THE BREWHOOD REVOLUTION'S FIRST TEST
Charlotte Magazine|June 2020
The craft brewery explosion has reshaped urban neighborhoods. Can it survive this?
GREG LACOUR
TOWARD THE END OF OUR CONVERSATION, as she nurses the last of her sour IPA at Divine Barrel Brewing in NoDa, one of the nation’s foremost researchers of craft breweries and their effects on urban economies gestures toward the beer menu scrawled, as in most taprooms, on a chalkboard that hangs behind the bar. “Most of these guys have not seen a downturn yet. The big boom has come during this recovery period,” says Isabelle Nilsson, a 34-year-old academic who retains the accent of her native Sweden.

“But now, if we go into another recession—I mean, these beers are not cheap. Are people going to go back to Bud Light?”

It’s the evening of Wednesday, March 11. Neither of us anticipates what’s coming the next day. On Thursday, March 12, the Mecklenburg County Health Department confirms its first two cases of COVID-19. Charlotte cancels its St. Patrick’s Day parade. Governor Roy Cooper recommends the cancellation or postponement of gatherings of more than 100 people. Cooper later amends the recommendation to an order. Within days, people everywhere are working from home, keeping their distance from each other—and absent from stools and picnic tables at the Charlotte area’s nearly 50 breweries, which close their taprooms and sell beer for home consumption only.

No one knows how long the sudden coronavirus downturn will last. But even if the breweries and their neighborhoods suffer, craft breweries will have helped transform urban areas and economies as few things have in recent years— and Nilsson, an assistant professor in UNC Charlotte’s Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, has spent much of the last decade trying to figure out what that might mean for cities.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM CHARLOTTE MAGAZINEView All

‘This Is How We're Going to Make Your Child Better'

Pediatric neurosurgery is technically and emotionally complex—and traditionally dominated by men. As Novant’s first female pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Erin Kiehna Richardson has had to learn the intricacies of a demanding field and battle sexism along the way

10+ mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

The Dumbledore of CMC

A surgery resident wrote a series of children’s books and created a special kind of medical magic

7 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

LGBTQ HB2+5

Five years after the furor of House Bill 2, the LGBTQ community—in Charlotte, in North Carolina, and across much of the nation—fights attacks on new fronts

6 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

Oh, Snap!

New ‘selfie museum’ in Concord celebrates the 1990s

5 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

ALLISON LATOS

The WSOC anchor on her hard trek from one episode of loss and grief to another—and the meaning of resilience

7 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

GOOD HEALTH

For years, Charlotte has been one of the largest American cities that lacked a four-year medical school. The health care professionals who finally made it happen overcame a series of setbacks, false starts, and failures, and they plan to use their clean slate to create a new kind of community asset

10+ mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

Summer Partee

From woodwork to retail, the kindergarten teacher-turned-designer has learned how to do it herself

3 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

Uptown or Downtown?

Archives illuminate how long we’ve argued over the perennial question

3 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

NOW OPEN NOVEL ITALIAN

Paul Verica brings a simpler version of the city’s hottest food trend to NoDa

3 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

TOP DOCTORS 2021

The annual list you can't without

10+ mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021