When discussing the Fullsteam market opportunity, I'm often asked if there's room for another North Carolina brewery.
Of course there is.
There's room for probably 100 more.
It's time for our state -- scratch that, our society -- to get beyond the mindset that an occasional nod to local beer is sufficient representation. The breweries and brewpubs of North Carolina make quality beer. Fresh beer. Beer made by your neighbor.
In this era of Know Local, we endlessly sing the praises of local cheese. Fresh baked bread. Farmer's markets and seasonal produce. Local pies, cookies, and cupcakes. NC Wine. Local artisan chocolate. All for good reason: it tastes great. We know and care about the farmer, the vintner, the baker, the roaster. And there's a feeling of pride that something THIS good came from OUR state. Our soil. Our neighbors. Our land.
Yet there's this odd exception to the Know Local movement -- a hall pass for America's Last Great Commodity: anonymous industrial beer.
This is pure speculation, but I believe that industrial beer is a way for many people to let their guard down -- lest too many things in life become, well, too precious. As denizens of Concerned America, we're constantly lectured about what we should and shouldn't eat and what we can and can't do. And you know what? It gets tiring. A simple beer is a welcome break from the myriad of choices, ethical and environmental dilemmas, social norms, and Nanny Voices.
For others, the equation is a lot simpler. Beer = cheap.
And, of course, most people buy industrial beer because they like it.
Nothing wrong with any of this. We don't begrudge anyone their choices.
But here's the thing. Most people -- whether they're predisposed to like craft beer or not -- really like our beer. There's such a wide range of flavor profiles and styles out there, at least one or two are bound to resonate. There's nothing better than giving a sample of a Sour Rhubarb Ale to someone who "doesn't like beer" and to hear them say those magically intoxicating words,
"Oh! I really like that!"
And if you don't find a Fullsteam beer you like, I'm sure you'll like a beer made from our neighbors: Triangle, Foothills, Big Boss, Carolina Brewery, Carolina Brewing Company, to name a few. The forty-or-so North Carolina breweries produce an amazing range of beers -- many of them beer styles you might never have heard of before.
When Fullsteam launches later this year, we are not interested in competing against our brethren in the North Carolina brewing community. We like their beers. A lot. We like them as people. A lot. And, perhaps most importantly, we believe that beer culture thrives when there's a wide range of excellent choices.
Look at it this way: craft beer has around a 4 percent market share in North Carolina. I've asked around, and I think it's fair to say that only around one-quarter of all craft beer consumed in-state is brewed in North Carolina. That means for every 100 beers consumed in North Carolina, only 1 in 100 is a North Carolina craft beer.
Why go after that one beer drinker? It's the other 99 we're focused on.
The foodie who boasts about eating local, but has a soft spot for, I don't know, Iron City. The wine guy who knows all about Puligny-Montrachet's chalky soil but drinks Amstel Light out of habit. The busy and overwhelmed grocery shopper who buys whatever is on sale.
That's our market. THAT'S the opportunity.
It's not about that 1 percent who know and love North Carolina beer. It's about the other 99.