Battle brewing over limits on craft beer in North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A battle is brewing at the North Carolina General Assembly over regulations that currently limit the amount of beer a craft brewery can brew and sell without having to hire a third-party distributor.

Currently, craft breweries in North Carolina must stay below a 25,000 barrel-a-year cap in order to sell their own product without going through a distributor.

A group of lawmakers in the North Carolina House of Representatives filed HB500 in March. The bill would, among other things, lift the cap from 25,000 to 200,000 barrels a year.

A trio of breweries expected to hit the cap in the near future—Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and NoDa Brewing in Charlotte and Red Oak in the Triad—are behind the effort to lift the cap.

John Marrino, owner of Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, said the cap creates an arbitrary regulation on craft breweries that will hurt their business moving forward.

"The rules are ridiculous and they don't make any sense," Marrino said in a recent interview. "What I think the state of North Carolina should be doing is helping those breweries grow because, at the end of the day, we're manufacturers. We are taking a product which is consumed to the tune of over 6 million barrels a year in North Carolina and bringing the production to North Carolina from outside the state."

But a representative for the state's beer distributors said the proposal would create special rules that benefit only a select few craft brewers.

"It creates an unlevel playing field," Tim Kent, who represents distributors, said. "It creates a special privilege for just three brewers in North Carolina and this is a highly competitive industry with more than 5,300 brewers in the United States."

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