Crooner-to-your-parents James Taylor* may have yearned for Carolina for its moonshine, but I'm betting he'll come back home now for the beer. Why? Deregulation, a beer drinker's best friend, is in the offing for North Carolina, reports the Charlotte Observer:
Beer lovers' options are likely to expand after a small tweak to the state's alcohol laws opens the door for a major expansion of the state's craft brewery industry.
The legislation now before Gov. Bev Perdue would allow all breweries in the state, regardless of size, to offer tastings and sell beer onsite, even beers they produce outside North Carolina.
It's aimed at attracting Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, two well-known midsize breweries, to western North Carolina. But brewers hope it further ferments the state's reputation as a beer capital.
State Rep. Tim Moffitt, an Asheville Republican, said the change would help attract the Colorado-based New Belgium and the California-based Sierra Nevada to open East Coast production facilities, potentially creating about 275 jobs and more than $200 million in capital investments.
Big numbers! Out-of-state competition! But won't that hurt local breweries? No, says folks who would know.
Todd Ford, who opened the NoDa Brewing Company and taproom with his wife a month ago, said he doesn't worry about the potential competition. He feels a law that boosts interest in craft beers or beer tourism will benefit brewers like him.
"If somebody's likely to go to a Sierra Nevada taproom and have a Sierra Nevada beer, they're more likely to try my beer," he said. "I may have to share those sales with Sierra Nevada, but it's much more likely to bring more craft beer drinkers to me."
Oscar Wong is the founder of Asheville's Highland Brewing Co., the state's largest brewery, producing 23,000 barrels a year. He acknowledges the new midsize breweries would cut into his market share.
"As far as competition for us, it may kick our (butt) a little bit, but it's the American way," he said.
But Wong, a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, felt conflicted because it would benefit his community.
"As they say, pioneers get shot at more," he said. "We'll just have to keep up and do our thing."
I spent Halloween weekend 2010 in Asheville, NC drinking at breweries like Wedge and eating at restaurants like The Admiral. While those were standouts, I don't recall having a bad beer or a bad meal anywhere. And with this new legislation on the governor's desk, I anticipate the beer and food scene there--and across the state--wll only get better.
More evidence that deregulation tastes great below.
Baylen Linnekin is the director of Keep Food Legal, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and increasing "culinary freedom," the right of all Americans to grow, sell, prepare and eat foods of their own choosing. To join or learn more about the group's activities, go here. To follow Keep Food Legal on Twitter, go here; to follow Linnekin, go here.