Of the many ingredients in Page Skelton’s tangy Cackalacky Spice Sauce – including the secret ones – one is missing: ginger.
Skelton compensates in his newest venture, showcasing the spicy root in a unlikely but delectable collaboration with Fullsteam Brewing Company’s founder, Sean Lilly Wilson. Together, the longtime friends and beer lovers produced Cackalacky Ginger Pale Ale.
The copper-hued, malt-forward, subtly spiced GPA (as it is called) debuted Sunday at the brewery in Durham with a fanfare befitting the zest of the two local companies. The launch party celebrated National Kazoo Day-eve and included Cackalacky-spiced chicken wings.
“This takes our brand beyond just a spice item and into a lifestyle item,” Skelton said. “It’s a way to go beyond whatever we’re being defined as.”
Fullsteam is likewise embracing the partnership. The use of ginger dovetails with the brewery’s other unique “plow-to-pint” beers that use sweet potatoes (Carver) and locally foraged persimmons (First Frost). Half the proceeds –$1,000 – from the GPA sold Sunday went to Funds to Farms, a sustainable agriculture nonprofit.
The first batch used ginger root, but brewer Chris Davis may amp the flavor in the next batch with candied ginger.
The new beer is only available at the brewery as part of its year-round offerings, but Fullsteam hopes to begin canning the beer for distribution later this year.
Charlotte’s hoppin’ beer scene
Raleigh and Asheville get most the attention in the North Carolina craft beer world – but one of the fastest-growing scenes is Charlotte. The city now boasts seven independent breweries, along with two chains, with at least two more planning to open in 2013.
The Queen City Brewers Festival on Saturday will celebrate city’s diverse and interesting offerings – most of which are hard to find outside Charlotte. To get a lay of the land, I contacted Daniel Hartis, the author of the forthcoming book “Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing in the Queen City.” (For more details on the book’s March release, go to charlottebeer.com.)
Q: Describe the craft brewery landscape in Charlotte.
Charlotte’s beer scene has grown enormously over the past two years in particular. Ass Clown Brewing, NoDa Brewing and Birdsong Brewing came on the scene in 2011, and in 2012 Triple C Brewing and Heist Brewery joined in. Of course, the breweries only represent part of a city’s beer culture. Charlotte is also home to a large number of restaurants, bars and bottle shops that take craft beer very seriously. But if we’re talking about local, independent breweries, then Olde Mecklenburg Brewery is undoubtedly the grandfather of brewing here in the Queen City.
Q: What is the best beer in Charlotte?
This may seem like a cop out, but it’s what I always say when asked this question: I think the best thing about Charlotte’s beer scene is the sheer diversity of beers brewed here.
You can go to the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery for fresh, true-to-style German beers, or you can head north to Ass Clown Brewing and enjoy beers brewed with such ingredients as sea salt, wasabi and even whole sticks of butter.
We are fortunate to have such a wide range of offerings, and there is truly a beer here for everyone. Four North Carolina beers won medals at the Great American Beer Festival this year, and two of those – Olde Mecklenburg’s Mecktoberfest and NoDa Brewing’s Coco Loco – were from Charlotte.
What I’m drinking
The Raleigh Rare & Vintage Beer Tasting on Saturday offered a merry playground for my beer palate with hard-to-find selections from around the world.
But one I enjoyed the most – Olde Rabbit’s Foot imperial stout – is a local collaboration of three North Carolina breweries: Olde Hickory, Duck-Rabbit and Foothills.
Foothills released the fourth iteration of the beer with great commotion last year, but I missed it. The keg at the tasting was one of the few ever to leave the brewery.
All three breweries contribute equal portions of stout wort made with honey and cocoa nibs. It is fermented together and later aged in bourbon barrels. So rich and complex, it’s worth waiting in line for the 2013 version late this year.
Reach John Frank at email@example.com or 919-829-4698. Follow him on Twitter @ByJohnFrank.