Hey, Charlotte, let’s be honest: Some people think you’re weird. But that’s not us at CBB. To us, your Billy Graham-meets-NASCAR charm makes for an ideal atmosphere to drink beer and soak up the spirit of the South. To further the cause, here’s something to look forward to. Blue Blaze Brewing Co. recently announced that it will open Charlotte’s first West End craft brewery in early 2016, which will make you even cooler (like you needed it). Co-founded by homebrewers, hikers and neighbors Craig Nunn and Sven Giersmann, Blue Blaze Brewing will be located at the old Savona Mill, an early 20th century vintage textile mill in the historic West End neighborhood, just across the street from the entrance to the Stewart Creek Greenway and about a 15-minute nature walk from Uptown.
Blue Blaze Brewing hopes to “blaze new trails” in order to transform the fun and eclectic West End neighborhood into a brewery and entertainment destination for families and craft beer lovers alike. Argos Real Estate Advisors, known for its work in the South End, is owner and developer of the project.
“We have been working with the neighborhoods to understand the types of things they’d like to see in the project now for several years,” said Greg Pappanastos, president of the development company. “Blue Blaze epitomizes the character of the West End. They are forward-thinking, authentic and are focused on building community.”
Pappanastos says that the announcement of the brewery has already led to other creative retail discussions in the project.
Blue Blaze Brewing’s 8,000-square foot production facility will house the brewery, taproom and an outdoor area. The space will undergo a round of renovations with construction beginning in the late summer. The facility will house a new 15-barrel brewhouse and taproom. It will be the first attraction at the historic Savona Mill, which is undergoing redevelopment to a mix of uses. The redevelopment of the Savona Mill will transform the area into a vibrant hub of activity in much the same way as Atherton Mill did over 20 years ago for South End. The updated interior and exterior of Blue Blaze’s building will provide patrons with an inviting experience that will accent the history of beer and complement the fond memories shared between family and friends.
Using classic German, English and American styles as foundations, Blue Blaze plans to brew, distribute and serve several high-quality beers in and from this facility — which will include five flagship brews, including an Altbier, Amber, Black IPA, Dortmunder, and a Milk Stout — to retailers, taverns and restaurants. Additional styles will include Pale Ales, IPAs, Dopplebocks, Porters, Hefeweizens and more using high-quality locally sourced and organic ingredients consisting of fresh grains and whole hop flowers grown in North Carolina. Beer will be available in half-barrel kegs, sixtels, growlers and four-pack pint cans.
“Our vision for both the brewery and the tap room is to create an environment where people can gather and enjoy community with family and friends as well as meet new people in a friendly environment without the distractions of televisions. We will build a place where families are comfortable and where people can interact where they might not have otherwise,” said Craig Nunn, co-founder and president of Blue Blaze Brewing. “A part of our plan is to invite local musicians to come and provide a lively atmosphere as well as have a variety of acoustical instruments available for anyone to play an impromptu set with friends or people who they may not know at all. We want help create bonds that we hope will travel beyond the brewery and taproom.”
Sven Giersmann, co-founder and vice president of operations, draws inspiration from his youth in Germany. “I’m from Germany, and I have wonderful memories of hiking the Alps with my father,” Giersmann said. “It was on one of those hikes when I was young, when he gave me a sip of his beer, a Munich Helles, I’m sure. That’s how I grew up. It was part of our culture growing up in Germany. We will brew classic beers in the spirit of the German and English traditions but with an American interpretation. You can expect seasonal beers with unique characteristics, but our core beers will be in line with traditional styles.”
Steve Turner joins Nunn and Giersmann as head brewer. His brewing career spans almost two decades. Steve is a member of the Master Brewers Association of Americas, a former Colorado State University Fermentation Science & Technology instructor in Ft. Collins, Colo., and a five-time Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup medal winner.
They will also pour pints in an approximate 1,000-square-foot taproom and outdoor area overlooking parks in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Parks & Recreation system and the Stewart Creek Greenway. The company will install several bike racks at its taproom and plans to include a Charlotte B-Cycle check-in, and possibly a station nearby. According to Nunn, Blue Blaze Brewing will be one of the first breweries in town to always feature other local beers alongside their own.
“Because the craft beer community in Charlotte has been so supportive of our dream, and they produce such high-quality products, we will offer other local brewery’s beers on tap in our taproom,” Nunn said. “That’s not a grand opening thing. We want our customers to be able to explore beers produced by other great Charlotte breweries as well as our own. It’s important to Sven and me to support other local brewers and the craft culture.”
While the taproom will not have kitchen facilities, Blue Blaze plans to have a variety of Charlotte’s quality food trucks available for patrons. The taproom’s hours will initially be Thursday and Friday evenings and weekends, but will expand hours in the future.