Beyond the Pint
By Aaron Klingenschmidt
North Carolina is in the midst of a craft beer explosion. It is estimated that the industry brings in nearly 8 billion dollars of revenue and is now responsible for creating almost 50,000 jobs in the state. Nowhere has this recent boom been more warmly embraced than in Charlotte, NC. According to TheStreet.com, Charlotte ranks as the 5th fastest growing craft beer city in the entire U.S. with an increase in sales of 21.8%. The Queen City now boasts nearly 20 breweries with more than a dozen planning to open in the near future. Add to that the enormous expansion of some of Charlotte’s leading breweries and you have a recipe for an economic boom in the CLT’s craft beer scene. The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, NoDa Brewing, and Birdsong Brewing have all built new facilities allowing them to more than double their production capacity. Breweries like Triple C Brewing Company, The Unknown Brewing Company, and D9 have also added increased production capabilities to their existing facilities. This rapid growth in beer choices and availability has helped push Charlotte’s economic growth. The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce estimates that in 2014 the craft beer industry was responsible for more than $808 million dollars of revenue for the city.
The economic impact doesn’t just stop with beer sales. Even beyond the pint glass, the impact of craft beer continues to have a major impact on the Charlotte economy. The following industries are sharing in the rapid rise of craft beer sales and are tightly interwoven with its success.
The food truck industry has grown hand in hand with the craft beer scene in Charlotte. A large portion of the city’s breweries do not make their own food so food trucks are a staple almost every night of the week. The Charlotte area now plays host to nearly 50 different food trucks serving everything from pizza to crab cakes; tacos to cupcakes. Many of the Charlotte food trucks report that as much as 80% of their business can be attributed to directly working with local breweries.
Another enterprise benefiting from the rapid growth of the craft beer industry is the craft beer bottle shop. Charlotte is now home to more than a dozen of these specialty shops that carry a huge variety of craft beers. These shops often allow a customer to mix and match a six-pack of their favorite beers, fill a growler, and track down rare and hard to get selections. Shops like Good Bottle, Salud, Common Market, and Carolina Beer Temple have become the go-to gathering spots for craft beer fans to sample the newest releases from a variety of breweries and grab a brew for home. Bottle shops have also found their way north towards Lake Norman with spots like Ultimate Ales and Davidson Beverage Company. The popularity is even extending into nearby South Carolina with the recent opening of Main St. Bottle Shop just a few minutes south down I-77 in Rock Hill, SC.
With beer comes celebration! Charlotte now celebrates its beer with more than two dozen beer festivals. These festivals allow beer lovers to sample beers from many different breweries and are now large enough to draw visitors from around the state. Many of these venues also enlist the help of local food trucks to provide food options for festival goers. Charlotte even played host to the North Carolina Brewers Celebration. This festival featured not only breweries from around the state, but local hop & grain farmers and homebrew suppliers.
The mantra of many of the Charlotte breweries is Support Local. That mantra quickly turns into income when the breweries buy local. Almost across the board, local breweries are searching for local ingredients to create their tasty brews. From hops to honey, sweet potatoes to peppers, locally sourced products are ubiquitous across the Queen City’s breweries. This desire to source locally doesn’t stop at ingredients. Breweries regularly partner with other local industries, like yoga instructors to hold events in their taprooms. Many breweries, like Free Range and Ass Clown even use local and recycled products in the construction of their taprooms. The craft beer boom has even sparked local brewery tours like Charlotte Brews Cruise. These companies provide transportation around the city stopping at local breweries, offering tours of the facilities and with samples of their beer.
The focus on supporting local is at its most apparent in the connection that many Charlotte area breweries have with local charities. Breweries across the Queen City are quick to help raise funds to help in a variety of different ways. NoDa Brewing, in connection with the local Woody & Wilcox radio show donates a portion of every Woody & Wilcox IPA sold to help the Isabella Santos Foundation fight cancer. D9 hosts Party for a Purpose, a festival that is raising money to help 4 year old Aislinn battle Sanfilippo Syndrome. Old Mecklenburg Brewery has played host to the Copper Classic, a 5k that helps raise money to fight prostate cancer. When local artist Joe Borruso was struck by a drunk driver and lost his leg, the Queen City’s breweries helped other neighborhood businesses raise money to pay for his medical expenses.
The economic impact of the continued growth of Charlotte’s craft beer scene isn’t just measured in the number of pints sold. The impact stretches across multiple industries and continues to help bolster the Queen City’s growing economy.
For information on all that the Charlotte beer world has to offer visit www.cltbeer.com. There you can get up to date information on breweries, tours, beer events, new brewery openings, and more. While enjoying beers from around the Queen City, use #CLTbeer and spread the word about your beer experiences. Cheers!