Although I have not spent much time in the Carolinas, they are a couple of my favorite states. So, with very little persuasion, I recently headed off to see my little girl in Hickory, NC. I would not be surprised if you have never heard of this place as it is in the middle of nowhere, but they know their beer. I wished that we could have stayed longer, but did manage to get enough sight seeing to tide me over for a while. We were able to stop at a couple of brewpubs for a nice relaxing meal.
Our first stop was Old Hickory Station. It is just a block from Old Hickory Brewery and another block from their Tap Room. They obviously have all of the OHB brews on tap, but also have several other regional beers available. Several of the OHB beers are IPAs and they have taken to numbering several of them.
The front of the restaurant is setup like a general store with some local wines, jams, honeys and a large selection of local (not domestic) and imported beers. This included a few Trappist ales that I found hiding in an old barrel. I just took a stab at a few of the lighter OHB selections on a flight and their Hefe was our favorite. Oh, and I almost forgot, the food there was pretty good too.
Our next stop was the Olde Mecklendburg Brewery (OMB) in Charlotte. I picked it solely because it was very close to us at lunchtime. This place is huge. As we pulled into the parking lot, you could see three huge grain silos and a couple of giant conical fermenters through their front windows that would overshadow any at our local breweries.
Walking into their biergarten, it was obvious that everything here was much larger than I expected. I was only able to take a picture of about a third of the biergarten without having to resort to a panoramic shot. As you would expect, the mid-week summer time heat drove everyone inside. And fortunately, it was not crowded. I could smell the sweet wort from a batch that they were starting, but you will have to wait till the weekend for a tour. But that was OK as I just wanted to sit and enjoy a nice lunch with a flight. Their list of available beers was a little smaller than I hoped but they were all exceptional. I could not pick a favorite but everyone was leaning toward the helles.
And to top things off, I even managed to stop by a couple of the local brew shops. Alternate Beverage in Charlotte has a pretty good selection of everything for brewing. They have three stores and their focus is a little more towards beer. They have over 20 bins of assorted bulk grains, including the crystals, biscuit, and several dark malts. And about a hundred of their own extract recipe kits and a good selection of accessories, some of which came home with me.
The other brew shop that I found was Advantage Beer and Wine in Hickory. The owner, Mike was super friendly and poured me a sample of a delightful pinot noir as I walked in. I didn’t want to be impolite, so I accepted and savored it. Then he continued to pour me several other samples of wines that he had handy. His shop leans more to the wine side of brewing and is also a winery. He has a very good selection of wine kits and I saw at least five conical fermenters of wine that he makes from the same kits that he also sells. And a couple bottles seemed to have followed me home.