Greetings, salutations and craft beer libations to you and yours as we christen April – North Carolina Beer Month. The Old North State has tapped this month as the first annual event, toasting craft brews across the state from mountain to sea.
In the last five years, North Carolina has thrust itself onto the national craft beer stage, “with more breweries than any state south of Pennsylvania (73 and counting), according to the New York Times.” So we put together a few thoughts to guide you through this glorious month:
- How to drink a beer like a Boss (forget the frosted glass)
- How to choose the best foods for your beverage
- The long form ode to the long leaf pine, the state’s official toast
- Links and information to our NC Beer month events
“The true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and greet unknown fate. ” ― NC native O. Henry
April 1- 30 |
Beer Companion Menu in Greensboro and Cary shows which NC Craft Beers we’d pair with Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen dishes.
April 18 | Beer School & Book Signing with Mystery in Cary
April 26 | NC Beer Lover’s Weekend at O.Henry in Greensboro features a grand, six-course Highland Beer Dinner and a “Cooking with Beer” Class on April 27.
How to drink a beer like a boss
Know what you are drinking.
Learn the differences between ales and lagers (most beers from NC are ales). Learn what to expect from certain styles, then explore styles that are comparable to those you enjoy. This primer on beer styles will go a long way to setting you up for success.
Temperature is everything. If you’re drinking from the bottle, warm up an ale a little bit with your hands. Lagers are great at refrigerator temperatures – around 40F. Closer to “cellar temperature” is the ideal temp for ale, about 45 to 50 degrees F. There’s a misconception that people in England drink beer warm, at room temperature — not true. They usually drink it at ale temperature, which is a little closer to cellar temp.
If you’re pouring the beer into the glass, warm up the glass from the outside. Just hold your hands around the glass, warm it up a bit. Your body can’t process the full flavors of cold things. That’s one big reason cheap beer is served ice cold: You can’t taste the undesirable flavors, your palate is numbed.
Pour down the center of the glass, about 3 quarters of the way. Let the head and beer rest, and let the carbon dioxide dissipate, because CO2 will mask the flavor too. Once the head goes down, pour in a little more. When you get down to the last swig in the bottle, swirl it around before you pour it into the glass to get that last bit of yeast settled at the bottom of the bottle.
Smell the beer. Taste it, roll it around your tongue and swallow, get the general impression of the beer. Don’t just don’t think in terms of bitter. Bitter might be the most recognizable quality but there are citrus notes and hops which give it a floral, vegetal flavor.
Pause. Take a bite of your food. Then take a sip of your beer and notice the difference because one changes the other.
Take notes. Keep a piece of paper and pen handy and take notes of the flavor. The right food with the right beer should be a “2 + 2 = 5 experience.”
So what’s the big hoppin’ deal? A short history
2005 | The NC craze started when the Pop the Cap Law passed. Sean Wilson, a master’s grad from Duke University, led the movement. He and 34 of his closest friends started a petition to the state legislature to repeal the law that set an 6%ABV cap on the amount of alcohol you could put into beer (Sean went on to establish the plow to pint Fullsteam Brewery in Durham).
2005 – 2009 | As a consequence of this newfound latitude in producing and selling beer in NC, we had several entrepreneurs suddenly very interested in selling beer. North Carolina got a kind of late start compared to California and Oregon. The beer craze overtook the West coast in the 90s. We started around here sometime in the early aughts (2000s).
2009 – 2012 | What we lacked in timeliness, we made up for with enthusiasm. In the last five years there’s been a groundswell of groundbreakings on craft breweries. Five years ago there were about 20 craft brew houses, there are now 72, according to ncbeer.org
Fall 2012 | With exponential growth, last fall North Carolina Division of Tourism decided to christen April 2013 as the first annual NC Beer Month. They reached out to breweries and hoteliers and said, “please plan events for April because we’re going to do a national push.” So we did.
We’ve been embracing the beer pairing dinner for over three years now. We decided the food here at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen is a lot more casual; and rich and spicy food goes well with beer. It’s what we enjoy drinking culinarily, and our dinners don’t compete with the events happening at our hotels.
Subscribe to Lucky’s Beer Month Twitter List: Our favorite NC brewers and bloggers to follow during beer month.
A word about taste: Location doesn’t affect beer; a brewer’s influences do.
West Coast is a style, usually used to describe a beer that is not British style. There is no NC beer style, but certain breweries are endeavoring to utilize local ingredients to tie their beer to the terroir (Fullsteam), rotate all of their offerings each season like a chef or designer (Mystery), brew Bavarian-inspired lagers (RedOak), or make solid beers in classic styles (Highland).
A perfect match: Pairing brews and food
Mostly, what a person looks for when pairing any beverage with food is a “True-to-style” beer/ wine/cider.
These classic styles, like a British-style IPA, a Milk Stout, or a Hefeweizen, were all developed over time to be part of daily life, meaning they go well with food; much like old world wines (which are often blended, as opposed to the California tradition of single varietal wines) were developed over the centuries to complement food, not to stand alone.
Similarly, many West Coast styles and anything with “Imperial” in the title — other than Russian Imperial Stout, which is a British style, that was exported to the Czars’ courts — is crafted to stand alone, and therefore more difficult to harmoniously pair with food.
Those bolder, hoppier styles tend to benefit from dishes that can match their intensity, but in a contrasting direction.
The beer supplies what the food doesn’t, and vice versa, in terms of being balanced on the
And finally, the official North Carolina toast to go with your North Carolina brew.
“A Toast” The NC state toast
This toast was adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1957.
Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,
Here’s to “Down Home,” the Old North State!
Here’s to the land of the cotton bloom white,
Where the scuppernong perfumes the breeze at night,
Where the soft southern moss and jessamine mate,
‘Neath the murmuring pines of the Old North State!
Here’s to the land where the galax grows,
Where the rhododendron’s rosette glows,
Where soars Mount Mitchell’s summit great,
In the “Land of the Sky,” in the Old North State!
Here’s to the land where maidens are fair,
Where friends are true and cold hearts rare,
The near land, the dear land, whatever fate,
The blest land, the best land, the Old North State!
Posted April 2013