Crowdfunding Beer

13th October 2014

by Abby Reimer

Stephanie and Dustin Williams were in graduate school at UNC-Chapel Hill when they ran into a problem.

They wanted to start drinking better beer, but didn’t always have the money.

So they borrowed a friend’s “Mr. Beer Kit” and tried making their own. And they tried again, and again.

“It was terrible,” Stephanie Williams said.

But eventually, they got the hang of it.

Seven years later the Williams and their friends Anna MacDonald Dobbs and Ryan Dobbs, are starting Regulator Brewery.

The nanobrewery will supply at least 75 percent of its ingredients from local farms and is scheduled to open in spring in Hillsborough. The team used a Kickstarter online crowdfunding campaign to pay for equipment. 

The campaign surpassed its $11,000 goal, making $13,793 with 13 days left.

“Trying to build a local, community-based business, it (the Kickstarter) seemed like a cool way to do that,” Dustin Williams said.

The campaign also allowed them to gauge community interest, Stephanie Williams said.

“The Kickstarter community had supported us a lot and the Hillsborough community,” Dustin Williams said. 

Regulator is starting small, on purpose. They’re keeping their full-time jobs, and only making three regular beers to start.

Stephanie Williams said they plan to grow only as fast as their suppliers.

The brewery will sell to bottle shops and restaurants in the area. They’re tentatively planning to open a tasting room in Hillsborough once the brewery is open, Dustin Williams said.

But for now, they’re happy to keep it small.

“We’re not looking to distribute even statewide,” Dustin Williams said.

The Beer

The Regulator team first got serious about taking their beer further at last year’s Homebrew for Hunger in Carrboro.

People kept on asking where they could buy the beer, and they ended up winning first place.

“We just stayed up for a few hours after talking about it, asking ‘could we really do this?’” Dustin Williams said.

The team continued competing, winning first place at the 2014 NC Hops and Roots Fest and third place at the 2014 Nash Street Homebrew Club Pale Ale Competition.

The brewery’s biggest supplier is Farm Boy Farms in Pittsboro, which grows American Malting Barley Association recommended barley, wheat and hops for microbrewers and home brewers.

Dan Gridley, owner of Farm Boy Farms, first started growing ingredients for beer, there were 32 microbreweries in the area. Now there are 140 microbreweries.

The farm cannot grow enough to supply all their customers, and has recently partnered with Grady Farms in Seven Springs to grow more AMBA 2-row grains.

With an “exploding North Carolina craft beer industry,” Gridley said microbreweries must find a niche in the increasingly saturated market.

Crank Arm Brewing Co., for instance, uses milo from Farm Boy Farms to brew “gluten-less” beer. The brewery just released its the first registered gluten-free beer in North Carolina on Friday. 

Stephanie Williams said Regulator’s small-scale production and commitment to local ingredients set them apart from other breweries. The brewery will start with 50 barrels a year on a one-barrel system.

They will start brewing a kolsch, a hazelnut brown ale and an IPA, along with seasonal beers like their pepper pale ale, which just won first place at PepperFest in Chapel Hill, Dustin Williams said.

 They are also planning on polling their Kickstarter supporters to create a “crowd-funded” beer.            

More Than Just Kale

9th October 2014

by Abby Reimer 

When Sprout, a Nourish venture, started its community supported agriculture program back in 2012, they had about 100 customers.

But by last semester, the numbers had dwindled down to about 25.

The bundles had too many leafy things, Sprout Co-Chair Gabriele Juskeviciute said. Plus, you had to commit to six weeks of produce.

How much kale can one person eat?

“Eventually some customers weren’t satisfied with the types of the produce,” Juskeviciute said. “It was kind of hit or miss because it was whatever was in season that week.”

Sprout received an email from Richard Holcomb, owner of Coon Rock Farm, where Sprout got its produce.

He noticed the numbers were going down, and suggested a partnership with Bella Bean Organics, an online “farmers’ market” that delivers meat, produce and other local food stuffs.

