While the NoDa and South End neighborhoods became famously inundated with breweries, fast-growing Plaza Midwood was being left behind. City ordinances mandated that brewing operations be more than 400 feet away from residences, making finding a compatible location nearly impossible. Thankfully, Charlotte’s city council slashed that restriction to a respectable 100 feet, and the race for Plaza’s first brewery to open began.
Wait no longer: Legion Brewing opens this afternoon at 2 p.m.
Legion’s road to opening began in September 2014, when they signed the lease on the former Brodt Music building. Permits were finally issued in May of this year, and construction was underway. According to owner Phil Buchy, “everything we did, we took a step back, thought about it, and made sure we did it the right way.”
The taproom is accessed directly from Commonwealth Avenue, with production space situated in the back of the building. Reclaimed wood is abundant on the eyes, sourced from species that call North Carolina home such as cedar, red and white oak, sycamore, cherry, walnut and pecan. 150-year-old heartwood pine, recovered from the original Brodt facility, also makes an impressive presence. A 100-year-old piano sits in one corner of the taproom, a reminder of the building’s musical roots.
Twenty taps are available to Legion’s brewers, but they’re launching with a more manageable lineup of 10 offerings. Eventually, the brewing focus will gravitate toward saisons and farmhouse ales, with their production really ramping up come springtime, but the current tap list is a melange of styles ranging from oatmeal stout to american pale ale.
There is space allowing for a small on-site kitchen in the tap room, but Legion is wisely choosing to focus on their beer production. No date has been set for that facet, but they’re tentatively eyeing a springtime debut. They’ll largely forgo the food truck model favored by other Charlotte breweries, considering their central neighborhood location and plethora of nearby food options.
In the back of the building, the original second floor has been removed to create a two-story production space. Taproom patrons can sip beer overlooking the brewhouse area. Below, a 15-barrel Virginia-made brewhouse feeds 30- and 15- barrel fermenters. There’s plenty of room for Legion to grow both out and up, with the production area comprising 7,000 of the building’s 11,000 square feet.
There’s a notable and uncommon equipment addition to the production area, a separate decoction vessel that will allow Legion the ability of turbid mashing, a key process in sour ale production. They’re developing their own house culture of yeast and bacteria to drive their sour program, which they hope to undertake soon. Rows of barrels are presently on-site, simply waiting to be inoculated and filled.
Legion Brewing’s principals aren’t strangers to the Charlotte beer scene. As a general contractor, Phil Buchy helped oversee construction of the new Olde Mecklenburg Brewery facility and assisted Unknown Brewing get their certificate of occupancy. Head brewer Alexa Long is fresh from an impressive stint at nearby Heist Brewery.
Brodt Music was a Plaza Midwood fixture, occupying the nondescript red bricked building since 1953 until its closure in 2013. In an era when Charlotte’s past often falls victim to the bulldozer, it’s refreshing to see operations like Legion Brewing take careful steps to maintain and upfit rather than simply destroy and deviate. The original Brodt sign still hangs, albeit in the brewhouse area and not out front.
For years, Plaza Midwood has asked for a brewery to call their own while other neighborhoods seemingly stockpiled them. Starting today, Legion Brewing Company will give them exactly what they want.
Legion Brewing Company is located at 1906 Commonwealth Avenue in Charlotte.
Hours of operation are 2 p.m. until 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 12 p.m. until 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.