CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On a Tuesday, Eric Flanigan and the guys at Sugar Creek Brewing were making wheat beer.
"We plan on this one being a good seller," Flanigan says. "It's an easy drinker."
A few months ago, Sugar Creek took over what had already been, and smelled like, a brewery. "The first thing they said when we took over, was it was good to have that smell back in the building again," says Flanigan.
If Sugar Creek's new taproom and brew house on Southside Drive looks familiar to you, that's because it's Olde Mecklenburg Brewery's old tap room and brew house.
"I thought, well, there's a lot of people trying to open up breweries and why not see if someone wants to take this from us," says Olde Mecklenburg Brewery owner John Marrino, who relocated to a bigger area with a bigger bar and biergarten, just a stone's throw down the street.
"While it seems like I'm creating my own competition," says Marrino, "in reality, I think it'll bring more people to the neighborhood."
"Craft beer drinkers are usually kind of a promiscuous bunch," says Daniel Hartis, who runs the blog charlottebeer.com. "They don't want to try just one kind of beer or one kind of brewery's beer, they like to try as much as they can, so I think you're going to see that with Olde Meck and Sugar Creek being right next door to each other."
"We call it coopetition in the business," says Marrino.
"John's helped us out a lot," Flanigan says. "We've tried to return the favor as much as possible."
There are now 10 breweries open in the Charlotte area with more on the way. But that only seems like a lot. "If you add up all of the breweries in town right now," says Marrino, "we're still less than 1 percent of the market."
Most of the rest is controlled by the big three brewing companies, the ones that make Bud, Miller and Coors.
"It's just the classic David and Goliath," says Flanigan, "except Goliath is a monster."
"We're all producing quality fresh beer here locally," says Marrino. "That's different than what we consider our real competition, which is the large conglomerates."
Sugar Creek hopes to have its tap room open in about a month. It's concentrating mostly on Belgian beers, and Flanigan feels like there's even more room, for even more local beer.
"As far as too many breweries in Charlotte, I'm sure we'll hit that point," he says, "but I don't see it happening any time soon."