Holcomb and Jamie DeMent launched Bella Bean Organics back in 2009, partnering with local businesses and farms, like Chapel Hill Creamery, Melina’s Fresh Pasta and Counter Culture.

“We thought it was time for a change,” Juskeviciute said.

Bella Bean orders have a minimum order of $20, but those ordering through Sprout have no minimum order, no delivery charge and no sales tax.

Bella Bean is also donating 20 percent of proceeds to Sprout, which uses all its profits to fund Nourish’s international community-development projects. 

“We’re all about feeding people, so helping provide access to better food in places in the world where it’s hard to find is right up our alley,” DeMent said in an email.

Students can order on Sprout’s website, either a la carte or a “suggested box.”

The suggested box is $20 and has five items every week, and it’s not just greens, Sprout Co-Chair Nisha Saxena said.

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photo by Jessica Cabrera 

Before, Sprout’s goods were delivered to the Campus Y. Now, they’re dropped off weekly at the Union, a switch that helps Sprout appeal to more students, Saxena said.

In its third week, the partnership looks like a success, Saxena said. About 35 people have ordered, and there have been repeat customers.

“We do feel a bit better about this,” Saxena said. “Students and faculty really need this resource on campus and I’m really happy we’re able to bring it to them.”

More variety, like bread or fruit, encourages students without kitchens to order, Saxena said.

While Sprout doesn’t mark up costs, prices can be high compared to Harris Teeter or Trader Joe’s.

For instance, a dozen Coon Rock Farm eggs cost $6 through the ordering system. Organic eggs at Trader Joe’s start at $3.79, and Harris Teeter sells them for $3.99.

Weaver Street in Carrboro sells a dozen eggs from Lattas Egg Ranch in Hillsborough for $2.79.

But Bella Bean’s prices change, like all other produce, based on season, Saxena said.  

Another UNC-CH group, The Sonder Market, is developing an on-campus food cart stocked with locally sourced goods.

Saxena said Sprout doesn’t see the market as a competitor, and have already discussed a future partnership.

“We both have a similar goal,” she said.

The New Southern Beer Economy

3rd October 2014

by Cassandra Ling, photography by Abby Reimer

A wooden lit-up star overlooks the jumbled murmurs of a humming crowd. Orange family-style tables shelter the coat of beer foam spread sporadically on the concrete floor.

A rowdy group starts serenading with the happy birthday song in an off-pitch, beer-buzzed tone.

Sean Wilson, owner of Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery, carefully watches the gears of this complex machine in action, soaking up the babbles of the conversations and celebrations. Nobody knows who he is, but he doesn’t mind.

Wilson is tall, with his jeans as black as his hair. To beat the summer heat, a short-sleeve light denim shirt shields his broad shoulders, and rests neatly tucked beneath his black leather belt. He glances over to the community room where he notices a 65-year-old couple playing Trivial Pursuit, beers in hand, at the next table over.

Wilson takes a new approach to crafting beer by using an eclectic mix of ingredients like sweet potatoes, apples, basil and ginger.

But the story of Fullsteam’s success isn’t just about the beer. Instead, its success fits into a larger tale of a thriving craft-beer community that had to fight to even exist.

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Unlikely Brewers

Wilson often reminisces about how he got to this point of sitting, watching, and appreciating this community that he built around him, a surprising outcome for this transplant to North Carolina.

Fullsteam Brewery, with a backwards F, resides in the “DIY District” in Durham, N.C. next to an abandoned car dealership morphed into a bar, an upscale barbeque joint and alternating temporary food trucks. Even though this place is big enough to fit a forklift and has room to add a kitchen, it lacks the space for a bottling plant and expansion.

15 and a half miles away, another entrepreneurial brewer sips his beer delicately. Erik Myers, founder of Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough, N.C., is not a threat or competitor to Wilson, but a friend.

