The Cut: Farm-to-pint beer in the works at Weeping Radish

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By Sophie Bennewitz

We may be under attack from Mother Nature’s Agent Pollen, but there is some good news – it’s N.C. Craft Beer Month!

There are approximately 300 breweries in North Carolina, so if you’re trying to taste a beer from every brewery – good luck! You can always blame your bleary eyes and headache on allergies!

But all jokes aside, it never fails to amaze me what a dynamic and successful beer industry has developed in this state. The most recent rankings had us in 8th for number of breweries per state and the craft beer business brings the state of North Carolina nearly a billion dollars in revenue.

These numbers are simply stunning.

Another statistic the N.C. brewing community should be proud of is having two craft malting facilities.

No man is an island and no craftsman can create without proper tools. We are truly fortunate that our brewers have access to quality local malts to make the best beers possible.

But let’s go even further back to the basic ingredient, barley. Farmers are stepping up to the plate and growing local and organic barley specifically for the malt houses.

Our goal this year is to prepare and plant our farm behind the brewery with barley, ready for next year’s harvest. A true Farm to Pint Beer is in the works!

Until then we have contracted with a local farm in Elizabeth City to buy barley for our brewery. Wave at the fields as you drive Highway 17; that’s your beer growing!

Barley field

In an age dominated by tech giants, with Amazon delivering anything you want almost as soon as Facebook tells you that you want it, it’s delightfully refreshing to see the positive social and economic impact of a craft industry.

The majority of these breweries are small family businesses that employ local workers to serve their friends and neighbors. They have become the focal point for both urban and rural communities, enticing visitors from far and wide to try their unique creations.

Sure there are apps to track who is drinking what where when, but craft beer is creating much needed real physical connections in an increasingly cyber world.

And in my opinion, craft beer has opened the door for other craft production. The freedom of creativity fostered in the microbrewing world is extending to other craft industries like charcuterie, craft sodas, and cheeses.

Looking at our handy timeline of brewery openings in North Carolina, I can literally see the massive burst of breweries nearly ten years ago. In 2008 there wasn’t the support for a boutique creamery making cheese from heritage breed goats, but now these artisan products are in high demand.

Speaking from personal experience, when we first opened our butcher’s counter we had a very difficult time selling our sausages. Now we seem tame for not selling beef tongue and fermented sausages. (And yes there are so many regulatory reasons as to why we don’t sell them. Yet!)

I suppose the moral of this story is: celebrate North Carolina Craft Beer Month to the fullest. Drink incredible beers, honor the skill and creativity of the brewers, you can even thank Uli Bennewitz for getting this whole crazy show started – but please do it discreetly, we don’t want it going to his head!

But go even further this April and give a subtle tip of your hat to the microbrewing world for bringing other artisans into the mainstream. Drinking craft beer is wonderful, but drinking beer while eating bratwurst is infinitely better. Trust me on that!

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