac disease. Realizing this is an underserved section of the craft beer market, Kalinoski tasked himself with brewing full-flavored beers using grains such as buckwheat, millet and rice.

Armored Cow Brewing will have a dedicated brewing system and space for these beers, and is also working to achieve its gluten-free certification. The brewery will also have keg lines dedicated exclusively to its gluten-free beers.

Some of the beers in Armored Cow’s initial lineup will include Ginger Nymph strawberry blonde ale, Bitchin’ Betty Kölsch-style ale, a New England-style IPA and a blonde ale brewed with fresh lemon zest and basil (they will also open with a gluten-free version of this beer). In addition to its beer, the brewery will serve cold-brewed coffee, UpDog Kombucha and Red Clay cider. They are also partnering with food trucks as well as local bakers.

Courtesy of Armored Cow Brewing

Armored Cow opens this Friday, May 17 at 4 p.m., after which the brewery will be open from 4-10 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

[Related: Will Charlotte’s craft-beer bubble burst in 2019? Or will it simply shift shape?]

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