Brewery attorney Derek Allen considers Asheville’s beverage industry in 2019

Derek Allen, partner at Allen Stahl + Kilbourne and nonvoting legal counsel for the Asheville Brewers Alliance, reviews local beverage industry highlights of 2019.

On-site sales of cocktails at distilleries. Having a drink at the source gives consumers a chance to “feel” the personality of the brand, meet the makers and be part of the story. It allows manufacturers to sell the product directly to consumers with no transportation or distribution costs. In 2019, the N.C. General Assembly made these advantages available to distilleries. Look for retail tasting bars and a boom in the number of distilleries across the state.

Multiple brewery locations. How does a brewery increase on-site sales? Have a bigger taproom. Once that taproom is maxed out, time to get a new location. Local breweries have shown that multiple locations in the same town can make sense. Moreover, the best way to expand your brand’s geographic reach is to put a brick-and-mortar location in the place you’d like to be. Distribution without a physical presence is a tough business unless you’re the biggest of the big.

Consolidation of breweries/cideries. In the age of consolidation, you either get smaller or bigger. Distributing breweries of all sizes have shown a willingness to realize market reach and efficiencies over this past year. In separate deals, both New Belgium Brewing Co. and Bold Rock Hard Cider have recently entered this category.

Boozy water. Not my favorite trend. Not even close. As craft beer sales have plateaued (and are maybe down slightly year over year), the market has shown us once again that kids don’t want to drink what their parents drink. Say hello to boozy water (Zima Part II).

Decline of the traditional beer festival format. Beer festivals used to be one of the only ways to try out new beers, but with the proliferation of new breweries, bottle shops and retailers that serve craft beer, they no longer serve that purpose. The festivals in our area that continue to do well are those with very specific niches (e.g., Hi-Wire’s Stout Bout) or those that offer some element beyond craft beer, like food, music or art.

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