Why This Matters: Charlotte-area breweries have connected local artists and cultural organizations to new audiences, while the cultural community has helped breweries attract and retain customers.
By Bernie Petit
Good art and beer are a natural pairing.
Both take discipline, practice and discovery to create. Both can require creative problem solving.
And, in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, both the craft beer and cultural scenes are building community – one pint at a time.
“When we opened, we wanted to create a small neighborhood brewery where people who lived in the community could come as their ‘third space’ – not work, not home – to meet people and communicate over a beer,” said Tara Goulet, head of sales and marketing at Birdsong Brewing Co. in Charlotte.
The Charlotte region is home to dozens of breweries. Some, such as Birdsong and Free Range Brewing, provide wall space on a rotating basis for Charlotte-area artists to display and sell their work or provide opportunities for local musicians to perform.
Others provide cultural groups with beer for their events. Birdsong has sponsored ASC’s Community Supported Art program since the program’s inception in 2015. South End brewery Triple C is the beer provider for ASC’s annual Culture Feast. Pop-up brewery Petty Thieves regularly pours brews at Goodyear Arts events.
Sweet Sounds and Suds
NoDa Brewing Company, meanwhile, is the cultural venue for the Charlotte Symphony’s Symphony on Tap concerts, which started as a pilot program last year and returns this September.
It’s something the musicians and Christopher James Lees, assistant conductor for the Charlotte Symphony, are looking forward to.
“For me, on the podium, it feels pretty electric,” Lees said. “There’s anticipation in the air.”
The brewery’s layout allows concertgoers to self-select how they want to interact with the performance – up close and personal in the taproom or slightly removed on the outdoor patio.
The format – 25 minutes of music, a 20-minute break where musicians can grab a beer and chat with the audience and another 25 minutes of music – makes the performances approachable for nontraditional symphony audiences.
“People get two very digestible portions of music and two or maybe more digestible portions of beer,” Lees said.
Flowers and Hops
Charlotte artist Julio Gonzalez uses a similar concept to help people interact with art over beer. He hosts flower-making workshops at Heist Brewery. The workshops allow community members to help him make 3,000 paper marigolds that will be incorporated into his upcoming multimedia experience “Dia de Los Casi Muertos,” or “Day of the Almost Dead,” which is supported by an ASC Cultural Vision Grant.
Gonzalez’s flower-making events regularly feature a family-friendly movie screening and connect to the intergenerational nature of the Day of the Dead tradition.
“People can work on my project while they buy beer and hang out, so it helps everybody,” Gonzalez said. “Having a space like Heist…is super helpful. I couldn’t do this out of my house. Believe me, I’ve tried.”
A Mutual Benefit
For all of the ways local breweries have benefitted Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s cultural community, the local arts scene has had a reciprocal effect on Charlotte’s beer scene.
Mark Doepker, Scott Partridge and Tim Sheaffer – all of whom have had their artwork displayed on local billboards through ArtPop – collaborated with Mark Brantley and Frank Hause to create an interior mural in Birdsong’s production space that is a regular stop during tours.
“I think it benefits not just our staff to know we work with artists to help give them exposure, but our customers as well,” Goulet said. “For them to come in and get to see some art that they’ve never seen before is great.”
Free Range built dedicated space in its taproom to exhibit artwork by local artists, which provides another reason to visit the brewery, said co-owner Sarah Alexander, a member of one of ASC’s Advisory Councils engaged in assessing community and resident needs.
Over the summer, the brewery showcased the fiber and ceramic artwork of McColl Center for Art + Innovation artist-in-residence alumna Janet Lasher. The center’s young professionals affiliate group organized an event at Free Range to see Lasher’s work and hear from the artist.
“Having art on the wall changes the mood,” Alexander said. “It always brings about conversation and an excitement. It changes the space and it freshens up our taproom.”
Arts and culture also impacts the beers you drink, from the names – Birdsong’s Lazy Bird Brown Ale was inspired by jazz great John Coltrane – to the taste.
“We want to make interesting and different beers,” Alexander said. “The creative side of it for us is that connection between beer and art.”
Art in Breweries
There are lots of fun ways to pair arts and culture with local beer in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Two upcoming ways include:
“Dia de Los Casi Muertos” Flower-Making Events
Current McColl Center for Art + Innovation artist-in-residence Julio Gonzalez is hosting free flower-making events where community members can help make the 3,000 paper flowers he needs for his multimedia experience “Dia de Los Casi Muertos,” or “Day of the Almost Dead,” which is Oct. 31-Nov. 4 at C3Lab (2525 Distribution St., Charlotte).
Upcoming flower-making sessions at Heist Brewery (2909 N. Davidson St., Charlotte) are:
- 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10. The event includes a screening of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
- 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19. The event coincides with the Plaza-Midwood Tuesday Night Ride. Cyclists bike to the brewery, where teams of four or more compete to fold and fluff the most marigolds.
For event details or more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Symphony on Tap
The Charlotte Symphony’s Symphony on Tap concert series returns this season to NoDa Brewing Company’s North End location (2921 N. Tryon St., Charlotte).
On Tap performances take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 26, Jan. 23 and May 1.
Admission is $15 and includes a specialty beer and a take-home gift. A subscription, or “flight,” to all three performances is $36.
For more information, visit CharlotteSymphony.org.