Wilmingtonbiz logo
Print
More News

Experts: Beer Making A Demanding But Rewarding Pursuit

By Jenny Callison, posted Aug 12, 2014
Attendees at the CIE's session on the business of beer sample local brews. (Photo by Jenny Callison)
One could argue that beer has long been an important part of Wilmington’s culture, thanks to the city’s identity as a beach and college town. Increasingly, however, entrepreneurs are looking at beer through a business lens.
 
In Wilmington and across the country, demand for craft beers is growing. Several new microbreweries have joined veteran Front Street Brewery on the local scene, and some established breweries are eyeing Wilmington as a possible expansion location. The Wilmington City Council is developing zoning regulations for breweries.
 
With this activity fermenting, Jim Roberts, executive director of University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), figured it was time to roll out the barrels, business-wise.
 
At the center’s event Monday, dubbed Business of Beer at the Beach, three experts spoke to a capacity crowd about the potential – and perils – of brewing.
 
While the product may embody good times and a mellow lifestyle, the speakers emphasized that making beer is hard work that requires thorough planning, substantial investment, attention to detail and savvy marketing.
 
David Gardner, an investor in Cary-based Fortnight Brewing Company, advised aspiring brewers to “add another zero to every number in your business plan.”
 
“If you don’t have enough money, don’t do it. Delay [your project] or change your plan,” said Dino Radosta, an investor in and operator of White Street Brewing Co. in Wake Forest.

Potential investors want to see a detailed business plan and evidence that the aspiring brewer is knowledgeable about the craft, Gardner and Radosta said. Even though there's plenty of art to beer making, that aspect of the business must be balanced with a realistic expectation of revenue and consistent quality of the product, they said.
 
Both men shared their experiences in finding just the right location for their breweries, which require large, flexible spaces with high ceilings and solid foundations. Successful breweries also need to be in high-traffic areas, with significant production and storage capacity as well as tap rooms and meeting rooms to draw visitors and boost revenue, especially in the early years of business.
 
“People like to drink beer at a brewery,” Gardner said. “Beer that has traveled will never be as good.”
 
Gardner cautioned that a would-be brewer must be a detail person.
 
“There are lots of prohibition laws still on the books. Be ready for hassle,” he said, adding that inconsistencies in inspections can also be frustrating. Conflicting mandates from inspectors resulting in do-overs drove Fortnight’s construction “a couple hundred dollars over budget,” he said.
 
Derek Allen, an attorney in Ward and Smith’s Asheville office who has worked with several startup breweries, warned that the current trend in high-hops beers has driven up the price of hops. Ensuring a predictable supply of hops is problematic because of increasing demand and unreliable harvests.
 
“If you want to make money, put a brewery on your hops farm,” he said, “although hops don’t grow well in North Carolina. Malt does.”
 
On the plus side, all three speakers emphasized the enormous personal satisfaction of beer making as well as the camaraderie that characterizes brewing communities.
 
“You would think there would be a lot of competition among all the microbreweries, but there’s not,” Allen said. “It’s more a sense of ‘It’s us against the big guys.’”

Join The Discussion

Similar Stories

Book On Business

Bob2017

The 2017 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!
Print Only
$24.95 - Qty
Print + Excel File
$79.95 - Qty

In The Current Issue

Tarokic Tackles Immigration Law

Long before last year’s election, attorney Helen Tarokic ran a busy immigration law practice in Wilmington. Tarokic, one of two North Carolina board-certified immigration specialists in Wilmington, opened her own practice in the Port City in 2011.

Legal Elite Features 22 Area Attorneys

The group of 669 lawyers who made Business North Carolina magazine’s Legal Elite list this year included a couple dozen Wilmington-area lawy...

Is Cape Fear Ready For Its Close-Up?

As the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament in May nears, Wilmington-area businesses, transportation officials and tourism officials are...

Ico topnews Editor's Picks

ICU Gets $14M In TLC At New Hanover Regional Medical Center

Cece Nunn - Apr 21, 2017 Trending News

Attorneys Named To Super Lawyers

Staff Reports - Apr 21, 2017 Trending News

RiverLights, New Homes Throughout Region Showcased During Parade Of Homes

Staff Reports - Apr 21, 2017 Trending News

With Downtown Store, Memory Lane Comics Turns A New Page

Cece Nunn - Apr 20, 2017 Trending News
Insurance Brokers

James E. Moore Insurance Agency, Inc.

The James E. Moore Insurance Agency was founded in 1954 and since that time has continued to be one of the Independent Insurance industry’s leaders in bringing quality products to our clients across t ...more

Ico trending Trending News

Ico newsinimages News in Pictures

Have a tip, pitch or guest column?  Send us a tip.

Gallery Galleries

Video Videos

Wilmington's Most Intriguing People of 2016
WilmingtonBiz Expo - Key Note Lunch with Keynote Lunch with Chip Mahan - 2016

Register to Continue Seeing Wilmington's Best Business Coverage!


There are three ways to register for free.

Sign in with LinkedIn, Facebook or create an account:



Already registered? Login here.

Your free registration includes:

  • Access to 10 articles per month on WilmingtonBiz.com
  • Email updates to stay informed on local business news
  • A mobile optimized website
  • Advanced notification of Business Journal events
  • Management of your digital and print subscriptions
Laptop iphone ipad