Myers is a large jolly type with a slight beard and somewhat bald, much different from the Wilson’s hip image. His initial interest in the craft beer industry stemmed from his fascination of science and the process of brewing beer, and his home-brewing experiments eventually made him a business owner, brewer and author.

Like Wilson, Myers is a North Carolina transplant who stayed because of the friendships and quality of life.

Strange Ingredients, Southern Beer

The breweries make beers highlighting the unfamiliar and surprising. In his Pickwick beer, Mystery Brewery’s Myers uses a variety of British hops with hints of caramel and toffee.

Wilson uses more farm, earthy ingredients in his brewing style. Yet the craft breweries share a focus on seasonal brewing.

Wilson from Fullsteam knows that most people who taste his southern craft beer might not ever set foot in the place, so he aims to make a product that embodies the sense of community in the bar.

While working at Magnolia Grill in Durham before his entrepreneurial days, Wilson learned more about southern-style food. He used this to try what no one else had, “southern seasonality for beer.”

Starting up, Wilson said he received “hate mail” about this new style of beer, and knew he was on the right track. Hate mail is a good thing? Not necessarily, but it meant that people were talking.

“We are on to something here,” he said.

His beers capture North Carolina: sweet potatoes in the Carver beer, and the forgotten paw-paw fruit, a native North-American fruit that tastes like banana caramel and rots too fast to do most people much good, in the Paw-Paw beer.

 “We want people to be curious about distinctly southern beer,” Wilson said. “But more curious about what grows here and makes our land unique.”

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A Craft Beer Revolution

Wilson and Myers don’t just share a love for brewing, but the memory and hard work of a political campaign that changed the brewing industry in North Carolina.

“Pop the Cap” campaign, spearheaded by Wilson and aided by 34 others, ignited the craft beer industry and spread wildly through the state of North Carolina, which now holds more craft breweries than any other state in the American South. Microbreweries and craft beer have changed the southern economy.

North Carolina does not have a big-scale brewing history, since the climate makes it difficult to grow barley and hops. The heat and humidity in the South made storage a nightmare, and farming tactics inconvenient. Most North Carolina beer in the 19th century was “table beer,” designed to be refreshing at meals and low in alcohol content.

For nearly 70 years, North Carolina had enforced a 6 percent alcohol cap on beer brewed and sold in the state. This made it hard for breweries to create gourmet style beers, IPAs and other types that differentiate from the light, almost tasteless lagers mostly stocking the shelves at the time.

While Wilson was attending graduate school at Duke University, with no particular interest in beer, he attended a small party on campus with a fellow classmate. He walked into the dorm, and several different brown bottles with champagne corks dressed the table proudly. A homemade label on one read “Batch #1.” He asked his friend why these flavorful, robust beers were discretely packaged. He soon found out that all of the beers he tried that night were illegal to brew and sell in North Carolina.

“It got under my skin,” Wilson said. “I should look into this, I should figure something out.”

And he did.

In 2003, 35 beer-lovers collected to take a stance on this ABV content cap of 6 percent. After hiring lobbyist Theresa Kostrzewa, this two-year grassroots movement made it all the way to the Senate floor. On Aug. 13, 2005, Governor Mike Easley signed House Bill 392 into law, which lifted the 6 percent ABV cap to 15 percent. This movement was met with resistance, but they “called, wrote and conquered” and “popped the cap,” Wilson said.

“It wasn’t about brewing high alcohol beer just to brew it,” Wilson said. “It was just being able to get rid of those shackles and have the freedom to do what we want on the beer side.”

Now that the shackles were off, the brewing community foamed over North Carolina, changing the agriculture and tourism of the state.

Margo Metzger never thought her photojournalism degree from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill would lead her into the craft beverage industry.

She is now the first executive director for the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild and is responsible for marketing, media events, tourism, and beer competitions throughout North Carolina. She fell in love with the concept of handcrafted beverages, and even more so with the craft-beer community.

