For brewers, distillers, it's all about the craft

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Lee Katrincic, co-owner of Durham Distillery.

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By John Trump
Carolina Journal

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The ongoing effort to loosen rules and regulations on North Carolina distillers, brewers and winemakers isn’t about alcohol.

It’s not about drinking, nor the promotion of it. Alcohol has poisoned bodies and relationships. It has decimated families and left lasting scars. I have some of my own.

Someone asked me, considering my writing on the industry, what I’ve done to promote responsible drinking. I told her, first, I don’t promote drinking, per se. I do, however, promote free markets, jobs, innovation and entrepreneurship. I think we should honor tradition and legacies — all legal, of course — without unwarranted government intrusion and noxious lists of guidelines, rules, codes, regulations, and laws.

It isn’t my place to tell adults how to live their lives or what to put into the bodies or how. It isn’t yours, either. It’s their freedom to choose, and the benefits or consequences of their choice is theirs to celebrate or to bear. That being said, I would suggest people drink within their means and to never drink and operate anything with a motor or even pedals.

I do enjoy a good alcoholic beverage, whether that’s a spirit, beer, or wine. I like the way it tastes and the way it smells. I enjoy its characteristics and complexities, and I think about how it was made and by whom. In all my years of visiting wineries and breweries and distilleries, I have never met a person who had too much and failed to realize it. At these places I have yet to meet an unfriendly, loud or outwardly obnoxious person. I’m not saying these people don’t exist, but in a setting of a winery or brewery, they are anomalies.

It’s not about ethanol or about getting drunk. It’s about community and sharing. Alcohol can even have some health benefits, but moderation, as in everything, is key. Drinking too much is wrongheaded, anti-social, and inexcusable.

Government guidelines suggest no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. A glass of beer or wine and a jigger of liquor each contain the same amount. Remember, alcohol is alcohol, so there’s no reason for prejudice here. Why they’re treated differently is beyond me. As Prohibition proved, people are going to drink alcohol, regardless of whether it’s legal or restricted.

Large-scale producers of alcohol offer lip service to responsible drinking while pumping out tanker after tanker of cheap yet often tasteless and putrid liquid. They’re serving a big U.S. market, for sure, and I wish them continued success. But these people aren’t composed of craftsmen or artisans. Rather, they’re mill workers, foremen and plant managers. Brands owned by billionaires from companies operating internationally and headquartered around the world, replete with high-paid lawyers and lobbyists and more marketing money than they can reasonably spend.

It’s time North Carolina lawmakers, specifically, begin to make the distinction and promote our state’s history and people’s passion to recognize and enhance it. People such as Jeremy Norris in Benson and Cody Bradford in Asheville. George Smith and Buck Nance in North Wilkesboro and Vann McCoy in Mount Airy. Todd and Suzie Ford and John Marrino in Charlotte. Bill Sherrill in Whitsett and Kristie and Patrik Nystedt in Raleigh. Frank Hobson and Charlie and Ed Shelton in the Yadkin Valley.

As Rep. John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg, so poignantly said during the debate over Senate Bill 155, “Alcohol’s not always about drinking. Sometimes it’s about the craft.”

For North Carolina’s craft distillers, brewers, and vintners, that’s all it’s about.


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