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Local Craft Brewery Events Draw Visitors

By Sherri Crawford, posted Mar 9, 2018
Cape Fear Craft Beer Week’s Ultimate Brewing Championship (shown above) is one of the annual events designed to highlight the growing industry. (Photo c/o Cape Fear Craft Beer Alliance/By C.D.Sasser Photography)

It’s no secret now that craft beer is big business. And as the number of local breweries continues to grow, they’re impacting the area economy in more ways than one.

From eight breweries opening since 2014 to today’s 15 breweries in Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties, there’s no sign of slowing. In fact, five more breweries are slated to open locally in 2018, according to Cape Fear Craft Beer Alliance (CFCBA) officials.

That means five more confirmed local businesses to create jobs, attract beer tourism and travel dollars, increase sales tax revenue and more. As the economic impact from breweries continues, CFCBA is working with the University of North Carolina Wilmington on producing an economic study to capture the data. That report is expected to be out this summer.

“There is strong anecdotal evidence of the economic impact breweries have had on the region,” CFCBA President Jeremy Tomlinson said. “Breweries pay $19.13 per barrel [a barrel equals 31 gallons] in state taxes on beer production and then collect sales tax based on consumption. Many of our breweries have taken empty buildings and upgraded them, which has led to an increase in property tax, as well as improved neighborhoods.

“Then you have all of the ancillary business that comes with brewery construction and maintenance. Welders, plumbers, [pipe] fitters, electricians, HVAC and many others are all used to ensure that beer gets produced efficiently and is kept at specific temperatures.”

While detailed numbers aren’t available yet for the Cape Fear region, the CFCBA’s website (capefearcraft. org) notes that statewide, craft beer created 10,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in revenue in 2015. Additionally, North Carolina is the top craft beer producer in the South.

Meanwhile, as local beer production rises with more breweries, craft beer and brewery tourism are seeing an uptick too.

Though statistics aren’t available on the numbers of visitors who travel to New Hanover County for craft beer stops, Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) officials said they have noticed a surge in interest.

“Overall page views to the destination website’s (wilmingtonandbeaches. com) beer-related pages – listings, events, blogs, et cetera – have risen since last year by approximately 25 percent,” said CVB spokeswoman Connie Nelson. “[Also], our visitor information center has observed an increase in interest in craft beer among walk-in visitors over the past couple of years, especially since the printed Wilmington Ale Trail guide has been available in the visitor information center.”

Among its area travel-centric endeavors, the CVB is working to promote the second annual Cape Fear Craft Beer Week.

Running March 23-April 1, the celebration will showcase local brews and craft culture through a variety of events, including an Ultimate Brewing Championship, Cape Fear Craft & Cuisine and others.

According to the Cape Fear Craft Beer Week website (capefearcraftbeerweek. com), the purpose of the events is to also shine a spotlight on the region as a whole and attract beer tourism.

Last year’s Cape Fear Craft Beer Week was composed of more than 30 events, Tomlinson said, with local breweries, bottle shops, craft beer bars and restaurants included in the planning process.

As for this year’s event, Nelson said the CVB would promote the local Craft Beer Week in a variety of ways. Among them, the CVB social media channels will feature related spotlights, Facebook live event streaming during the weeklong event and digital ads.

Tomlinson added that with the CVB’s help in marketing Cape Fear Craft Beer Week outside of the region, he expects even bigger attendance numbers over last year.

While the two signature events – the Ultimate Brewing Championship, during which brewers compete for top brews, and Cape Fear Craft & Cuisine, a dining event at Airlie Gardens with food and beer pairings – will have an increased number of tickets available, “we expect them both to sell out,” Tomlinson said.

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