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A museum devoted to beer and drinks made in NC could become a reality

Supporters of a North Carolina beverage museum hope to raise enough money to pay homage to the state’s long history of making drinks, which includes both alcoholic beverages and sodas. In this photo, Johnston County officials pose with confiscated illegal liquor outside the courthouse in Smithfield in 1951.
Supporters of a North Carolina beverage museum hope to raise enough money to pay homage to the state’s long history of making drinks, which includes both alcoholic beverages and sodas. In this photo, Johnston County officials pose with confiscated illegal liquor outside the courthouse in Smithfield in 1951. File photo

The next time you go to a local brewery, a request for money might not be from someone who forgot a wallet at home. It could be a supporter of the proposed North Carolina Craft Beer and Beverage Museum, which needs to raise thousands of dollars before supporters can make their dream a reality.

Between the many “science of beer” and “science of wine” events that are popping up these days, a museum visit frequently results in some sort of exhibit or activity surrounding adult beverages. Sometimes, the tables are turned, and museums bring their displays to breweries, like an event last year with the N.C. Museum of History, Longleaf Film Festival and Big Boss Brewery.

But an entire museum dedicated to beer and other tasty drinks made in North Carolina? Oh yeah. All it needs now are some people with big pockets.

Craft beer, along with the history, science and culture behind it, will be a large part of the focus, but Kimberly Floyd’s vision goes beyond just malt and hops. She’s the brains behind the museum and said it also will include North Carolina wines and liquors, as well as soft drinks.

“It’ll be about learning and economic development, and helping promote our state,” Floyd said.

The museum is planned to be located in Asheville, and it’s being backed in part by the Asheville Brewers Alliance, although it will feature beverages from all over the state.

It’s probably still a few years away, and a site hasn’t been selected. The size of the facility depends on how much money is raised. While the fundraising is just beginning, it’s apparently on track to deliver good news.

The first fundraiser, held last month at Raleigh’s Trophy Brewing Taproom on Maywood Avenue, brought in nearly $1,500 from a crowd of a few dozen people.

“This surpasses our goal, and I am humbled by your kindness,” Floyd wrote in an email to donors.

The museum is a nonprofit and gifts are tax-deductible. The next fundraiser will be in Asheville; stay tuned for details on more in the Triangle.

David Meeker, one of Trophy’s co-owners, has been a backer since day one.

“I got in touch with David, pitched him the idea for the museum,” Floyd said. “And then I saw he was emailing Asheville brewers about it at, like, 4 in the morning. So I went, ‘Oh wow, this is ball is rolling.’ 

Meeker was on the board of directors for the City of Raleigh Museum when Floyd was its assistant director. He said he trusts her to make this museum the best it can be.

More than beer

North Carolina is the undisputed king of craft beer in the Southeast. But that’s a fledgling industry compared to the state’s liquor, wine and soft drink history.

North Carolina has a long and complicated relationship with liquor. Moonshining thrived during Prohibition, leading to things like blindness (bad), the founding of NASCAR (better) and the recent rise of legal craft distilleries that are making everything from whiskey and vodka to specialty liqueurs in every part of the state.

Wineries have been drawing tourists for years to Western North Carolina, in dozens of Yadkin Valley wineries, as well as down east at Duplin Winery.

This new museum will tell the story of those beverages and the people, politics and science behind them. But don’t think alcohol is the only kind of beverage that may be featured at this museum.

Everyone knows about Cheerwine, which is celebrating 100 years in business this year. Sundrop, a citrus soda, also is tied with North Carolina. It’s owned by Texas-based Dr Pepper, although it was first introduced in North Carolina as a regional brand and still was bottled in Concord until last year, when Cheerwine bought the plant and shut it down.

There’s also Le Bleu, a luxury bottled water company that put Advance, its tiny Triad hometown, on the map.

And finally, even though it might be anathema to some of the craft beer purists out there, let’s not forget about North Carolina’s history with macro beers.

Until a massive MillerCoors facility in Eden closed last year, it brewed about 4 percent of the beer in the country. More than 500 people lost their jobs when it closed. But now, N.C. Sen. Phil Berger, a Republican, has been working with Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein, both Democrats, to force the brewery to be put on the market for a competing company to be able to buy.

That’s a rare act of bipartisanship between some of the most powerful people in North Carolina politics, who often are at odds with each other.

So you see? Beer really can bring anyone together – just as this museum no doubt hopes to prove.

Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran

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