Distribution compromise could be a boon for NC breweries

Distribution compromise could be a boon for NC breweries

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - After two years of compromising, North Carolina breweries could soon brew up to 50,000 barrels a year before they have to use an outside distributor.

In a 2017 bill, the General Assembly required breweries that made 25,000 barrels or more a year to let third-party distributors take over distribution once that limit is reached. But legislation introduced in the General Assembly on Thursday would double that limit to 50,000 barrels.

Breweries in Wilmington do not produce enough beer to approach the 50,000 barrel limit but it’s still something they keep an eye on. Wilmington Brewery Company only makes 3,000 barrels per year, and being a self distributor really enhances their revenue.

“If we were obligated to go through a distribution company, our profits would be a little less," said Michelle Savard, co-owner of Wilmington Brewery Company. “Logistically, it would be a little harder for us at this point since we’re so small."

Judd Watkins, the owner of Wrightsville Beach Brewery, said the increased barrel limit is huge news in the brewery world. Watkins is part of the North Carolina Brewers Guild Board and works with all the breweries in the state on what they have mutual interest in.

“We are cautiously optimistic because of course we’d like to see the cap go up," Watkins said.

Wrightsville Beach Brewery makes beer on site and self distributes it to about 70 area locations. Quality control is something that is important to Watkins.

“A lot of the breweries want to distribute their own beer because then we know, start to finish, what’s going on with that,” Watkins said.

His brewery makes 2,000 barrels a year, so while Wrightsville isn’t close to the cap for self distribution, it’s still something Watkins feels passionate about.

“We want folks to come out to our own establishment, and I think breweries of our size and smaller find the same things," he said. “You want to have customers right here in your own tap room to see the tanks right where it’s made and really have the full experience.”

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