Note: This article is third in a three part series on beer in Durham.
Most folks can agree that North Carolina is well-known for its beer.
To be clear, all the recent honors in the beer industry have been bestowed to our Appalachian neighbor to the West, Asheville (including a very recent nod to the city and its nine breweries as “Beer City USA”).
The Triangle region, however, may just have what it takes to step forward as a beer destination, bringing tourists and their pocketbooks to savor food and drink on a long weekend.
The Triangle already has many attributes that would make it perfect as a beer destination, the most important of which is an active brewery scene. By recent counts, Carolina’s piedmont region plays host to 12 breweries and brewpubs (to those keeping count—Triangle, Fullsteam, LoneRider, Roth, Big Boss, Carolina Brewing Co, Natty Greene’s, Aviator, Boylan Bridge, Top of the Hill, and Carolina Brewery in both Chapel Hill and Pittsboro).
Additionally, our bars and restaurants understand beer. It is commonplace to walk into any bar or restaurant and choose from at least a dozen regional and national craft beers on tap, plus dozens more in bottles.
As locals, we've come to take for granted the variety and atmosphere that many beer enthusiasts can only dream of.
Additional draws to the Triangle include a strong restaurant scene and a cluster of performance venues including the Carolina Theatre, DPAC, Man Bites Dog Theater, and Common Ground (with many opportunities to watch the performance arts in our neighbor cities as well).
Durham’s restaurant scene has received lots of national press in recent years, with the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrborro metropolitan area being selected in 2008 as Bon Appetit’s Foodiest Small Town in America, and recent articles in the New York Times featuring our farm-to-fork establishments.
The emphasis on local ingredients is making its way to the Triangle’s beer scene, as described in the earlier feature on Fullsteam Brewery.
North Carolina’s Triangle has a steady flow of business travelers,
which provides the region with a readily reachable market of visitors capable of extending
their trips by a weekend. Reaching this
market and convincing them to spend time and money in local establishments will
be the obstacle in making our region a beer destination.
To be clear, there are challenges faced by beer travelers, the biggest of which being the considerable distance separating breweries and brewpubs in our region.
No one staying in Durham would be comfortable trekking to Holly Springs and Raleigh on a beer crawl if they had to travel by car back to their hotel, for instance.
Recently, some enterprising companies have begun to offer bus tours of breweries in the region; however, this option may not appeal to people that don’t want to be constrained by a set schedule.
Additionally, many beers made
in the Triangle are not available for purchase outside of the Piedmont. As such, marketing the region as a beer
destination will be critical in attracting out-of-state visitors to the region.
A successful campaign would need to pair visitors’ bureaus from multiple municipalities (which at times can seem a Herculean feat) with a beer industry group such as the NC Brewers Guild.
Despite the challenges, it is easy to imagine North Carolina’s Triangle evolving into a full-fledged beer destination.
As a region, we generally appreciate beer
(giving rise to Durham and regional fixtures like Tyler’s Tap Room and All About Beer
magazine) and we have the events and overall relaxed atmosphere sought by beer enthusiasts.
If the region is able to position itself properly, it can increase tourism and help to expand both the tax base and number of available jobs. The precedent for alcohol-as-economic-development exists, notably two hours West with the Yadkin Valley Wine Trail, but the creation of a successful campaign will hinge on the ability of local establishments and governments to cooperate in the region's marketing -- something that can be difficult at times.