For years Asheville and Charlotte have been setting the standard for a growing craft-beer industry in North Carolina. Now other cities, including Wilmington, have started to catch up. There is no end in sight for the Port City’s brewery boom—with about a half dozen sprouting up in the last three years. And, so, wny not celebrate and keep momentum? On Saturday, August 29 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Ironclad Brewery (115 N. 2nd St.) will host the first August Festival. Alongside craft beers, various wines and food will be served, and funds raised will go toward forming a regional Brewer’s Guild.
The festival will promote local breweries and their brewing staffs, with an introduction from local brewers at 3 p.m. At that time, tap lines will close for 10 minutes so attendees can hear from folks representing seven local breweries, including Broomtail Brewery, Good Hops Brewing and Wilmington Brewing.
Ironclad Brewery owner and August Festival organizer, Ted Coughlin, thinks this is a great time and way to thank everyone in the region for supporting the local breweries.
encore got the rundown from Coughlin about the festival, and talked mass-produced versus local craft beers, as well as the importance of forming a regional Brewer’s Guild.
encore (e): What sparked the idea for the August Festival?
Ted Coughlin (TC): Naturally, the conversation started while enjoying a craft beer. Several people are not aware of the craft brewery growth in the region. Craft breweries are a major economic growth driver in many cities across the U.S., and this region is now starting to see the benefits. The August Festival is a way to celebrate the boom in the region. The goals of the festival are to showcase the local breweries and their respective brewers [and] help fund a local brewers guild.
e: Tell us a little more about the brews the festival will feature. What beers are you looking forward to having?
TC: Each brewery is bringing beers that they believe best showcase their respective brewery. Personally, I am what is referred to as a “Hop Head.” I love craft beers with lots of hops, i.e. India Pale Ales (IPAs). I have tasted all of the IPAs from the local breweries and they are outstanding.
e: As this celebrates the growing brewing industry, what do you credit the growth to in Wilmington?
TC: Changes to state regulations as well as local changes allowing zoning for breweries are part of the reason for the growth. The craft-beer scene has been booming across the United States for the last 25 years. This region is now playing catch up to the rest of the country.
I was recently asked if Wilmington is reaching its capacity on breweries. I told them to visit one of the local beer distributors. If you walked through their warehouses in Wilmington, you would see this area is importing over 95 percent of its beer today. So the current breweries are providing just a small fraction of beer being consumed locally. This will change as people start tasting fresh brewed craft beer. There is a huge difference between a fresh craft beer and large production beers that have been sitting for months in warehouses. Beer has a much shorter shelf life than other alcoholic beverages.
e: As a relatively new stakeholder in the local brewing industry, what was the appeal to open here?
TC: When I traveled to Wilmington in previous years, and eventually moved here two years ago, I noticed there was only one brewery. This region was importing 99-percent of its beer at the time. Wilmington has great amenities with beautiful beaches, a historic downtown, and most important, it has outstanding residents who care about the future of the region. I thought additional craft breweries would add to the appeal.
e: What’s the relationship like between the brewers? Is it competitive or supportive—or a healthy combination?
TC: I have really enjoyed getting to know the local brewers. They all understand that if we work together via a guild, we will have much more of an impact. It is truly a supportive group that will go out of their way to help each other.
The current breweries are providing just a small fraction of beer being consumed locally. So we aren’t competing against each other. We need to educate the region that craft beer is far better than mass-produced beer that sits in warehouses for months at a time. This will change as people start tasting fresh brewed craft beer from their local breweries. Once a person is converted ,they will start sampling brews from all of the local breweries.
e: Tell us more about the Brewer’s Guild—its purpose and why is it important to start?
TC: We are in the beginning stages. A local Brewer’s Guild will be a medium to share ideas, talents and lessons learned. Collectively, we will market within and outside the region. With greater buying power, we hope to reduce prices of inventory with bulk buys of ingredients. We will educate local consumers on the difference between craft and mass-produced beer.
There will be significant growth in the craft brew scene for years to come. By 2020 the local breweries will brew more than five times the amount currently. This will still only account for 25 percent of locally consumed beer, but the local economic impact from the craft breweries will be more than $50 million per year and ancillary business will begin to flourish.