Beer Competition Comes to a Head in North Carolina
The Full Pint is proud to bring to you an original article written by our North Carolina Intern, Alex. Alex shares his thoughts on the rapidly emerging craft beer scene in North Carolina. We look forward to hearing more on the matter from him in weeks to come. Please enjoy!
Until I came of age, I was not aware as to how beer held such a special place in many North Carolinians’ hearts. I found this affection very surprising given that we are deep in America’s Bible Belt. Given my state’s history, there are a lot of laws regulating its use. For example, beer may not be sold anywhere before high noon on Sundays, nor shall alcohol in general be sold after 2 AM. To get around this problem during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, a law was passed specifically allowing North Carolina’s ABC stores to sell liquor during the convention. This law opened ABC stores in the Charlotte area on Sunday, a day they are normally closed year round, and on Labor Day, a government holiday. On a side note, Lonerider’s Peacemaker Pale Ale was the official beer of the CNN Grill at the DNC!
So, despite North Carolina’s past there currently are 70 operating breweries and brewpubs operating in the state. Asheville, set in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, is the craft beer utopia of the east coast in my opinion. It has been voted (in an un-scientific poll) Beer City USA three years in a row. This year it tied with Grand Rapids, Michigan. Asheville is also home to The Thirsty Monk, voted one of America’s Favorite Beer Bars by the readers of CraftBeer.com. So craft beers have been flourishing in my state…but change is on the horizon.
Until this year, in order to regulate alcohol sales, North Carolina laws only allowed breweries producing less than 25,000 barrels a year to sell their beers directly to consumers. This year laws made their way through legislation that would remove this cap. The goal of removing this cap is to foster growth in the North Carolina beer industry, as well as attract some bigger names to the region. Currently, all breweries in the state produce a volume less than 25,000 barrels, but Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues are looking to change this. New Belgium is eying land in Asheville, aiming for production in 2015, Sierra Nevada is looking to begin production at a facility in Mills River in late-2013, and Oskar Blues is opening in Brevard and are evidently on track to begin distributing Dale’s Pale Ale and others by the end of this year.
How will this affect the local craft beer industry? It really depends on how attracted NC beer drinkers are to these new arrivals. Personally, I’ve enjoyed many a Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues brew, and am looking forward to continue to do so in the future, knowing that what I’m drinking is produced in my home state. On the other hand, I can’t quite say the same about New Belgium. It’s great that they’re coming to Asheville, creating jobs and making an impact on the local economy, but I jut don’t like the product. Aside from the Lips of Faith series and the Ranger IPA, nothing they’ve produced has stood out to me. It seems to all taste too similar and boring all around. In fact, I would rather go beer-less if New Belgium were the only thing on tap when I go out for a drink.
So, on both craft beer and beer laws, the jury is out. Several brewers in the state have forecast that their sales may make a small dip when Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues are up and running, but they will undoubtedly make a comeback. Time will tell where the North Carolina beer industry will go from here but right now, it’s healthy and growing…and I’m enjoying every drop of it!