North Carolina’s red-hot craft beer industry is cheering the results of a new poll showing that churchgoers and residents in urban, rural and suburban areas all want to let the small brewers distribute their own product rather than going through well-entrenched distributors.
The poll results may help the craft brewers as they lobby the N.C. General Assembly to change a law that forces microbreweries to relinquish their distribution rights after hitting a 25,000-barrel annual production cap. Veteran Raleigh political operative Paul Shumaker managed the poll of 800 registered voters. It had a 3.5% margin of error.
The poll shows 77% of those who attend church support removing the ban, along with 79% of rural residents. Among those who don’t attend church, 83% favor a change.
Craft brewers contend money spent on North Carolina-made beer stays within the state, while industry giants Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NA and MolsonCoors Brewing Co. mostly operate in other states and nations. AB InBev is based in Belgium, while MolsonCoors, which also owns Miller, is headquartered in Canada.
The state’s wholesale distributors have convinced lawmakers to retain the current system in recent legislative sessions, arguing it provides more control than opening the gates to smaller rivals. Other states consider North Carolina a model for good industry regulation, according to the North Carolina Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association. The big wholesalers now control about 96% of all beer sales, according to the craft-beer lobby, which calls itself Craft Freedom.
Both sides are represented by some of Raleigh’s best-known lobbyists. The distributors’ ranks include former N.C. State Sen. Tom Apodaca, who resigned from the legislature last summer.
The poll also shows that providing more distribution opportunity for craft-beer companies does the near-impossible of uniting Trump and anti-Trump voters. Both camps show strong support for the lifting the cap.