We have come a long way since 1770, when the first record of a brewery in North Carolina was documented. Bull Durham Beer Co. is one of the new breweries in the state, which now has more than 130 licensed breweries.
That tremendous growth has been a fairly recent occurrence. A few recent changes to state law got us to where craft beer is today and contributed to the current “state of Southern beer.”
Small brewers in North Carolina began to succeed in 1985, when law changes allowed brewpubs to receive alcohol production and direct sales permits. Soon after, the distribution franchise laws were adjusted to allow direct wholesales by small brewers to bars & restaurants -- up to 5,000 barrels or 155,000 gallons a year.
The next milestone occurred in 2005, when the alcohol limit on beer was raised from 6 percent to 15.5 percent, which is essentially the most alcohol content that can be achieved when making beer.
So what really changed was the right of small brewers to sell directly, keeping them in control of their product and supporting a broader income. Also, creativity was no longer stifled by limits to the recipe and style formulation. The second piece really lead to the surge of the brewery taprooms, as pint sales fund most small start-up breweries.
As Bull Durham Beer Co. has finished out its first baseball season, an off-site taproom adjacent to the new Aloft hotel is in the works to keep beer drinkers and visitors engaged. The location in the Durham Bulls athletic park is terrific and one-of-a-kind --but lonely when the Bulls are not playing.
Sebastian Wolfrum is Executive Brewmaster for Capitol Broadcasting’s Bull Durham Beer Co. The staff at Bull Durham Beer will be writing periodically about craft brewing and beer, with an emphasis on North Carolina brewing.