“There are no TVs in breweries,” she said. “It’s a quality-of-life factor in a place where no one would expect to find one.”

Myers shares an appreciation for this North Carolina quality of life. It’s a good place to be because many are now looking to North Carolina as a popular beer state, which is transforming the economy, he said.

“It’s the California of the East Coast,” Myers said.

Growth and Community

Beer has become the economic driver of North Carolina tourism, agriculture, and community. The people in the business have a passion and love for beer, and also share that same love for each other.

“It typifies craft beer,” Wilson says. “It is misunderstood, a little counterculture, but fast moving.”

Fast moving is an understatement. Wilson goes through about 500 barrels in two days, and serves 400 accounts in the Carolinas. With hopes to expand, opening a bottling plant is an option, though there is a tug to keep the current location, which has turned into a community center.

Even with all the growth, Wilson still says his favorite part is hearing Fullsteam fill with the happy birthday song.

The kids are playing Ping-Pong, and the old couple sits setting up Trivial Pursuit. George, a local beer aficionado with his long brown hair and Beastie Boys shirt, carries in a box from the food truck to enjoy with his Hog Wash brown porter. The dogs eagerly eye the bartender for the biscuits they know are behind the bar somewhere. Nobody is glancing at a cell phone, or glued to a TV.

“Watching community happen here is the most rewarding,” Wilson said quietly.

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Brillat-Savarin is an Asshole, but You Should Read Him Anyway

15th September 2014

by Bo McMillan

As I passed through the “fucks,” “anuses” and other rote commentary nigh essential to anything by Anthony Bourdain, a comment not penned by the author himself but another reader caught my attention:

“If you love Anthony, know that he took everything he does in terms of writing from Brillat-Savarin.” (This is heartily paraphrased.) Outrage ensued. I would track down this Brillat-Savarin and defend my hero to death.

It’s taken me almost a year, but I’ve finally encountered the man who called himself “The Professor.” And I have to say, as a food-lover to all food-lovers, that prick (yes, he is a prick) is indeed essential.

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Food 101: Hogs, Dining Halls and “Real Food”

5th September 2014

by Abby Reimer, photography by Alexandria Huber

We went to Fair Local Organic’s “Food 101” last night. Speakers, from UNC-Chapel Hill professors to a local meat distributor, discussed North Carolina’s food system.

Here’s what you missed:

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Dr. Steve WingAssociate Professor, Department of Epidemiology

Industrial food production is a big deal in North Carolina— eastern North Carolina has the densest area of hog production and three of the top ten turkey producing counties in the country.

Industrial food production makes food cheap. But this cheap food comes at an environmental, social and health cost, said Wing.

“The mass food supply here in this country comes from these facilities and that’s why food is cheap,” Wing said. “The food is cheap because the workers pay with their health, because the people who live near these communities pay with their health and their quality of life.”

CAFOs, concentrated animal feeding operations, harm nearby communities by storing and praying fecal matter, Wing said.

“They (CAFOs) are not present where people with political clout live,” Wing said. “And that means wealthy people and white people.”

On Sept. 3, environmental agencies filed a complaint with the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights claiming that North Carolina’s hog-industry regulation discriminates against minority communities in eastern North Carolina.

Dr. Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld— ProfessorDepartment of Anthropology

“Farmers’ markets, knowing your farmer, local food is great. But that’s not going to change things.”

For Colloredo-Mansfeld, who studies local food systems, broad university and business partnerships are the only way to change harmful industrial food systems.   

Larger businesses, like Lowes Foods, can give farmers the stability they need to make the change by creating large and efficient distribution networks, he said.

“In trying to make this change, we need to get out of Chapel Hill and get out of this bubble we get into as Tar Heels and work with partners and work with businesses,” Colloredo-Mansfeld said.  

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Jennifer Curtis—Co-CEO, Firsthand Foods

Curtis is an unlikely owner for a meat company: a woman when most in the industry are men, a former vegetarian and environmental activist.

