The craft beer scene in and around Lake Norman is hopping, thanks to a growing number of breweries opening here. Yes, you can always drive 30 minutes into Charlotte, where the craft beer scene is taking off. But you can sample some outstanding local beer right here in Lake Norman. Here are our picks for the must-visit breweries to try during your stay.
Several of the breweries on this list distribute their beers to nearby liquor shops and stores. You can support them by purchasing their bottled or canned beers.
Ass Clown Brewing Company – Cornelius
The brewery’s website says, “Ass Clown Brewing might sound funny, but our flavors ain’t no joke.” Founder Matt Glidden prides himself on using unique ingredients. The Bacon Oyster Stout brewed with, you guessed it, bacon and oysters. Sumac berries flavor the Black Black Goose. Go Reap Yourself is a pale ale brewed with the Carolina reaper, the hottest pepper in the world.
D9 Brewing Company – Cornelius
Sour beer is the specialty of the house at D9 Brewing Company. Founded by two engineers and a doctor, D9 is into the science side of beer brewing. The brewery has an on-site microbiology lab and French oak foeders (pronounced FOOD-ers) to ferment the sour beers. You can catch a tour on Fridays. You’ll find a lot more than sours on the beer list, which includes year-round beers and rotating seasonal selections. D9 also offers live music and food trucks. (During the coronavirus shutdown, D9 is offering curbside pick-up and same-day beer delivery.)
Eleven Lakes Brewing
Named after the 11 major lakes in the Catawba River basin, the brewery uses a small-batch process to brew the beers. The tap list includes year-round staples and seasonal brews. You can bring your own growler to fill or buy one at the taproom to take home. (You can get growlers to go during the coronavirus shutdown.)
Ghostface Brewing is a two-location operation. The brewery/pizzeria in Mooresville offers up to 20 beers and ciders. The beer lab, also in Mooresville, sprang from the R&D (research and drinking) concept at the original location. It allows for new brews with experimental ingredients on a smaller scale. The taps change weekly or daily, depending on the brewing schedule. (Ghostface is open for curbside pick-up, take-out, delivery during the coronavirus shutdown. The website also has a virtual tip jar where you can give your favorite bartenders a tip during the shutdown.)
Jolly Roger Brewing – Mooresville
A brewery with slogans that include “Work like a captain, drink like a pirate” and “Brewing liquid treasures on Lake Norman, N.C.” is worth a visit. You’ll need to plan ahead to visit the brewery. It’s open Thursdays and Fridays for tastings from 4-7 p.m., and by appointment on Saturdays. (During the coronavirus shutdown, Jolly Roger has curbside growler filling and canned beer to go Thursdays and Fridays from 4-7 p.m.)
King Canary Brewing Company – Mooresville
The King Canary Brewing Company sits on the shores of Lake Norman in Mooresville. The bird-inspired beer names include Lost Loon, Cuckoo Clock, and Nothing but Nest. The beer list has more than a dozen choices, and it changes regularly. The outdoor area has picnic tables and water views. In the food department, King Canary sells $1 snacks and has a food truck on-site. (King Canary is offering website ordering and pick up at the brewery during the coronavirus shutdown.)
Lost Worlds Brewing – Cornelius
The newest brewery in the Lake Norman area opened April 18 for to-go sales only. Plans to open the taproom this spring changed abruptly because of the coronavirus pandemic. According to its website, the brewery gets its inspiration from the explorers’ clubs established in several U.S. cities at the end of the 19th century. The taproom has a base camp feel meant to inspire your next journey. Lost Worlds has introduced its adventure-related Basecamp beer collection. (You can buy canned 4-packs and growlers of several of these beers during the shutdown.)
Primal Brewery – Huntersville
Primal Brewery founders Ray Steimil and David Hoy have turned home brewing sessions into a brewery, taproom, and beer garden. The garden has picnic-bench seating, live music, food trucks, and games. Primal uses locally sourced ingredients in its year-round, seasonal, and limited release beers. The Grim Creeper Imperial Ale, Craven’s Elixir IPA, and Not So Harry Porter are a few of the favorites. (Primal Brewery is closed during the coronavirus shutdown.)
The Cabin – Davidson
This brewery offers a variety of local craft beers and live music in a cozy, laid-back space. The Cabin also serves a smaller selection of wine and cocktails. In the warmer months, you can enjoy a beverage and a snack in the outdoor seating area on the lake. (The Cabin’s Facebook page says it is temporarily closed.)
This list is only the tip of the taproom when it comes to great breweries in the area. You’ll need several days or even weeks to check out all the must-visit breweries in town.
(Because of the coronavirus pandemic and North Carolina’s stay at home order, bars and restaurants are closed except for takeout and delivery. Visit each brewery’s website for updated services and hours during the COVID-19 shutdown.)
Written by Andy Smith
Andy Smith is a freelance writer raised in the Pacific Northwest who now lives in Austin, Texas. He loves to visit breweries and wineries around the world, tries to golf, and like most aspiring writers, is working on his novel.