Food

Purvis: 'Charlotte Beer' author started in college, didn't let it go to his head

kpurvis@charlotteobserver.comMarch 12, 2013 

A lot of guys like to say they majored in beer in college. Daniel Hartis actually did something with it: He wrote a book, “Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing in the Queen City.”

Hartis, 30, is a Waxhaw native who now lives in Monroe with his wife and two kids. And he swears that when he went to UNC-Asheville to finish college in 2005, he didn’t know a thing about beer. But since he was older than 21 and knew how to write, the school paper sent him to visit breweries and write about Asheville’s craft beer movement.

“I’m ashamed to say I was drinking Busch Light. Craft beer wasn’t a thing for me.” But within a few sips of Highland Oatmeal Porter and Asheville Brewing Ninja Porter, Hartis was a beer man.

In February, The History Press of Charleston, S.C., released his book on Charlotte brewing, part of a series that also includes “Asheville Beer” and “Charleston Beer.”

Hartis and Charlotte brewing have sort of grown up together. After getting hooked in Asheville, Hartis returned to Charlotte in 2008 to find a city where beer hadn’t taken off quite yet.

“When I came back, we really didn’t have any breweries except Hops and Rock Bottom.” Within a year, that had changed. Four Friends and Olde Mecklenburg both opened, and Charlotte started to have something that could be called a beer scene. Today, there are nine Charlotte breweries. And Hartis’ website, www.charlottebeer.com, helps track the beer happenings.

Still, getting enough history to fill a book was tough. It was hard enough finding people who could document Charlotte beer in the 1990s, when a lot of what was going on was home-brewing. The 1890s was even tougher. While German settlers in this area liked beer, the Scots-Irish tended toward whiskey.

Hartis thinks there may have been two beer operations in Charlotte before Prohibition. The Robert Portner Brewing Co. was actually a bottling depot – beer was brewed in Alexandria, Va., and then shipped by rail to cities around the South, where it was bottled on site.

He’s also seen references to a brewery that might have been named Dixie Brew Co., but he hasn’t found anything substantial on it.

Now that the book is written, he hopes to keep on chronicling the growing beer scene.

He particularly loves the festivals, like the sold-out Black & Blue event March 15, a kickoff for Charlotte’s Craft Beer Week.

Writing about beer, he says, is really writing about a community.

“Charlotte has a really core group of beer geeks. Wherever you go, you’re bound to run into someone you know. That’s what I love.”

Join the food conversation at Kathleen Purvis’ blog I’ll Bite, at obsbite.blogspot.com, or follow her on Twitter, @kathleenpurvis.

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