One of my favorite aspects of traveling around the country is the opportunity to sample local craft beers, and I try to enjoy at least one local brew wherever I happen to be. I recently found myself waiting out a layover in Charlotte, N.C. In search of a tasty beverage to help kill some time, I lucked out and stumbled upon a bar with four local craft beers on tap. Two of the taps belonged to Charlotte’s own Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Established in 2009, it became Charlotte’s first and only (at the time) craft brewery.
Olde Mecklenburg founder John Marrino spent a few years in Germany and developed a great respect for the traditional brewing practices employed by local breweries. Upon returning to the United States, Marrino found a lack of local craft beer in the Charlotte area and opened Olde Mecklenburg Brewery with the intention of producing quality beer made with the same traditions he observed in Germany. The brewery’s mission is to produce the best beer possible, and it even self-distributes its products to local bars to ensure freshness.
Marrino spent much of his time in the northwestern city of Dusseldorf and greatly enjoyed the beers originating there. Dusseldorf is home to the Altbier style, an obscure beer style that exhibits characteristics of both ales and lagers. Altbier is German for “old beer” and like most ales it is brewed using top-fermenting yeast. Different from other ales, Altbier is cold-conditioned for extended periods of time, resulting in a mellower, smoother product that very much resembles a lager.
I asked the bartender for a pint of Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s Copper Amber Ale, which pays homage to the classic Altbier style. From the tap into a pint glass, the beer poured an impressive crystal-clear deep amber with a lasting white head. Bready notes and rich malt aromas are prominent on the nose, with little hop presence. The flavor can be described as crisp and bready with a deep malt character and a dry finish, ending with pleasant, lingering hop notes. The smoothness of the beer is noteworthy and it is certainly an easy drinker. Also very prominent is the freshness of this beer, and I can best describe its overall character as crisp.
Olde Mecklenburg’s Copper is certainly a quality brew, with plenty of complex flavor notes to go around. There is definitely a lot of malt complexity present for such a drinkable beer, and drinkable it certainly is, especially at 4.8 percent ABV. I was glad to sample one of this young brewery’s staple beers, and it’s refreshing to see quality craft breweries popping up in cities like Charlotte, which is in the heart of Bud Light country. I’ll drink to that. Cheers!
My ratings (out of 5):