Beer plays an important role in North Carolina’s history.
Just ask University Libraries staff and local beer historians Richard Cox, David Gwynn and Erin Lawrimore.
“North Carolina beer history is, for better and worse, North Carolina history,” says Cox, digital technology consultant. “It touches upon the labor movement, civil rights, the women’s movement, and the current trend towards local and craft beer, among so much more. It’s about agriculture, small businesses, main street revitalization, and the history of place.”
As an extension of Well Crafted NC, a research project focused on documenting the history of beer and brewing in North Carolina, “North Carolina Triad Beer: A History” was published last month as part of The History Press’s American Palate series.
In the book, Cox, Gwynn, and Lawrimore narrate the 250-year long history of the Triad brewing industry, from early Moravian communities to the operators of nineteenth-century saloons and from Big Beer factories to modern craft breweries.
The Triad was home to one of North Carolina’s earliest brewery operations in the Moravian community of Bethabara. Easy access by rail and then highways attracted national breweries, and starting in the 1960s, the region began producing beer for companies like Miller and Schlitz. The passage of the “Pop the Cap” legislation led to an explosion of craft beer and brewpubs, and in 2019, three of the top five producing craft breweries in North Carolina were anchored in the area.
The research behind the book included archiving business records and marketing materials, conducting oral history interviews, and even studying beer bottles – there’s a lot you can tell about the social and economic state of North Carolina just by looking at the label.
“It’s amazing to think that what started as a small effort by three people to document five craft breweries in downtown Greensboro has grown to have a national reputation and encompass over 70 oral history interviews and hundreds, if not thousands, of archived material from across the state that is now available to researchers and beer lovers alike,” said Cox.
“North Carolina Triad Beer: A History” hit the shelves on July 19 and is available for purchase at Amazon and your local bookstore.
Learn more about Well Crafted NC at wellcraftednc.com.
Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications