Let's talk about good beer in North Carolina. If you haven't been paying attention lately, listen up. NC has, in recent years, had their foot hard down on the proverbial gas pedal when it comes to craft brewing in the country. As we approach another beautiful southern summer, we had the opportunity to chat with the good folks at an outstanding craft brewery located in Charlotte, NC.
But before we talk about Birdsong specifically, we shouldn't fail to mention the state's relatively new title as the southeastern craft beer mecca. North Carolina currently has around 130 craft breweries operating within the state, which makes it one of the most prolific craft beer producers in the country. In the past 15 years, NC has embraced local business and craft brewing as one in the same, eschewing parochial politics, enacting business friendly policy, and creating tremendous momentum in the state for great breweries and even better beer.
North Carolina is also, in our humble opinion, very beautiful. A state with abundant natural resources and plenty of access to that famous southern sunshine, you can't travel far without running into mountain ranges, lush farmland, lakes, rivers, great ocean beaches, lovely little towns, thriving urban centers, and great barbecue joints (we love BBQ...a lot). There's a reason that some of the countries most famous craft brewers, including Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues, have opened up their east coast breweries in North Carolina.
It's a rare day when you say that a brewery has a pretty name, but Birdsong Brewing Company has a pretty name. They also have pretty awesome beer, offering up their unfiltered ales and lagers to the Charlotte area since their inception in late 2011. We hadn't heard too much about this brewery until recently, when we stopped in for a few pints on a chilly February afternoon.
This is a true people-focused business, and representative of how modern craft breweries are getting involved with their communities. Their new tap room is warm, open, and a tribute to the neighborhood craftsman who helped shape it; from the unique metal work in the bathrooms and draft system to the custom-made wood bartop, Birdsong's vibe echoes its affinity for localism. What's the best part of helping build a new production brewery? Uhh...the immediate access to great beer would be our first guess.
The tap room doesn't have a screen in sight, which necessitates a conversion with your neighbor while you enjoy your pint. From your comfy bar stool, you can see into the production space of the brewery, where a large mural (made by local artists) adds a colorful tribute to the brewery and North Carolina's natural beauty. Jacqueline Parker (she goes by JP for friends), who has been at Birdsong for over three years and runs front-end operations for the brewery, gave us the background on Birdsong's humble beginnings in their old brewery (they just moved to this new brewery very recently), along with a timeless anecdote about the origin of the brewery's name. Apparently, Conor Robinson, Birdsong's head brewer, was doing some "market research" (drinking their beer) on breweries in North Carolina. He was traveling with a few other founding members of the brewery4, and fell asleep in the hostel where they were staying. The other owner woke up to hear a birdlike chirping noise in the room, and investigated the noise. He searched for quite a long time, convinced that a bird had flown in through the window and gotten stuck somewhere in their room, only to discover that it wasn't a bird at all, but rather the noise the Conor himself made when he was sleeping.
JP continued to chat with us about the beer, and Conor's laser focus on a quality product. We have had the lucky opportunity to speak with a lot of breweries, and this sentiment on putting out a quality product rings true for almost all of them...a reason that keeps us falling in love with craft brewing. Birdsong's atmosphere, vibe, and people ring true to the values that JP remarked on during our conversation. They started as a humble little brewing company, and since then they've earned the trust and business of their community through an innate understanding of the environment in which they do business. A number of other local breweries, including Olde Mecklenburg and NoDa Brewing Company (NoDa opened about a month before Birdsong) have flourished along with Birdsong in the past few years in Charlotte, so it stands to reason that a rising tide really does float all ships.
JP left us with a great story about Joe and Mark. These guys had been regulars at the bar for at least 6 months together without really interacting, coming in a few times a week for a pint of beer. JP watched a conversation unfold where one of them mentioned a personal tidbit about their child, and it only took two minutes for these guys to realize that they knew each other in college 30 years prior. They've been yacking it up ever since. She loved telling this story because it was a simple example of the power of conversation.
Next time you're on your way through Charlotte, stop in for a pint (or 3) and say hi to JP and the entire team. As we mentioned, Charlotte is home to a ton of great breweries and brewpubs, so take a tour of the killer beer scene around the whole queen city while you're at it. You'll certainly be spoiled for choice.