Last night was the second screening of the documentary “Brewconomy” at a sold-out (!) Cary Theater in downtown Cary. The film centers around the economic impact of craft beer in NC, especially in agriculture. Everything from farmers turning to grains and malting to universities like NC State experimenting with hop hybrids that can survive in NC’s soil and climate.
The film really makes you think about every step in the process of making beer, not just beginning with the brewers themselves. That added perspective of the farmers really made every sip after the film that much more enjoyable. Not to mention, it provides added incentive to order a beer brewed with NC ingredients knowing those dollars are staying in the state.
First thing’s first, I had to have a beverage in hand for a film about beer, right? The Cary offered a few local options to quench the audience’s thirst. I went with a Peacemaker from Lonerider. You never wanna be the one who kicks over a bottle in the movie theater only to hear it clank around for five minutes as it makes it’s way to the first row.
The film showcases a ton of players in the NC beer scene. From Fullsteam‘s Sean Lilly Wilson (pictured above) who helped Pop the Cap in 2005 to Oscar Wong, who arguably started this entire scene over 20 years ago when he started Highland Brewing in Asheville. In addition to NC breweries, the documentary touches on the local bottle shops (like BottleMixx) and their impact in NC. One curious aspect to the film was the shocking absence of Charlotte representation. The film is only an hour long and there’s a lot to cover, but I still would’ve expected the state’s largest city to play a role.
Of course, the film does touch on the two largest challenges for a brewery to thrive in NC: the excise tax and the self distribution cap. NC currently has the 8th highest excise tax for beer at 62 cents a gallon. No one is arguing there shouldn’t be a tax, but to encourage growth in this industry NC should consider getting itself to the middle of the pack or even in the lowest portion of that list.
The self distribution cap has been getting a lot of pub lately and for good reason, in my opinion. Currently, if a brewer produces more than 25,000 barrels, they are forced to hand over all distribution (& a chunk of profits) to a third party. The state’s largest breweries have said they will halt production to stay under this cap, so they don’t have to hand over profit and lay off sales staff and drivers.
Both the excise tax and the self-distro cap are topics that deserve their own posts, so I’ll save those for another day. I did wish the film had done a better job of driving home the need for change. I watch a ton of documentaries that end up getting me so excited about a cause that I’ll do rash things, like stop eating meat or buy a juicer. After watching Brewconomy, I wasn’t exactly running to lobby the state government (although I probably will because I like my NC breweries).
After the film, there was a short discussion/Q&A with the makers of the film, Camden Watts & Shane Johnston. They were joined by the 919 beer guys, although I’m not sure why, considering they didn’t have a hand in the film (I guess a panel of 2 is a bit small). It was a great wrap up to the experience as great follow up questions were asked. The Cary Theater has also been completely redone and is a very cool spot for an event like this. They host independent & classic films as well as live music in downtown Cary. If you’re in the area, I suggest you make it a point to stop by.
Overall, it was a great experience. The film had a worthwhile message & well-shot content. I wish it was a bit longer to incorporate more flow and really drive home the need for movement on the excise tax as well as the self-distro cap (but I’m not a reviewer of documentaries!). My biggest takeaway from the film is the reminder that it’s only been 10 years (!) since NC lifted the 6% ABV ceiling and really allowed it’s brewers to get creative. It’s easy to forget that compared to other states that may be better known for their beer, NC is still young in this journey and we’re coming along quite quickly.
After the film, there was a reception at the next door Pharmacy Bottle & Beverage. I’ll be doing a dedicated post on this place soon, but let’s just say I was very surprised by this bar (that contains a shop).Bond Brothers Beer Company were also there, giving out free samples of four of their offerings, an IPA, American Brown, Saison and Sour. I can say first-hand that I enjoyed their IPA and Sour and look forward to trying more from the brothers soon as they are just getting their feet under them.A celebration of North Carolina beer and the ever-growing impact it makes on our economy….not a bad way to spend a Wednesday night! It was also a great showcase of Cary’s culture (Cary Theater) and their growing beer scene (Pharmacy & Bond Brothers).
Did you attend the screening? Let us know what you think on Twitter or in the comments below.