Pintful: Craft beer in North Carolina is $791 million market

jfrank@newsobserver.comJanuary 21, 2014 

  • What’s on tap

    Bombshell Beer Company Grand Opening

    Noon. Saturday, 120 Quantum Drive, Holly Springs

    The state’s first women-owned brewery opened its doors earlier this month, and the grand opening blowout is Saturday. Food trucks, live music and special brews are planned.

    Don’t miss the Polished Pilsener, light, crisp and way more flavorful than PBR. And for dark beer fans, the Pick Up Line Porter delivers roast and chocolate notes without being too heavy. Info:

    Foothills Sexual Chocolate Release

    10 a.m. Feb. 1 at Foothills Brewing, 638 W. Fourth St., Winston-Salem

    Start making plans for the release of one of the state’s most anticipated beers: Foothills Brewing’s Sexual Chocolate. The sales start at 10 a.m., but the line will begin forming just after 2 a.m. to get numbered wristbands for the limited release. The brewpub opens at 8 a.m. for breakfast and a bottle share party with Sexual Chocolate on tap. Info:

Every time I visit the bottle shop, it seems like there are a dozen new craft beers on the shelves.

It’s hard to keep track of the new players and flavors. But it’s a healthy indication that interest in craft beer is still growing in North Carolina.

A new study is putting the state’s craft beer scene into perspective. The Brewers Association, the leading industry trade group, estimates craft beer’s economic impact in the North Carolina topped $791 million in 2012, putting the state at No. 14 nationally.

As a whole, craft brewers contributed $33.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012, the latest figures available. The totals include the impact of craft beer at all tiers, from breweries, wholesalers and retailers, as well as brewpub sales.

The top five ranking states: California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania and Colorado.

In North Carolina, the study found, the industry employs 10,200 full-time workers, generating about $300 million in labor income for a $29,315 average wage.

The numbers show the effect of the entire craft brewing industry – not just North Carolina-based craft brewers. But the big interest level, whether buying New Belgium or Big Boss, suggests fertile ground for the growing list of Tar Heel brewers opening shop.

Boone brewery goes public

One North Carolina brewery is taking a novel approach to financing its expansion.

Appalachian Mountain Brewery is selling stock over the counter under the trading symbol “HOPS.” The effort, finalized in December, is designed to lure investors to help finance a planned expansion and the addition of a second location.

The brewery has been open less than a year, and owner Sean Spiegelman anticipates adding local hard cider, barrel-aged sour beers, a restaurant, and a canning and bottling line to extend its reach.

Many North Carolina craft brewers expanded in their first years to meet the increasing demand, but others raise private money or launch publicly supported fundraising campaigns through websites such as Kickstarter.

But AMB, as it’s known in Boone, decided to buy another publicly traded company, North Carolina Natural Energy Inc., to make its move. The defunct company was acquired for $3.5 million.

The unusual arrangement makes Spiegelman’s brewery the first publicly traded in the state and one of the few in the nation.

But don’t go looking on the big exchanges for the stock. It is not listed on the big boards and is instead traded through brokers, often without the scrutiny given to well-known publicly traded companies.

The stock was selling for $5.80 a share at the end of the day Friday with a trading volume average a little more than 2,100 shares, according to the brewery’s website.

What I’m tasting

One of my favorite new North Carolina breweries, Hi-Wire Brewing in Asheville, hit local bottle shops in late 2013, and its offerings in the Triangle continue to expand with seasonals in unique six-pack carriers.

A new one I recently discovered: Strongman Coffee Milk Stout.

It’s as rich as the name sounds, pours the color of coffee, and tastes like it, too. It’s on the sweet side with a thick consistency but still finishes dry. Look for it at specialty stores. Info:

Contact John at 919-829-4698 or

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