Queen City Brewers Festival caught up with beer event
extraordinaire, Darrin Pikarsky. The founder of the Charlotte Beer Club, Charlotte Craft Beer Week and the upcoming Charlotte SantaCon, Darrin shared his views on the Charlotte craft beer scene. Naturally, our meeting took place at a Charlotte Beer Club event, this one at beer hotspot Common Market in Plaza-Midwood.
You started the Charlotte Beer Club with modest expectations and now it’s “The Largest ‘PURE’ Craft Beer Group in the World.” What is it about Charlotte that makes it such a popular craft beer community?
It’s pretty simple really. Charlotte’s a big relocation city so you’ve got people moving here from all over the country, all over the word. A big part of Charlotte’s population growth is coming from great craft beer states like California, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Washington; we even have members from Germany. So the Beer Club provides an avenue for members to reconnect with the beers they’re familiar with or help find beers that are similar to what they’d find in their home state.
You’ve become somewhat of a Charlotte beer mayor by organizing Charlotte Craft Beer Week among hundreds of other events through the Charlotte Beer Club. What is your next Charlotte beer endeavor and what makes a beer event a good beer event?
The next beer event we have coming up is SantaCon on December 11. It’s a Charlotte brewery tour and gives everyone the opportunity to support local craft beer, dress up like Santa and have some good old-fashioned harmless fun. Now everything we do includes two components to make it a good event: it has to be fun and we want it to be educational. A number of events we do also support a charity, so that really completes the experience.
What are some predictions for craft beer industry trends in the coming year and for Charlotte in particular?
Well, I definitely think we’re going to see a good handful of breweries pop up in the Charlotte-area in the next five years. Nationally, however, I think we’re going to see the number of breweries decline a bit, unfortunately. Some just get it and some don’t and that’s from a business plan perspective, not a knock on their beer at all. Heck, if people on Wall Street can’t get it right not every brewer is going to get it right either. But locally, Charlotte hasn’t reached its peak and we’ll see some strong growth over the next two to three years.
How can Charlotte join the ranks of other great beer cities like Portland, Boston and even Asheville?
We’re close. You’ve got Asheville which is Beer City, USA three years running. I’d call Charlotte Asheville’s little brother when it comes to beer, and we’re gaining quickly. It’s also evident when you have Greg Koch, the owner of Stone Brewing Co., coming to Charlotte two years in a row to honor Mac’s Speed Shop as the country’s “Most Arrogant Bar”. The Charlotte Beer Club was heavily involved promoting the “Most Arrogant Bar” competition and clearly we’re getting noticed as a strong beer market with national attention from breweries like Stone.
What is your all-time favorite brewery and why?
Man, that is a tough one. I love the local breweries, no question about that. But coming from upstate New York and having been introduced to craft beer in the mid to late 80’s, I tend to look at some of the original breweries as my favorites. Ommegang is one of them and they make an awesome quality beer; it’s authentic and the affordable price point they’re able to sell their beers at is fantastic. It’s also important to look at the first movement breweries that helped make craft beer what it is today: Rogue, Stone, Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams. Every now and again I’ll take a break from the latest trends and go back to the roots of craft beer. I think it’s necessary for everyone to recognize the breweries that started us on the craft beer path before we keep looking ahead to the newest ones.