North Carolina’s biggest craft breweries largely rebounded in 2021 — a year after the pandemic crushed the industry.
The state of the beer: Asheville’s Highland Brewing was the state’s largest craft brewery, producing nearly 55,000 barrels of beer in 2021.
- The Triangle’s largest brewers by volume were: Fuquay-Varina’s Aviator Brewing and Raleigh’s Lonerider Brewing – although their growth was either down or flat from the previous year.
Between the lines: The annual data – published for its members in the New Brewer newspaper – is the most comprehensive breakdown of the state’s craft beer industry, Axios John Frank Reports.
Yes, but: Not all craft brewers are represented in the rankings, as some do not submit sales and production data to the Colorado-based Brewers Association, the industry trade group.
- Excluded are local breweries that do not meet the definition of independent – less than 25% of the brewery is owned or controlled by a member of the beverage alcohol industry who is not themselves a craft brewer.
What they say : Les Stewart, co-owner of Raleigh-based Trophy Brewing, said business was still tough for the state’s smaller brewers last year.
- “It really depended on your business model,” Stewart said of last year. “Those who only have taproom or brewpub arrangements have run into difficulties.”
- Stewart said Trophy’s dining remained slow in 2021, but the company’s restaurants, which serve Trophy beer, have recovered strongly.
With rising inflation and labor shortageshowever, Sean Lilly Wilson of Fullsteam Brewery in Durham said many brewers are careful about their growth.
- “Breweries are realizing that continued barrel metrics aren’t always the best indicator of overall success in a tough market with COVID and rising costs,” Wilson said.
But stayTrophy and Fullsteam aim for growth.
- Trophy expands its Maywood Avenue location and increases its self-distribution to restaurants and bottle stores.
- Fullsteam opened a second location at Boxyard RTP over the past year, and Wilson said he continues to seek new opportunities in the Triangle.