Conor Robinson, Head Brewer
Birdsong Brewing opened late in December of 2011 in the NoDa Arts District of Charlotte. NoDa is short for North Davidson, and the brewery opened on what has been coined “Brewer’s Alley” as just across the way a sister brewery of sorts has just opened as well called NoDa Brewing. In the spirit of being a good neighbor, Birdsong is showing local art on the taproom’s cinder block walls and has kicked off distribution in the Arts district before moving to other parts of Charlotte.
I spoke with one of the seven partners, Chandra Torrence, and Head Brewer Conor Robinson about the new brewery in December 2011 and they were excited to get their message out about the new brewery. They are excited to learn about the industry and to add to the local Charlotte beer market the love of their labors, fresh hand crafted beer!
It was a year ago that principal owner Chris Goulet and his wife Tara called a group of their friends over to their house to discuss their plans to open a brewery. The goal was to spend a year researching the industry and to open a functional yet small brewery in the NoDa area of Charlotte. In the end, seven different individuals came together to create what is now known as Birdsong Brewing. All of the owners have jobs that could be described as “corporate” or “white collar”. What was discussed in this first meeting was a desire to do something that was fulfilling, something more than going to work Monday through Friday and doing the same thing day in and day out. The owners wanted to do something that made them feel like they had made a difference in the world. Not that making beer on its own is going to change the world, but ask the guys who make shoes for a living at the company called TOMS if just “making shoes” is fulfilling. The goal is to be a good local business in the Charlotte community, to have a low impact on the environment, to create and have personal relationships and ties to the local community. Birdsong is on their way to doing just that. They’ve already had a lot of support and positive feedback in the first few weeks of being open. What is also fulfilling to the folks at Birdsong is supporting brewer Conor Robinson’s passion for brewing and providing an end product that they can take pride in and share with their friends and neighbors.
Tara met home brewer Conor Robinson at a local Charlotte bakery and she and Chris were instantly impressed with his brewing ability. After receiving a degree in baking and pastry arts from Johnson & Wales, Conor became a baker by trade so his move to brewing was a natural transition. Conor first learned to brew from a friend that he worked with at the bakery and he fell in love with the process on day one. Chris and Tara had a chicken coop, and Conor would trade home brew for eggs. This relationship grew into an offer to run the brewery for Birdsong as Chris had high marks for Conner’s brewing creations. Conor worked for a year on perfecting the Free Will American Pale Ale recipe that Birdsong would use to launch the fist release of the brewery. While Conor favors Belgian-style beers, the team is inspired by west coast recipes and chose the sessionable pale ale for the brewery’s first release. The initial offering is hopped with a variety of hops including Columbus, Galena, Fuggles and Willamette, while the grain bill is made up of Carmel 20, Wheat, Victory and 2-row pale ale malts. The beer pours a light amber to copper color and is described on the Birdsong website as “This Crisp American-style pale ale is the flagship beer of Birdsong. It offers some of the characteristic bitterness of notable West-Coast brews while maintaining its own unique personality. Floral and honey notes complement the light, citrusy flavor of Galena hops.” See the new reviews on Beeradvocate and it appears the beers is being received as it was intended to be, easy drinking, full of flavor, with a bready malt characteristics from the Victory malt, and a west-coast style hop character. For a second release Birdsong is planning to release a brown ale called Lazy Bird Brown Ale, which was overwhelmingly popular at the soft opening.
The brewery is small, a 10 BBL system from Premier with two 20 BBL fermenters and one twenty BBL brite beer tank for packaging. Birdsong started with the one draft only Free Will American Pale Ale that is self-distributed, as North Carolina laws allow for mico-breweries to get their beer to market in this manner, to about seven accounts. Kegs are transported via the back of an owner’s hatch back car, available in 1/6 or ½ BBL kegs. Once Birdsong begins to start making money, a delivery truck will be a high priority purchase. If you live in the Charlotte area and want the Birdsong beers to be on tap at your favorite local watering hole the brewery strongly encourages you to request them be added to the tap handle lineup. There is nothing stronger than the power of word-of-mouth advertising and customer requests!