Greeted by its mascot, “Cheez-It”, we immediately sensed a positive vibe walking into the Birdsong brewery. Conor Robinson, Birdsong’s head brewer, put a batch of reclaimed wood to good use and carved the Birdsong logo to make a nifty sign at the brewery’s entrance. Clearly, this head brewer’s artistic skills don’t end at the fermenting tank. The Queen City Brewers Festival (QCBF) team stopped in recently to check on progress and catch up with a few of the Birdsong Crew members which also included Chris Goulet, Tara Goulet, and Chandra Torrence.
“The viewing windows were just installed today,” said Conor referring to the brewery’s latest outfitting, which will give visitors a view of the brewery from the tap room.
After admiring the pristine 10-barrel brewing system sitting on a fresh slab of concrete, we set up chairs in the unfinished, but charming tap room for a brief Q&A session.
Charlotte has become a desirable location to brew craft beer in recent years. Why is it such a popular place to open a brewery?
Clearly there’s a huge opportunity for growth in this market and Charlotte has the right crowd, neighborhoods and the professionals who look to cultural districts like NoDa for their artistic outlets, and craft beer fits right into that mix.
What part of the brewing process is most critical to brewing Birdsong’s unique beers?
Sanitation! I think most brewers will tell you it’s really about your ability to keep everything sanitized. Without a clean fermenter you’re going to come away with some pretty funky beers.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when you start brewing a new beer?
(Answered by Conor) It’s usually a single ingredient that I’ll draw my inspiration from. I have a degree in making pastry art so I would hone in on the flavors that would go into those recipes and take a similar approach when making beer. Or it depends on what I’m really hungry for, which is how the Saison came to be and that turned out to be a big hit at the Hickory Hops festival.
What are your predictions for craft beer industry trends in the coming year?
Big beers like IPAs and Imperial beers have been and will be in heavy rotation for the foreseeable future. We also see breweries canning their beer so that has been an interesting development. Also, barrel-aging beer is something we’ve noticed and a delicious trend we don’t see going anywhere soon.
How many beers will you have available in the tap room?
We’ll start with our Pale Ale and Carolina Common. The great thing is that there is such a strong craft beer following in the area we can do a number of test batches just in our tasting room to get feedback before upping the production to say 20 barrels. Dogfish Head took the same approach and look at the incredible beers they have put out there. We look forward to sharing in this experimental process with our visitors.