Food & Drink

Friendly competitors unite in Charlotte Brewers Alliance

As more breweries pack into Charlotte, you might expect them to fight tooth-and-nail with other brewers in town as the battle for tap handles and shelf space heats up. Instead, many of those brewers are uniting through the Charlotte Brewers Alliance, a new group organized by and for area breweries.

“It’s not just 12 entities going cutthroat at each other,” said Ryan Self, director of sales at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. “Charlotte beer is a real thing. Our scene is a real thing. When the scene grows like this, we’re all just enjoying the ride. We’re talking to each other and trying to do what’s best for each others’ businesses. We’re many years away from being Pepsi and Coke.”

The alliance held its first meeting late last year, with owners from several breweries joining together to discuss challenges familiar to them all.

“I think we share a lot of the same issues,” Self said. “I think a lot of us think the same way about how we sell our beer and what we want our companies to be.”

These issues might include questions over how to handle permitting, licensing, installing equipment or purchasing ingredients – anything that brewery owners could encounter upon starting up or expanding.

For example, NoDa Brewing and Birdsong Brewing (currently neighbors on North Davidson Street) will open new breweries in Charlotte this year. Through the alliance, owners from these breweries could pick the brain of OMB founder John Marrino, who moved his brewery to a much larger location just last August.

Another issue common to the city’s brewers involves beer festivals. While many festival organizers pay for the beer served, others attempt to lure the breweries to these events solely with the promise of exposure. In the past, that has worked with younger breweries eager to get their beers in front of potential customers – but many of Charlotte’s more established breweries expect to be compensated for the beer they bring.

“It’s pretty obvious who is doing it the right way and who is not,” said Chris Harker, founder of Triple C Brewing. “If you can save a young brewer heartache by sharing with them, that’s a good thing for everybody.”

Also helping the city’s breweries is the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, a not-for-profit organization that represents member breweries and works to enact favorable legislation on their behalf.

But the creation of the Charlotte Brewers Alliance is a sign of how far the beer scene here has come in recent years. (The Asheville Brewers Alliance was formed in part to promote that city as a beer destination, and that city is now regarded by many to be among the nation’s best cities for beer.)

“We’re in one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation,” Harker said. “We just want to make sure the beer scene continues to head in the right direction.”