FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The popularity of the craft brewing industry is evident in Eastern North Carolina.
Two breweries in the region– Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewing in Farmville and Mother Earth Brewing Company in Kinston –have experienced tremendous success since their opening. Locally, Stephen and Inez Ribustello, who own and operate On the Square, saw the time was ripe to open a microbrewery here and plan to open the business on Main Street in the next six-to-12 six months.
“I love the idea of it. If they make great beer, the people will come out of the woodwork to come there and visit it,” said Chuck Strickland, warehouse manager/ assistant brewer at Duck-Rabbit. He said the craft brewing industry is doing well in North Carolina, with Asheville being named “Beer City USA” four years in a row.
“I expect craft brewing to continue to do well,” said Paul Philippon, owner of Duck-Rabbit. To Philippon, the explosion of the craft brewing industry follows the trend of people “caring about consuming local products.”
Since opening its doors 10 years ago, Duck-Rabbit has found its place in the Farmville community, with regulars coming in on Friday evenings to mingle and enjoy beer that’s produced in-house.
“I think it’s a point of pride,” said Philippon.”It’s a place for people to connect with something that’s produced locally.”
Strickland tied the success of the craft brewing industry to the downturn in the economy.
“People realize when you’re trying to fix the economy, you do it one dollar at a time amidst your own neighborhood,” Strickland said. “If people have less money to spend, they want to spend it on a more high-quality product.”
The Duck-Rabbit brewers, in particular, are known as the “dark beer specialists,” and are best known for their “milk stout,” a malty beer with a hint of sweetness, Strickland said. The brewery produces 8,000 barrels of beer each year and distributes the brew in seven different states.
Trent Mooring and his father-in-law, Stephen Hill, opened Mother Earth in downtown Kinston in 2008, and have seen a resurgence of the downtown area since then.
“We’ve created 21 jobs, so that’s pretty substantial to the downtown development,” Mooring said. “We’re really turning Kinston into more of a destination-type area … We’re buying houses in the neighborhood and revitalizing them, turning it into an arts district.”
When Mother Earth opened, there was “virtually nothing going on” in downtown Kinston, said Kevin Graham, who handles public relations for the brewery. Today, Mother Earth has become such a popular tourist destination that the North Carolina Department of Transportation has put signs for the brewery on Highway 70.
“We have people from Germany. We have people from New York,” Mooring said.
Since the opening of Mother Earth, a music club and Asian grill called the “Red Room” has opened just around the corner, and it attracts a younger crowd to the downtown.
“It just brings more of a hip vibe to the town,” Mooring said. Another restaurant, the Chef and the Farmer, adds to the atmosphere in downtown Kinston, he said.
“We’d like to make this a place people could spend the weekend,” Graham said.
Mother Earth features a tap room modeled after a European-style bar where people can socialize and an outdoor beer garden and offers tours of the brewing company from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the hour.
Last year, the volume of Mother Earth’s beer production was 5,500 barrels, with each barrel containing 31 gallons of brew.
“It’s just about doubled in volume every year since we’ve been here,” Graham said. The brewery produces everything from Hefeweizen, a pale ale, to beer infused with flavors such as peach and raspberry and aged in barrels.