Harris Teeter might not be the first place you think of when trying to decide where to grab a cold craft brew, but that’s just because you haven’t met Kit Burkholder yet.
As the resident Ballantyne “beer guy” and sole Certified Cicerone (it’s like a sommelier for beer) in the south Charlotte area, he’s made the bar inside Harris Teeter’s Ballantyne Commons East location into a true destination for craft beer lovers.
You read that right — the Harris Teeter at Ballantyne Commons East has an actual bar, right next to the cheese section. It features growler stations with 13 different brews, both local and exotic, for about $3 a pour.
“The theme is ‘good beer that you should try.’ We don’t have the overhead that a normal bar has, so it’s a great place to see if you like a new style,” Burkholder said. “I want people to be able to go into the community and feel more comfortable because you’ll know what you like to drink.”
Even though you’re smack dab in the middle of a grocery store when you sit across the bar from Burkholder, it doesn’t feel like it.
A group of 30 or more people might be playing trivia Monday night or watching the Hornets play while sampling (free!) appetizers on a Friday. On Thursday nights, couples pick up Harris Teeter’s famous prime rib at the front of the store and then eat it together at the bar while sipping a beer recommended by Burkholder. Tuesday is $2 draft day, and people line up three or four deep at the bar to sample different brews.
Right now Burkholder is pouring beers from Benford Brewing, The Unknown Brewing Co., Noble Cider, Fortnight, Blind Squirrel and more.
— Trackside's Beer Guy (@KitBurkholder) March 22, 2016
Don’t have time to sit down and chat? Burkholder can pour you a “roadie” to sip while you shop. It’ll come in a special glass that fits perfectly in the Harris Teeter shopping cart.
“Shopping can be stressful — ‘What should I get my wife or boyfriend?’ ’My kids won’t shut up.’ That’s the benefit of this bar: It makes shopping more joyful,” he said.
If you’re more of a oenophile, the bar also offers eight wines (four reds, four whites) by the glass for between $5 and $8 a pour, and Thursday is half-price wine night (that’s as low as $2.50 a glass!). Lead Wine Consultant Kathy Towne can help you figure out which glass of wine to sip in-store, and what bottle would be best to take home.
The Myers Park Harris Teeter is the only other one in the area with a wine and beer bar. Harris Teeter Communications Specialist Lea Ramsey said she anticipates the model to grow to other locations, but she doesn’t currently have specifics on when and where.
For Burkholder, it’s all about south Charlotte.
“Ballantyne is growing for beer, and south Charlotte is going to lead the way,” Burkholder said. “I know that’s a bold statement with NoDa and South End up there, but the beer culture is developing down here too. We’re doing more than trying to be a stopgap in the suburbs. We want to be legit here — serve legitimate beer, have relationships with the breweries. It’s important. And we’re making more and more headway.”
Harris Teeter, Ballantyne Commons: 15007 John J. Delaney Dr., Charlotte.
Hours: Generally in the 4-8 p.m. range but Kit has been known to show up early and hang around late.
Photos: Sarah Pryor