One of my favorite things about living in Charlotte is how it transforms during the holiday season. The twinkling lights at every turn. The festive pop-up bars and events. And, of course, the Christmas Markets!
For over six years, I’ve heard that Charlotte’s oldest brewery, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, hosts the ultimate Christmas Market. My fiancé went to their first market a decade ago when there were just a handful of vendors (they now have over 140), but I’d only been to the brewery for dinner. Well, that all changed on one dreary, cold Saturday. I rounded up my fiancé and friends and decided to see what all the fuss was about for myself!
A Festive Welcome
I forgot about the overcast sky the moment we arrived as I walked through the tunnel of twinkly lights guiding me into the Christmas Market. With sounds of laughter, crackling bonfires, and certainly no shortage of Christmas cheer, I immediately felt festive. And it seemed we weren’t the only ones seeking holiday fun as the market was packed with folks all decked out in their best Christmas sweaters! We even saw dogs joining in on the festivities!
I decided to scope out the market before grabbing a drink at one of the many indoor and outdoor bars. Some vendors had tents set up, while others were housed in Bavarian-style wood structures from Germany. Keeping with the European theme, cozy Swedish fire logs crackled and popped while steamy Glühwein (mulled wine) enveloped my senses with aromas of citrus and warm spices.
Near the beer garden, a mile-long line weaved through the crowd where Santa Claus was posing for pictures in a massive wooden chair (I later found out it was imported from Germany).
Sip, Shop, and Savor
Electrified by the holiday spirit, my friends and I hopped in line to grab drinks. I’d heard that the Yule Bock was Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s most popular holiday beer and that they would likely sell out that weekend. My fiancé loved it, but I’m not much of a beer drinker, so I opted for a pumpkin chai cider that smelled and tasted like autumn in all the best ways. In hindsight, I should’ve brought some home. I chased the cider with a hot cup of Glühwein, a perfect way to stay warm on that chilly Saturday afternoon.
In addition to beer and cocktails, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery offers a full menu of mouthwatering dishes, from American fare like fried chicken and burgers to German-style bites like sausage platters and apple strudel. I’d eaten here a dozen times before, usually opting for a Reuben or a jumbo pretzel (an OMB staple), so I chose to focus on the vendor food instead.
I was craving something sweet, and the aroma of fried dough brought me to the World’s Greatest Funnel Cakes tent. I ordered a s’mores funnel cake to share with my group, but it was so melt-in-your-mouth delicious that I came disturbingly close to running off with it. It was perfectly crispy on the outside yet pillowy soft on the inside, with chocolate syrup, marshmallow drizzle, and graham cracker crumbs piled on the top.
After our treat break, we explored the rest of the market. My friends bought some exquisite pottery from Corsair Ceramics, my fiancé took home a hand-carved piece from Rhino’s Exotic Wooden Pipes, and I was too busy going googly-eyed at all the adorable dogs in holiday sweaters to buy anything.