After their first four successful years of operating BearWaters Brewing in Waynesville, North Carolina, the owners knew they needed to expand. They set their sights on nearby Canton, a paper mill town with a struggling economy that could use the breath of fresh air this brewery had to offer. NCIF provided financing to acquire a historic downtown property right next to the Pigeon River, and the brewery has proven to be a lynchpin for the revitalization of Canton. Owners Kevin Sandefur and Art O’Neill acknowledge that their success and their superior craft beer is largely reliant on the pristine water quality in the Rough Creek Watershed.
“Water is everything,” says Kevin. “Beer Is 95 percent water, so the better the quality of the water, the better the end result is for the beer. The secret is out that Western NC has some really great water quality and, that’s why you see a lot of major national breweries coming to capitalize on that natural resource.”
And they are committed to protecting it.
“We want to be about educating people on how to protect the watershed, why water quality is important and why we as a community have to protect our surroundings and do all we can to keep our rivers clean,” says Art. “The more we know about water and how important water is, the greater the chances are that this community can sustain itself year after year.”
Bearwaters’ commitment to the environment and sustainability can be seen throughout the business. They use solar-generated heat, rainwater collection system, and have built a river access point right outside the brewery for the public to enjoy. Most recently, they’ve added manufacturing to their list of accomplishments, and are producing a unique 8-pack of cans for local retail, using 100 percent recycled material, with each beer linked to a local environmental preservation cause that can be tracked on their website.
Fullsteam Brewery, located in Durham’s Ellerbe Creek Watershed, creates “plow to pint” beer that is enlisting neighboring farmers, foragers and agricultural entrepreneurs to help build a Southern Beer Economy, one pint at a time. They use local ingredients like sweet potatoes, pears, figs and paw paws, as well as locally farmed and malted grain from fellow North Carolina NCIF borrower Epiphany Craft Malt.
As Fullsteam continued to grow, NCIF provided financing to Fullsteam that helped it acquire kegs, install a new canning line and expand its distribution to more than 800 stores in North and South Carolina. In addition to supporting local farms and the local food system, Fullsteam’s success has also helped transform Durham’s Central Park area, and the company provides 25 well-paying jobs, and is part of the Durham Living Wage Project. And in 2018, Fullsteam became the first brewery to win three Good Food Awards in one year! The Good Food Awards recognize producers of food and beverage who are growing or making authentic, high-quality products that are socially- and sustainably-minded.
“Water is the foundation of what we do. While we love working with farmed and foraged ingredients, we’re only able to pursue our passion for distinctly Southern beer because we start with good, clean water.”
-Sean Wilson, Owner, Fullsteam Brewery
Ecusta Brewing sits at the entrance of Pisgah National Forest—a mecca of East coast outdoor recreation, from mountain biking to tubing and kayaking. Named after the Cherokee word for the Davidson River (“Ecusta,” meaning “distant”), that runs by its back door, Ecusta Brewing has embraced the brewery’s surroundings, branding itself as an outdoor recreation brewery. (It’s tagline is “Get Distant”). A loan from NCIF helped Ecusta Brewing establish its Tap Room.
Owner Josh Chambers knows that the area’s abundant natural resources are a huge part of both his beer’s quality, and his brewery’s personality, and he is conscious about using them responsibly.
“The need for fresh, clean water is huge,” says Josh. “It’s the number one ingredient in beer. It’s the reason there are so many breweries moving into the area. I believe western North Carolina beer has a unique flavor and a higher quality because of our water resources.”
It goes without saying that Josh is sustainably-minded in everything he does. He used recycled crates that his brewing equipment came in to make furniture. The tables and back bar are all made from one tree, a dying poplar that Josh saw an opportunity to repurpose. The sign out front is made from sheets of copper leftover from an electrician. The list goes on.
“We want to use all of our natural resources in a way that ensures that they are there for future generations of people to enjoy.”