While its namesake may suggest a vino-exclusive boutique, the Grapevine has actually evolved into craft beer hotspot in Fort Mill over the last couple years. Located roughly ten minutes south of Charlotte in Baxter Village just off of exit 85 on I-77, the Grapevine has several characteristics that not only make it unique as a bottle shop, but also in the Charlotte craft beer scene as a whole.
The most important beer asset to be found at the Grapevine is their über knowledgeable beer guru, Alex Shoenthal. A member of the Charlotte Brewmasters, Alex is an avid home brewer with extensive knowledge of almost every aspect of the beer industry.
The intriguing thing about Alex, though, is his enthusiasm and archetypal “mad scientist” approach to beer. Absolutely nothing is off limits to this guy when it comes to brewing. For example, he recently brewed a stein beer in a wooden cauldron brought to a boil using glowing hot stones (“stein” is actually the German word for” stone”) dropped into the wort, an ancient technique used during the middle ages before the Industrial Revolution allowed for large metal cauldrons.
The second unique characteristic of the Grapevine is the growler station which was recently expanded to nine taps. The option to take home a large container of draft beer, which is usually richer in flavor due to lack of pasteurization, is only offered by a couple other places in town, and none of them have as great a selection as the Grapevine. The current lineup includes Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin, Lion Stout, and Founders Nemesis among others.
The third unique attribute of the Grapevine is the “drink-while-you-shop” option. Like Vintner Wine Market in the Arboretum, the Grapevine doubles as a bar so you can enjoy one of their nine excellent draft selections while you browse their bottle offerings. While this could ultimately lead to some impulsive shopping, the option is really nice because you can grab a drink and walk out with your weekly bottle purchases from the same location.
A final highlight of the Grapevine is their bottle selection. While it is certainly not the most extensive in town, it contains several offerings that cannot be found in most Charlotte establishments. For example, they carry several offerings from Southern Tier (including the delicious Crème Brule), Rochefort (8 & 10), and Ballast Point (Sculpin). Brawley’s gets these beers in from time to time, but other than that they are very difficult to find.
Aside from a smaller bottle selection, the only other foreseeable downside to the Grapevine is their draft prices, which are a little high. For example, a Tulip of Imperial Pumpkin is $7.00. That having been said, the portions are generous and the accompanying appetizer menu is reasonable and very tasty. They also have great bottle specials, such as a case of Dogfish Festina Pêche for $25 (I know it is out of season, but that is a steal).
Overall, the staff is knowledgeable, the beer is excellent, and the selection is well chosen at the Grapevine in Fort Mill. The unique characteristics such as the growler station, and rare bottle selection, provided here make it well worth the short drive down I-77.