‘Brunch bill’ would make distiller industry thrive in NC

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Father and son team Bill and Andrew Norman work to the tune of humming copper pipes and pouring grain every day in Greensboro's south end.

"Really not a bad way to spend the day with your father, being out there and following your passion," Andrew Norman said.

They're making whiskey, vodka, gin and more in the business that's been humming for six months now, Fainting Goat Spirits.

"We're one of the biggest growing states right now for craft distillers," said Owner Bill Norman.

A bill has been getting a lot of talk in the state for what it does for restaurants, allowing them to serve alcoholic beverages before noon on Sundays with county permission. But the bill does much more than that, doing several things to help boost the distilling industry by rolling back regulations.

Let's say you go for a tasting at a local distillery and you like what you taste, and you want to go ahead and make a purchase. Under current North Carolina law, the distiller is only allowed to sell you one bottle per person per year. If you want more you have to go to your local ABC store.

If this bill becomes law that limit gets bumped up to five bottles, which distillers say can really help their business.

"Especially if you're coming in from out of town or out of state and come for a tour, to capture that sale immediately certainly benefits our business," Bill Norman said.

Norman says the same amount of taxes still go to the state. Fainting Goat has sold over 800 bottles since September and if the rules were different those numbers would at least double.

"Us smaller distilleries can end up doing more experimentation that the big boys can't really afford at the time because they're cranking out so much," said Andrew Norman.

That ability to experiment with flavor is a big pull for the consumer. The bill would create a simplified permit process, allowing distilleries to conduct tastings outside of their shops.

"Like a brewer we would be able to go out and do tastings at craft fares and also in the ABC stores as well," Bill Norman said.

Norman says their industry is directly tied to agriculture, as the distillery brings in roughly 16,000 pounds of grain from local North Carolina farms every month.

Another bill would allow nonprofits to raffle off or sell these local liquor bottles at charitable auction.

Alamance County Sen. Rick Gunn is a main sponsor of both these bills, saying, "We all recognize that our craft distiller industry is growing. This bill will help them grow their business, create jobs and grow the North Carolina economy."