BREWPUBS TO BIG BUSINESS: Over the past decade, craft breweries have taken the state of North Carolina by storm, pulling in nearly 800 million dollars in 2014 alone. However, with bigger profit margins comes more scrutiny from state alcohol regulators and a stricter adherence to N.C. statutes. Photo by Gina Smith.

Growing pains: Craft brewing comes of age

North Carolina has always had a complicated relationship with alcohol. However, alcohol has consistently been an economic driver in North Carolina, as it still is, with 130 craft breweries as of 2014 – the most of any Southern state. As the craft brewing industry in the region grows into a multimillion-dollar business, the desire to review the statutes and improve communication with state officials has come to the forefront.

The Rebirth Brass Band brought a little of the Big Easy to Burning Can 2015 at Oskar Blues Brewery's REEB Ranch.

In photos: Oskar Blues Burning Can Festival 2015

Oskar Blues Brewery hosted its 2015 Burning Can ExtravaCANza Friday and Saturday, July 17-18, at its REEB Ranch just outside of Hendersonville. Despite some complications with the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement Department, a few thunderstorms and a blistering-hot afternoon sun, brewers, performers and attendees stuck it out and had a ball.

RANCH-STYLE: Oskar Blues will refurbish many of the original buildings on the property of its REEB Ranch in Hendersonville for use as guest lodgings. Photo courtesy of Oskar Blues

Beer scout: Oskar Blues launches its first off-site project in WNC

In Colorado, Oskar Blues has plenty of side-projects. There’s CHUBurger, which is their take on a fast-casual burger joint. There’s Cyclhops, a bike cantina, where they combine a taco and tequila restaurant with REEB Cycles, their own brand of bikes. There’s the Bonewagon, a smokehouse on wheels. And they even have a farm, dubbed Hops & Heifers, where they grow hops and raise cows on spent brewing grain for their restaurants.

CAN DO: Oskar Blues is known for breaking down stereotypes about canned beer. With the release of Old Chub Nitro, it will become the first U.S. brewery to package nitrogenated beer in cans. Photo courtesy of Oskar Blues Brewery

Beer scout: Oskar Blues goes nitro

Sure, Oskar Blues is known for their great beer, but founder Dale Katechis has also made a name for the company when it comes to canned beer. It is widely credited as the first craft brewer to package in cans, and it’s been breaking down the stereotype that canned beer = bad beer for more than a decade. Soon, Oskar Blues will take it a step further and be the first U.S. brewery to package “nitro” beer in cans. Those fine, cascading bubbles will now be available in Old Chub, a malt-driven Scottish ale, thanks to a widget inside each can that will release nitrogen when the beer is opened.