While most folks headed to sandier climes or shot off backyard fireworks this past weekend, Free Range Brewing in NoDa began several nights of soft opens. I’ve been following this project’s progress since the incubation stage, and to finally sip the liquid fruits of their labors felt like an appropriate bookend to the journey.
Brothers Jason and Jeff Alexander take center stage at Free Range (2320 North Davidson Street), along with the seven varieties of beer they and staff poured for guests over the weekend. Available beer styles painted a broad spectrum, ranging from the simple and clean (Cream of the Crop, cream ale), brilliantly and breathtakingly crisp (Jenny Bought a Farm, saison), hop-forward without overpowering (My Fair Lady, IPA), and mocha with a mineral kiss (Sea of Companions, oyster stout).
The brewhouse itself is small; each brew session generates a batch size of but 3.5 barrels (108.5 gallons), with two batches of the same brew sharing a 7-barrel fermenter. This allows Free Range the flexibility of not committing to a particular beer for long, replacing it with a like-flavored offering rather than a simple repeat of the last batch. That’s not to say it’ll be ever-rotating chaos on their tap wall; expect to see several frequent fliers such as the aforementioned Cream of the Crop and their pale ale Art, Son Of Pale.
Beer isn’t the only liquid flowing at Free Range; three guest taps grace the wall, pouring Lenny Boy’s Pineapple Funk kombucha, a blackberry & ginger shrub, and nitrogenated coffee from local favorite Pure Intentions. It’s also worth mentioning that Pure Intentions coffee features prominently in the Free Range brown ale Bob’s Pure Intentions
Of note is how prominently the brewing area features in the Free Range space, with but a drink rail separating patrons from rows of steel vessels on red skid-resistant concrete. Kudos to brothers Alexander for showcasing their equipment rather than relegating it behind a glass enclosure, ensuring their tap room contains one heck of a conversation piece. Parents may also want to note the “kid’s corner” of Free Range in the taproom’s far corner, replete with books, chalkboards, and other amenities for wee tag-alongs.
Free Range Brewing gives off a palpable rustic vibe, clearly the result of meticulous attention to detail. Many construction materials are neighborhood-sourced, with the bar top constructed from reclaimed timber from a NoDa mill, and the bar face itself simply repurposed siding from a century-old mill house from a mile away. Rows of former school bus benches constitute much of the indoor seating, and a classic tractor sits out front.
Their logo, “Let your taste buds roam,” adorns the area above their serving taps, the rewarding product of many hours of tiling effort.
At long last, Free Range Brewing joins the ranks of many other Charlotte breweries. However, their attention to taproom detail and layout, the quality of their beverage offerings, and the general vibe of the operation put them in a class by themselves. They’re open Thursday through Saturday, from 5pm until 10pm.
Connect with Free Range Brewing