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North Carolina Beer Franchise Law

Here in Asheville, we have witnessed nothing short of a beer renaissance ­ An all out force of reinvention regarding the quality, perception and economy of brewing beer. The family of brewers keeps growing and expanding, tapping new and old markets, and there has been no outward signs of slowing. The Asheville Brewers Alliance boasts new members and was formed to assist in making Asheville a beer tourism hot spot. New Belgium, Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues recently landed here, further bolstering the area as a beer mecca.

But what do the folks down in Raleigh have to say about Asheville’s beer industry. Surprisingly (in contrast to the fringe statement regarding cesspools and sin), our government has recently articulated the public policy of the State to promote craft brewing as a worthy goal. Certain laws have been amended or scuttled to help pave the way to make it easier and lawful for brewers to make their beer. But one regulatory rubric, often described in brewing circles as antiquated, remains: The “three-­tier” distribution system.

The three-­tier system is filled with regulatory intricacies and is difficult to understand and even more difficult to navigate. That is where the Asheville Law Group can help. The three­-tier system is a regulatory scheme that requires a middleman in the distribution process between the brewer and the retailer. That middleman is the distributor or the wholesaler. In a world controlled by big gun brewers like Anheuser­ Busch, the scheme makes sense in order to ensure fairness and prevent total control of a market. But in a world of ever ­increasing awareness and fondness of smaller, craft breweries, like that of Asheville, the difference between wholesaler distribution and self­ distribution may well be that slight profit margin one needs to stay open and keep brewing.The regulatory scheme contains exemptions for craft breweries with certain minimum and maximum output, and it is important to know exactly where your brewery falls. However, the scheme also contains a number of contractual requirements between the brewer, the wholesaler, and the retailer, known as beer franchise laws, that apply to all breweries and need to be properly vetted for inclusion or exclusion.

At Asheville Legal, we have worked with small breweries since the inception of the Asheville Brewers Alliance. He is knowledgeable of the regulatory scheme, the contractual requirements, and the distribution issues that arise. Whether you are an established brewer in town, or considering joining the movement, it is important to seek sound advice on this very difficult topic.

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