CHARLOTTE craft beer culinary “infusions”
At Legion Brewing, head brewer Alexa Long teamed up
with friends and neighbors at Undercurrent Coffee to create an
Indian-style tonic blending ginger, turmeric, black peppercorn,
lemon grass and licorice root for the Tonic the Hedgehog ( 5.5%),
an American wheat ale. “It’s a unique and refreshing brew that is
both beautiful and beneficial for health,” Long says.
She has also collaborated with Resident Culture Brewing to
create a kvass, or Slavic-style fermented beverage, using 300
pounds of cinnamon raisin and rye bread loaves from nearby
Nova’s Bakery. The bread is soaked overnight to soften, and
the mixture is added to the mash the next day. The kvass is
also fermented using Nova’s sourdough starter, which consists
of lactic bacteria and wild yeast for a mild funk and acidity
balancing out the cinnamon notes.
Many breweries in Charlotte focus on seasonal foods as
complements to seasonal beers when coming up with new variations.
“We’re constantly seeking what’s available seasonally and
utilizing local farmers to source grain, produce, honey, herbs and
various other ingredients,” says Long. “We’re pretty experimental,
and certainly seek inspiration from the culinary world.”
The Late Tates with Nate ( 6.6%) is an amber ale brewed with sweet potatoes and butternut
squash. The locally grown tubers and gourds were slow-roasted in-house by kitchen manager Nate
Snow. “The beer got its name because Nate worked tirelessly until 3 a.m. finishing the job, for
which we are grateful,” Long says. The result was a full-bodied beer with a rich, earthy sweetness.
The Nooks and Crannies ( 6.8%) is a kettle-soured ale meant to mimic the flavors of cranberry
pie, and which gets its subtle sweetness from the addition of lactose and vanilla beans. The beer
was released just before the winter holidays last year.
In the spring for Cinco de Mayo, Legion offers the Juan Direction ( 4.7%), a German-style gose
lager inspired by the classic margarita that’s brewed with limes and oranges that were juiced, zested
and soaked in tequila. “The result is a funky fusion of sweet, sour, salty and citrus,” Long says.
Many chefs look to their immediate surroundings to find foraged foods to use in dishes. Some
brewers in Charlotte are doing the same.
At Free Range Brewing, co-founder/brewer Jason Alexander works with many area foragers
and chefs to collect ingredients. “We are quickly realizing that we have so many great ingredients
around us, and are always thinking about how we can incorporate them into our beers,” he
says. “Not only are they delicious, but we can use them to find a good balance in beers for some
unexpected flavors without scaring people away.”
Alexander works with a couple of local foragers to source wild sumac from the area, which he
uses to make a tea that’s then incorporated into the beer during the brewing process. The bright
citrusy/tart seed clusters are boiled in a 140-gallon vessel, then drained, chilled and used in the
fermentation step because of the plant’s naturally occurring wild bacteria.
“Native Americans used sumac to produce a drink similar to lemonade, which was the
inspiration for this farmhouse ale. It’s a little more rustic and drier, using all local malted grains
without any hops, in the style of an old-world gruit before hops were cultivated for use in beer,”
ABOVE: Legion Brewing’s Nooks and
Crannies beer made with vanilla beans.