In the craft beer industry it’s often said, the constant is change. For Salud, it’s the constant attention to detail, trends, mainstays and service that has it consistently lauded as the “Best Beer Bar in America” (three times running) and the pulse of craft beer in Charlotte.
When we last caught up with Jason Glunt, founder and co-owner of Salud Beer Shop and Salud Cerveceria (and joined by his brother-in-law Dalton Espaillat) back in the fall of 2013, Charlotte craft beer was still very much in its infancy. Growler-fills were the rage, SourFest was set to debut and Sabor was just heating up. Almost 9 years later, it’s remarkable to see not only how local craft beer has largely replaced macro beer tap handles across the Queen City, but also the year-over-year growth and success of Salud, its depth and breadth.
With Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls and Michigan football décor speckled around Salud Beer Shop’s walls, it’s easy to toss sports idioms Jason’s way. The truth is understanding how much goes into making this corner slice of NoDa into a perpetual winner – with every shot in the book.
Salud Beer Shop recently three-peated as USA Today’s Best Beer Bar in America, Salud Cerveceria’s collaboration double IPA with Heist Brewery placed as runner-up in fierce Court Shoes Only Best of Show judging earlier this year and it’s only a matter of time until Salud’s kitchen hauls in some hardware. If you had to point to one accomplishment from your Jordan-like run of success, what would it be?
Jason: I’d say I’m proudest of our longevity. We hustle, we grind and we truly love to serve our amazing regulars. We have customers that come in every week – since 2012. That’s what I wanted to create when I opened Salud; a place where people feel comfortable. Sometimes our customers feel a little too comfortable [laughs], but I believe that’s what sets us apart and it’s part of our culture. I grew up in the hospitality industry and love BS’ing with my customers, making sure they leave Salud happy and it’s 100% true: our regulars are an extension of who we are, they’re like family.
Dustin, the beers you’re creating consistently incorporate a healthy serving of passion fruit. Tell us how you approach creating recipes that balance fruit, hops and a flair for Salud Cerveceria’s Dominican roots.
Dairelyn (co-owner of Salud and wife to Jason), is from the Dominican Republic so I get a lot of our fruity, tropical inspiration from her. We gravitate heavily toward mango, passion fruit, coconut and vanilla flavors in our beers. In fact, I think every one of our beers is just a rotation of those ingredients [laughs]. Having grown up in Las Vegas around a Hispanic culture, I’m used to those flavors so it helps having a familiarity and appreciation for the Dominican culture and its festive nature.
Jason, it’s no secret you have a keen eye for quality and trends in craft beer. If you were to open a new brewery or beer bar concept today, what would you say is a slam dunk must-have to stand out?
In today’s market, you need to have a spectrum of beers on your menu board. For us, I’m really proud of the beers Dustin is producing. He’s putting out lagers, pastry stouts, fruited sours, oak-aged sours, IPAs, seltzers and they’re all consistently quality across the board. It’s one thing to have a tried-and-true hazy IPA recipe, change out the featured hop and roll out five different beers. To be able to go from a lager to a soda-style seltzer to an oak-aged foeder beer; his range is amazing.
You go back 9 years to when we opened and it was common to see common beers at most breweries; a blonde, an amber, a brown, an IPA, a malty IPA and a porter or stout. Today, the rainbow of beer flavors is much wider, but it’s also much sweeter. The new generation of craft beer drinkers has a much sweeter palate than the customer base I had in 2012, but I still need to have those classic beers like Orval, Delirium Tremens and Rochefort 10. It’s very much about finding that balance between beers that are chased and beers that are cherished.
As an outstanding participant of QCBF since 2014, you know how impressionable events can be to attract, educate and create long-lasting bonds with craft beer consumers. Along the lines of a style you’re passionate about within craft beer, what does the future hold for SourFest?
Jason: [laughs]. I’ll do it again. I’m working on an event coming to Camp North End next year so I might make it an extension of that. The funny thing is I wouldn’t have to search nearly as hard for breweries with sour beers to participate compared to 2013 [laughs].
Bonus question: due to unforeseen shortages in the food supply chain, all North Carolina residents will be mandated to an all grits, collards and livermush diet beginning Jan. 1, 2022. What would be your last food and beer pairing before the mandate goes into effect?
Dustin: I like livermush so no complaints here [laughs].
Jason: I’ll echo what I hear from most brewers, oysters and Orval.
Dustin: It’d have to be a pilsner and pasta for me. I live and run on pasta and probably eat it three times a week. I’ll go with a nice Puttanesca and a Dinkel Acker CD-Pils, and I’m a happy camper.