Craft Freedom

Story by Melinda Law , on Nov 20, 2017 3:04 PM

The legacy of the prohibitionist movement of the last century continues to have a significant impact on the development of the liquor industry in North Carolina. In the 1920s, what was meant to cure the ill society and weaken the political opposition, today is stopping entrepreneurs in their tracks and thwarting new hires. Tara Goulet, co-owner of Birdsong Brewery in the trendy NoDa district says, “We agree that there shouldn't be an arbitrary cap on how much a resident brewer is allowed to distribute.”

Professor Alistair Williams, PhD, a professor in the College of Hospitality Management and a published authority on craft breweries and the craft alcohol business, is currently helping lobby NC legislation regarding the cost, in both employment and dollars, on the lack of free markets in alcohol. Alistair says, “Under current legislation, NC breweries have to stop self-distribution once they are producing 25,000 barrels, limiting their potential for growth. The market is driven by consumer choice however the legislation can't keep up.”

Williams is researching craft beer and craft alcohol. He asked two hospitality students, Andrew House ’17, and Andrew Elder ’17, to assist him with his research. House ’17, who currently works at Corkbuzz, a local wine bar, says collaborating on the research was an invaluable experience. “Being able to work on a research paper while an undergrad was an amazing opportunity. I was able to help create a research paper that is going before North Carolina Legislature to propose a change in the current laws surrounding the beverage industry. As someone who works in the business, this is very important to my future and I am honored that I was able to help and participate in influencing a potential change.”

That paper is currently being tweaked with help from Adam Smith, PhD, associate professor in the College of Arts & Sciences. It will combine Alistair’s knowledge on distillation and Adam’s knowledge on the economic growth and well-being of North Carolina. The first draft of the white paper will be presented to the Washington lobby firm in early November.