The second in our current series of collaborations with good friends from across the pond, Greetings from Charlotte is the culmination of a journey which began with a week spent at the incredible NoDa Brewing, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Our brewers Jamie and Christie were lucky enough to head out there last year, and we were massively excited to welcome them back to brew with us in Sheffield just a few weeks ago.
NoDa co-owners Todd Ford and Chad Henderson made the trip across the Atlantic along with Production Manager Matt Virgil. The beer we have created, “Greetings from Charlotte” is a Breakfast Cereal IPA, a new angle on the New England style, with a South Eastern US twang and an English twist, inspired by NoDa’s popular “True Grit” IPA. Chad is a scientific brewer who starts at a theory to get to a recipe, and his desire to get into the nitty gritty of hops, proteins, and yeast was definitely something for us to learn from. We used torrefied maize (the closest things to cornflakes we’ve ever added to a beer), oats and oat milk, coupled with Galaxy, Vic Secret and Citra Cryo, to create a hazy hopbomb with a smooth mouthfeel and a crisp finish.
We caught up Todd and Chad over a pint after the brewday to learn a little more about the company, their ethos, and their community…
Todd and Chad met when both were homebrewers attending the same club almost a decade ago, “having fun and expression with beer, not a business”, as the craft beer scene started to really take off in the States. More lenient laws were beginning to increase the possibilities of brewing, causing a booming interest in the trade country-wide. In North Carolina, things were slower to get started, with just one beer (a fairly traditional German style lager) brewed in Charlotte at the time. Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina, and Todd and Chad began to question why there were no local options available.
Todd and his wife Suzie, also a co-owner of the business, wanted a change and the opportunity to work together, and to bring a local beer option to their beloved hometown. And so the Fords “put their lives on the line”, using their retirement fund to start the business. “We were at a time of our lives where we felt able to go for it… our kids were in or through college and we knew we could dedicate the time and effort required to build the business from the ground up”.
Since the inception of NoDa 8 years ago, the beer scene has exploded in Charlotte – they were the second brewery to start up in a town which now boasts over 50 breweries. But Todd says that “what has kept us at the forefront is a unique balance of quality products and the development of exciting, approachable, flavourful brands that offer a twist on the familiar”. By challenging assumptions to keep excitement and a high variety alongside quality and consistency, NoDa certainly set a high precedent for creativity and diversity. There’s now a thriving brewery community in Charlotte, coupled with a healthy level of competition, which as Chad states means that “our beer now is better than it’s ever been… we have to keep up with that rising tide”.
The driving force behind Chad’s recipes is an overall ambition to “create, inspire, educate and challenge. I want our beers to straddle the box of comfort… inside the box gets boring, and stepping too far away means you can make something so obscure as to become too challenging, but stepping 1 foot either side of familiarity means you can find a balance and have something for people to relate to”.
It was an award for their Coco Loco porter at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in 2013, followed by a Gold award in the American IPA category in 2014 (a category usually dominated by breweries from Colorado), which Todd credits with making NoDa a household name in the American craft beer world. Following on from this, they were able to open their second production facility, which houses a 60 BBL plant and still has room to grow. The 15 BBL original kit is now used for their limited release brews as well as their barrel ageing and souring project. More GABF awards have followed, covering many different beer styles including their spiced beer (the beer that Chad credits with getting him his first date with his now wife!), the mojito inspired NoDajito sour, and Gordgeous pumpkin beer.
NoDa are proud to have a tap room in the art district of Charlotte which emphasises their love for and commitment to their community. They have a crowd of loyal taproom regulars and (similar to how we like to work here) take care to embrace their local area – they showcase local artists, and arrange an array of different charity events, with Monday night fundraisers taking place every single week. Even the furniture is made from repurposed wood, from the building’s former life as a vinegar factory.
As the “old boys” in North Carolina, but still the ones known for pushing the boundaries and staying ahead of the curve, we can see many similarities between NoDa and ourselves here at Abbeydale. As Todd puts it, “we have to learn a lot as fast as we can and then implement it as hard as we can… but everything we do, we do it with love”. A sentiment that’s as true in Sheffield as it is in Charlotte, almost 4000 miles away.
“Greetings from Charlotte” is out now in cask, keg and 440ml can.