Following last year’s sale of Asheville’s Wicked Weed to Anheuser-Busch InBev, 23 North Carolina breweries have banded together to form the Charlotte Independent Brewers Alliance (CIBA), a non-profit membership group aimed at distinguishing local beer and cider makers from their competitors.
“Large conglomerates and non-local brewers make strong efforts to mimic local,” Chris Goulet, CIBA board member and principal owner of Birdsong Brewing Co., said via a press release. “However, buying those products sends money away from the community and doesn’t support local jobs.”
CIBA membership is open to independently-owned breweries whose primary production facilities and headquarters are located in Mecklenburg, Gaston, Lincoln, Iredell, Cabarrus or Union counties. Goulet, along with Legion Brewing managing partner Phil Buchy and Olde Mecklenburg Brewery director of sales Ryan Self, will make up the organization’s board of directors.
In a press release, Goulet said A-B’s acquisition of North Carolina’s Wicked Weed was a catalyst to officially forming CIBA, whose members informally met since 2014. However, A-B InBev isn’t the only brewer to set its sights on the Charlotte market.
Morganton’s Catawba Brewing Co. opened a Charlotte outpost — its fourth in the state — in 2017. And, last August, Artisanal Brewing Ventures, the parent company of Southern Tier and Victory, announced plans to open a jointly run innovation brewery and taproom there in late April.
And more may be on the way. In February, Carey Falcone, co-founder and CEO of Atlanta’s New Realm Brewing, purchased a piece of land in the city for $5 million, which he is attempting to have rezoned into an “entertainment establishment.” A spokeswoman for New Realm told Brewbound that the property is “part of a long-term strategy in order to prepare for future development.”
Buchy told Brewbound that CIBA will welcome other craft breweries headquartered outside of the Charlotte region into the area. However, the group won’t extend membership to them.
“The lion’s share of production and your economic hub needs to be Charlotte,” he explained. “We’re trying to promote homegrown Charlotte businesses.”
Buchy said CIBA’s initial focus will be educating local consumers on economic impact buying locally produced beer.
“When people buy our products, the money stays here in Charlotte,” he said. “We live here. We work here. Our workforce lives here and works here. Not to taking anything away from those other breweries, but the bulk of their workforce doesn’t live here. When you buys those beers, not all the money stays here like it does with one of the CIBA members.”
Buchy added that the new group will help complement the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, which last October named former New Belgium government affairs representative Andrew Lemley as its executive director.
“I think a lot of the things that we want to do align,” he said. “Their focus is on the state, and ours is on Charlotte. Just making it a little bit more localized.”
Although two CIBA members, Olde Mecklenburg and NoDa Brewing, acting under the Craft Freedom LLC corporate banner, are engaged in a constitutional challenge to North Carolina’s law requiring breweries producing more than 25,000 barrels annually to contract with a wholesaler, Buchy said CIBA will maintain a primarily non-political focus to start.
Those efforts “are completely separate from CIBA’s, he added, since not every member of the group supports Craft Freedom.
“That’s just not our focus,” he said. “Our focus is whether you’re with a distributor or not with a distributor, are you a locally made Charlotte beer?”
A press release with more details is included below.
Charlotte Independent Brewers Join Forces
Market clarity, education among priorities of more than 20 local breweries
CHARLOTTE, NC — More than 20 Charlotte breweries have turned a casual network into a united, membership-driven, dues-paying organization: The Charlotte Independent Brewers Alliance. The group has been meeting informally since at least 2014, says Chris Goulet, CIBA board member and principal owner of Birdsong Brewing Co. The not- for-profit group was finalized in late 2017, with Phil Buchy of Legion Brewing and Ryan Self of The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery joining Goulet on the board of directors.
“Our goal is to work together to promote Charlotte area beers and ciders and educate consumers on the benefits of supporting local brewers,” Goulet says of the group. “Large conglomerates and non-local brewers make strong efforts to mimic local. However, buying those products sends money away from the community and doesn’t support local jobs.”
CIBA members must have their primary production facility in Mecklenburg County, or one of the five surrounding North Carolina counties (Gaston, Lincoln, Iredell, Cabarrus and Union). Membership stands at 23 right now:
Twenty-Six Acres Brewing Co.
Barking Duck Brewing Co.
Birdsong Brewing Co.
Blue Blaze Brewing Co.
Bold Missy Brewery
Cavendish Brewing Co.
The Dreamchaser’s Brewery
Free Range Brewing
Legion Brewing Co.
Lenny Boy Brewing Co.
NoDa Brewing Co.
The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery
Red Clay Ciderworks
Resident Culture Brewing
Southern Range Brewing
Sugar Creek Brewing Co.
Thirsty Nomad Brewing
Three Spirits Brewery
Triple C Brewing Co.
The Unknown Brewing Co.
Wooden Robot Brewery
York Chester Brewing Co.
“Our members collectively employ more than 600 people, who all live and work in the Charlotte area,” Goulet says. “We want to bring attention to Charlotte-brewed ciders and beers.”
The group was driven to action by the competitive — some might say increasingly crowded — craft beverage marketplace in Charlotte. The Wicked Weed Brewing acquisition by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2017 helped motivate and coalesce the CIBA movement, Goulet says.
The group will make its public debut with a booth at the Queen City Brewers Festival, Feb. 3 at The Fillmore.
The CIBA target demographic? “Any adult in the greater Charlotte area who is interested in craft beverages,” Goulet says. “We’ve got a website up which will be fleshed out further, we’re working on a point of sale marketing campaign, and loose plans for a CIBA event of some kind.”
ABOUT CHARLOTTE INDEPENDENT BREWERS ALLIANCE
The Charlotte Independent Brewers Alliance exists to promote and protect the interests of independent craft brewers founded in and whose primary manufacturing operations are based in Mecklenburg or its contiguous counties. CIBA’s primary goal is to increase the proportion of locally manufactured beer relative to overall consumption in the region. To achieve this goal CIBA will promote the Charlotte region’s homegrown breweries, educate our consumers and the community, and support positive legislative reform efforts. For more information visit cltbrewed.com.