But she saw the danger in industrial farm production and wanted to do something different: buying whole animals, all pasture raised without antibiotics, from over 50 regional farmers.  

Firsthand Foods’ meats are about two times more expensive than industrially produced meat, Curtis said.

But demand is growing.

“All meat is not bad,” she said, referring back to CAFOs. “We’re always going to be ambivalent about eating animals. What I want you to think about is being a discerning customers.”

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Scott Weir— Aramark District Manager, Carolina Dining Services

Serving 4.3 million meals every year, Carolina Dining Services has a huge sway on the central North Carolina food system.

16 percent of dining hall food counts as “real food,” Weir said.

According to Fair Local Organic, fair food is either fair, local, humane and community-based, or ecologically sound.

Even with partnerships with sustainable food businesses like Firsthand Foods, Carolina Dining Services must rely on broadline food distributors, like Cisco, for over 70 percent of campus food, Weir said.

Campus Dining Services plans on increasing its “real food” use by one percent each year, Weir said.

Weir said feeding UNC-Chapel Hill sustainably, and keeping waste down, is a challenge.

“It’s not a linear answer, there’s a lot of gray, Weir said.  “It’s not black and white.”

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Melissa Tinling—Food Corps

Tingling got her start in FLO at UNC-Chapel Hill and now works for Food Corps in Guilford County, a nonprofit organization focusing on children’s nutrition.

The National School Lunch Program provides schools with $2.75 for every free lunch. That goes down to 70 cents for food after overhead, Tingling said.

With millions of children in the U.S. getting most of their daily calories from schools, this just isn’t cutting it, Tingling said.

To combat childhood obesity and malnutrition, hands-on food education and a strong local food economy is necessary, Tingling said. 

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4th May 2014

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by Abby Reimer

photography by Alex Dixon

Solving the riddle of healthy-food accessibility is a difficult task—one that is deeply layered and complicated. A group of students at UNC-Chapel Hill believe they’ve found the answer to healthy-food inaccessibility on campus, which they call an urban food desert. They are developing The Sonder Market, a student-run cooperative grocery, but are they targeting the right market?

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Speakeasy

4th May 2014

by Emily Storrow

photography by Kylie Shryock 

The Crunkleton is a bar that walks the line. Its interior is rustic, yet refined, and it operates with a classy humility. Owner Gary Crunkleton constantly strives for that balance, and sources inspiration from surprising places—including his own ADHD, childhood memories of going to church and years as a Deadhead.

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A Food Guide to Amsterdam

3rd May 2014

by Della Romano

Uneven rooflines—some jutting out onto the street, others sinking into the structure and still others crooked. Massive windows on each building allow a peek into the lives of the city folk. Canals between every other street reflect the cityscape. You’re in Amsterdam.

 Beyond a gorgeous city, you’ll find a culture based on liberties and freedom. Having fun in Amsterdam is a requirement, and it’s easy to satisfy. Although not known for its food, the Netherlands does not disappoint in cuisine. The flavor combinations are not particularly unique or unexpected, but what the Dutch cook, they cook well.

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Here are some of the more traditional foods you’ll find in Amsterdam:

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The Solution to Ballooning Poultry

22nd April 2014

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writing and graphics by Alex Dixon

When Ba-Da Wings closed in Carrboro in the fall of 2013, it had consistently raised its chicken wing prices. And it wasn’t just Ba-Da, wing prices were, and still are, increasing, forcing restaurants to shift the price to consumers or close completely. But now, restaurants are increasingly capitalizing on a trend to fight thinning margins and volatility of chicken wing prices.

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Tiramisu: A family recipe

8th April 2014

by Della Romano

image Grandma’s handwriting scribbled on a notecard is barely legible. Trying to decipher each letter, desperately hoping that’s a capital T meaning Tablespoon. Also wondering if she copied this recipe down correctly from my aunt. Ingredients are measured by the metric system—in grams and liters—instead of our customary ounces and cups.

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