We’re not (really) brewing our own beer

As we have begun telling people (read: everyone we’ve ever met) about The Glass Jug, one question that keeps coming up, given that we’re homebrewers, is whether or not we will be brewing our own beer at The Glass Jug.

That is actually a more complicated question than most people realize.  While we would love to brew our own beer, it would require a much larger space and upfront investment in equipment, in addition to extra labor, and could possibly land us in trouble with the ABC commission.

The US beer market operates within the three tier system.  This basically means that:

  1. Breweries make the beer & sell it to distributors
  2. Then, distributors sell it to retailers
  3. And only then can retailers sell it to the public.

There are some common exceptions for small breweries, allowing them to self-distribute and operate their own tap rooms.  However, from our understanding of the law, a retail beer store cannot also own a brewery, because we would have too many “guest taps” to be considered a brewery tap room.

Beyond this, we have opted to open a retail bottle shop and growler filling station because we have seen the massive growth in craft breweries in North Carolina – to the tune of a 30%+ increase in the number of craft breweries in our state last year alone!  NC now has roughly 100 craft breweries.  Yes, seriously.  And all of these breweries need places to sell their beer.  While we have seen several bottle shops open over the past few years, it has not yet matched the growth we’ve seen in breweries.

But, back to the main question – we are still homebrewers at heart, so we are working on ways to get some of our own recipes into the store without necessarily brewing it on-site.  The first will be the Berlin Menagerie, which is my berliner weisse beer that I brewed alongside the crew at Raleigh Brewing Company after winning the Carolina Quarterly Brew-Off 2013.  And while we cannot legally co-brand any beer with breweries (back to the three tier issue), we do have plans to work with some of our favorite local breweries to craft some special limited release beers to put in your growlers.  We’re not ready to release any details yet, but be on the lookout for some fun and unique brews for our grand opening and on a regular basis throughout the year (trust me, we’ve already got several brews in the works we’re super excited about)!

4 Comments

  1. Clint

    Here’s an idea I’ve had if I were to ever open a beer-related commercial space…

    With the homebrewing scene getting more sophisticated, I think there’s growing interest in homebrewing barrel-aged beers. But smaller barrels have issues with too much O2 exposure and larger ones are tough to manage on a homebrew scale. But what if you used oak barrels as the base for tables at the Glass Jug and let homebrewers lease the space to barrel age their homebrew? Not sure what kind of legal/licensing hurdles that would present (perhaps this would be considered a brew-on-premises operation), but I think it could not only generate additional revenue for the store, but provide an additional marketing tool as well.

    Just a thought.

    1. Chris Creech

      Clint – sorry for the delayed response. Somehow your comment got stuck in our spam filter. I’ll have to tweak this a bit, I suppose.

      Love the idea. Curious about the logistics and legalities though. The barrel would have to be set on it’s end, so one head of the barrel would dry out. With the way barrels are built, I worry this might cause issues with leaking (letting o2 in through the top, and possible beer leakage). And I’d worry about the time it would take to clean, fill, and empty them on a somewhat regular basis. That would be time when customers couldn’t use certain tables.

      But I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. Let’s talk more about this, as I haven’t given it a lot of thought. Might be worth chatting with the folks at Bull City Homebrew right down the street to put together some sort of partnership program…could be fun.

  2. Patrick

    Hey guys,

    Really excited about you guys opening.

    I was just reading this post and the line about not being able to co-brand really jumped out at me.

    If I am not mistaken several bottle shops in the area have co-branded with breweries. Bottle Revolution/Evil Twins Mini Dingo for example. I think Sam’s just did a co-brand with Olde Hickory.

    I think you should maybe look into this more because I think if it is being brewed at a brewery and then distributed through a distributer, you are good.

    1. Chris Creech

      Hi Patrick, you are correct that several shops have done co-branded packages. Just because it was done, however, does not mean that it is actually in accordance with the regulations. I can’t speak specifically to either of the instances you mentioned, but for any bottle label, it is supposed to be sent in for approval before distribution, but that doesn’t always happen. So my guess is that either these were approved with some exception or they were not ever submitted for approval. We’re certainly continuing to look into what we can and can’t do, as we want to make sure that we get off on the right foot with the ALE and NC ABC Commission from the start!

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