Craft Freedom wants to make drinking great (again)
Now that the election is over, the Craft Freedom movement is ramping up. The group has retained a political strategy firm and two lobbying firms to help persuade the state’s General Assembly when it reconvenes on Jan. 17, 2017. While Craft Freedom originally began with two breweries, there are now approximately 60 breweries who have signed onto the movement throughout the state.
“Lifting or raising the cap will allow microbreweries the freedom to continue to grow and develop their business plan without the intervention of government regulations designed to protect the business interest of a few distributors,” said Paul Shumaker, whose political consulting firm, Strategic Partners Solutions, is working with Craft Freedom.
With the additions of these firms, the breweries are ready to get to work.
“We are speaking directly to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle,” said Ford. “We’re explaining how local breweries have been adding valuable well-paying jobs to the state's economy, and how supporting their right to choose their own business path only makes political and business sense.”
Even with lobbyists and strategists, the Craft Freedom movement will embark on a “true David versus Goliath legislative battle,” Shumaker said, pointing to the Wholesalers Association.
“The 25,000 barrel number is in place to provide incubator breweries an opportunity to get started and obtain access to market. 25,000 barrels is a lot of beer. It’s the equivalent to 8.3 million bottles of beer. Any brewer at that level is far past the incubation point,” Kent said.
Kent added that North Carolina has the most permissive craft beer laws of any state between Virginia and Texas, and has more than 200 brewers. The Association argues that many brewers work closely with North Carolina beer distributors and have moved beyond truly craft brews. Additionally, big names like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Oskar Blues have established a presence in the state.
Although this law only affects two of NC’s 27 local breweries at the moment, other area breweries will be affected as they continue to grow. Triple C Brewing, a supporter of the Craft Freedom movement, currently brews 6,500 barrels per year.
While under the barrel cap, this year Triple C signed a lease on a 10,000 square foot warehouse space that will expand Triple C’s footprint by about 50% with space for events, and additional space for production. They’re hoping to be on the right size of a boozy history.
Craft Freedom’s challenge will be to persuade lawmakers to change a distribution model that’s been in place for decades, while opposing forces hope to keep the model in place. Given the history-changing Pop the Cap law, anything is possible and no one knows which way the legislature will lean. We can all rest easy, however, knowing that everyone in North Carolina thinks drinking beer is important.