For craft beer lovers, Bud Light or Heineken just doesn’t cut it. They prefer ales and lagers brewed on a much smaller scale and with names like Coco Loco or Buckshot Amber Ale. But getting drinkers to make the leap from a mass-produced beer like Miller Lite to a Highland Gaelic Ale can be difficult. One UNC Charlotte student is up for the challenge. And he’s formed a new group on campus to help.
Brian Mister is a beer geek. He’s showing me a beer made here in North Carolina.
“This is Natty Green’s which has breweries in Greensboro and Raleigh I think is where the other one is,” Mister says. “I got to visit their brewery not too long ago. But that’s one of their pale ales, that’s one of their regular beers…”
Sporting a North Carolina beer t-shirt, the 23-year-old shows off his knowledge of esoteric brews at Salud Beer Shop in NoDa, a store loaded with over three hundred different craft beers. Think of it as an off-campus classroom for the young beer scholar.
I ask him about a beer I recently had by Thomas Creek.
“Thomas Creek I believe is in South Carolina. Greenville, South Carolina,” Mister says. “I haven’t had [much] of their stuff. That’s why I come to places like this to do mix your own six packs. You can never know too much about beer.”
Mister’s beer knowledge is surprising considering he didn’t have his first beer until he was 21. And it wasn’t a Budweiser or Coors. It was an Old Mecklenburg, a craft brewer in Charlotte.
“And I realized how good it was compared to Corona and stuff like that,” Mister says.
Mister has always been a supporter of shopping at local stores and eating at local restaurants. So it makes sense to drink local, too. And he’s hoping he can get other budding drinkers to do the same through Niner the Elder, the craft beer student group he formed last year. The name is a reference to a rare India Pale Ale brewed in California called Pliny the Elder.
Students are showing some interest in the group. Mister says they were able to get about 30 email addresses during an event earlier this year. But it’s been difficult getting students to come out to meetings like this one in NoDa. Only the group’s officers are here tonight. Niner the Elder has some big plans for the coming school year though to boost interest. One is trying to get permission to brew on campus. Another is starting a class on the science of brewing.
“We not only teach the brewing process, but much more so than that we teach the analysis behind the raw ingredients that go into making a beer,” says Appalachian State chemistry professor and beer enthusiast Brett Taubmann about his class on brewing.
Taubmann says the class is more than just a look at the chemistry behind beer, though. It also encourages safe drinking on campus through appreciation.
“Just like wine has been appreciated over the years, beer unfortunately has not been appreciated like that,” Taubmann says. “But if we can teach that level of appreciation in students, we hope that we can make a change.”
Back in Charlotte, Mister and Niner the Elder are also promoting safe and legal drinking on campus. Because it’s a student group about beer, Mister had to get an extra layer of approval from UNC Charlotte than is typically required of a student group. And there was one extra condition.
“Having an official member under 21 is not allowed,” Mister says.
Mister graduates this summer, but isn’t going anywhere. He does marketing and works as a bartender at the NoDa Brewing Company. He’s even started a running group at work to burn off some of the calories from all that beer he drinks.
Mister plans to stay active in Niner the Elder, too. First the group has to amend its constitution to allow alumni to officially participate. When he’s not doing that, you can count on Mister to be out and about in Charlotte spreading the good word about craft beer. Don’t be surprised if he comes up to you while you’re sipping a Bud or Coors at a bar and says:
“Hey, just give this a try. This was made by one of your neighbors that lives less than 10 miles away from you probably.”
Originally posted May 31 on WFAE.org