A Slice of Germany in an Unlikely Place

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Ah, beer gardens, pretzels, sauercraut, and wood-paneled beer halls. Quite a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon. But no, we’re not in Germany, we’re in good old Charlotte, NC at the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. The German-style brewery has only been open since 2009 and is already attracting quite a following. This is Charlotte’s own micro-brewery, taking the place of several past failed efforts. The beer that has made this company famous is its Copper ale, but it also offers a few seasonal varieties.

We went on the free tour and learned quite a bit about OMB. First, it’s an authentic Düsseldorf style “Altbier” beer. “Alt” means old in German, as in “old-school.” They import fresh Bavarian hops from Germany to make it here in Charlotte. This stems back to the founder’s love of this German beer. He traveled the world on a sort of sabbatical and picked Charlotte to be the location for his brewery.

What sets OMB apart is it’s premium, ultra fresh, and contains no preservatives. You can taste the difference between OMB and beers that have been shipped across the country or world (i.e. your Bud Lights). According to the OMB site, “lagering their Alt for several weeks after primary fermentation could produce a full-flavored, yet smoother and more refreshing beer.” It’s true.

While the beer is fresh and delicious, the brewery itself is worth a visit. Located just south of uptown Charlotte, it’s convenient to the light rail. We entered an industrial area and all of a sudden it became clear where OMB was due to the packed parking lot in an otherwise desolate industrial landscape. Outside is their “beer garden,” but it’s essentially picnic tables in a parking lot. A bit disappointing there.

Inside is a sizeable beer hall with vaulted ceilings and wood-paneled walls, clearly modeled after Germany. You can buy t-shirts and mugs, or head straight to the bar for super-fresh beer on draft. You can probably guess where Lyndsi and I headed. Several pints later, we headed on the free tour of the facility. It’s open five days a week (closed Sunday-Monday) and I recommend it. The tour guide was funny, lively, and like the rest of the visitors, drinking. He suggested we shout “BEER ME” if you run out during the tour (that seems inevitable). Interestingly, we learned that OMB still bottles beer by hand, which explains why their distribution to local retailers like Harris Teeter (grocery store) is limited to individual pint bottles and no 12-packs.

On a related note, some of the biggest beer halls in the world can be found in Munich, which is, of course, home of the ultimate beer festival, the Oktoberfest. If you’re lucky enough to be in that part of the world during the festival, why not stay in a local’s apartment in Munich and make your stay in Bavaria all the more authentic?

Special tip: keep your expectations low if you want a soft German pretzel. We’re fairly certain they buy them at Costco down the street. But hey, they’re a brewery, not a restaurant. And if that’s the biggest complaint one can have, then they’re in pretty good shape. OMB, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Charlotte’s very own German-style brewery. Fresh, premium, delicious. Long live OMB!

~ Marc

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