I live in Charlotte, NC now. Since December of ’11. The AAPM annual meeting is coming to Charlotte in a few weeks. I’ve been telling folks that I’m expecting a week-long visit by 5000 of my closest friends. I’m gonna take a stab at being a good host.
The number one thing to know is that there is no Downtown. It’s Uptown. The convention center and hotels are in Uptown. You’ll get used to it.
Charlotte is the largest city between DC and Atlanta but absolutely does not feel like it to me. It’s a very approachable city with a culture of distinctive neighborhoods. Uptown is bounded by an interstate highway loop, and all around there are neighborhoods. I’d encourage you to get outside the loop while you’re here. The neighborhoods to the south and east particularly offer some very nice restaurants and shops. Points south are easily accessible on the light rail.
But enough about all that – let’s talk beer. Two of my four favorite beer places – places with lots of taps and a good selection of craft beer options – are accessible on the light rail. The closer one is The Liberty, across the parking lot from the East/West station. They tend to have some very nice, sometimes unique items on their rotating beer lists. And the lamb burger is a marvel. Further south you’ll find Mac’s Speed Shop (New Bern station and half mile walk), a somewhat pretentious yuppie biker bar with a gazillion taps of deliciousness and all manner of meat. The sausage appetizer is a winner, their brisket is pretty darn good and their NC BBQ sandwich is a quite respectable example of the breed.
FWIW, my other two favorite Places With Beer are Revolution Pizza in NoDa and the Flying Saucer in the University District, both a cab ride from Uptown. Also noteworthy are Duckworth’s and the Midwood Smokehouse.
Then there’s the breweries. There is pretty respectable and growing craft beer industry in North Carolina with some truly fine work being done. Asheville is the undisputed brewery epicenter, but Charlotte is coming on. On the light rail you can get to Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (Scaleybark station and a half mile walk). The brewmaster at OMB studied in Germany and follows the strict German beermaking laws (Reinheitsgebot). He even buys some of his hops from Germany. Their OMB Copper Ale is a local staple. They have a good selection of German-influenced bar food at their tap room.
Speaking of North Carolina beer, let me highly recommend Seeing Double from Foothills Brewery in Winston-Salem. It is only distributed regionally and you’ll find it on tap around town. It’s a high gravity double IPA, hence the clever name. Also in the category of good beer with clever names, I-77 from Four Friends is a 7.7% ABV IPA that you’ll also see around town, named after one of our two interstate highways.