A vibrant brewery scene in the Tar Heel state brought Gov. Roy Cooper to Durham on Thursday to proclaim April "N.C. Beer Month."
Ponysaurus, one of more than a handful of independent breweries in the Bull City, hosted Cooper. There are 258 craft breweries in North Carolina, a number that has quadrupled since 2010. The North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild has celebrated N.C. Beer Month for the past six years.
Cooper touted the economic impact breweries have had on the state — more than $2 billion annually, according to the Brewers Association. More than 10,000 jobs can be linked to craft breweries here, Cooper said.
"North Carolina's growing craft beer industry is a growing economic engine for our state," Cooper said. "Breweries help cities big and small by creating jobs and bringing visitors and locals together."
Cooper recalled how he recently lost a wager of craft beer to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on the outcome of the ACC Tournament. Cooper said he was disappointed that UNC lost to Virginia in the championship game but he knows Northam received the superior six-pack.
Cooper also toured Ponysaurus, which recently was named a "Next Level Brewery" by Food & Wine magazine.
"Durham has become a national destination for lovers of craft food and beverages, thanks in no small part to independent brewers," said Keil Jansen, brewmaster and co-owner of Ponysaurus. "We're thrilled to be a part of what makes the Bull City such a great destination."
The brewpub era in North Carolina began in 1985 with a new state law that let breweries sell directly to consumers. The Weeping Radish in Grandy, an unincorporated community in Currituck County, was the first brewpub in North Carolina. Six years later, Red Oak Brewery opened in Greensboro before moving to its current home in Whitsett. It's the second-oldest, continuously operating microbrewery in the state.
More than 50 new breweries opened in the state since last April, according to the Brewers Association.
The first recorded brewery in North Carolina dates to 1774. Single Brothers Brewery and Distillery opened in Salem and operated until 1813. But the suds didn't always flow here. Statewide prohibition was enacted in 1908, as North Carolina was the first state in the South to turn the tap off. Federal prohibition followed in 1920 before it was repealed in 1933. It took two more years before legal alcohol was sold again in North Carolina.
The state's renaissance in brewing also has benefited the travel industry, said Visit NC executive director Wit Tuttell.
"Interest in craft beer clearly inspires travel," Tuttel said. "All of our breweries reflect the character of the place where the beer is made."
Cooper didn't leave Ponysauraus empty-handed. They presented him with a "Don't Be Mean to People" six-pack and an aide was quick to pay for the brew after pictures were taken.
"This is a celebration of our state's brewing community and brewers," Craft Brewers Guild executive director Andrew Lemley said. "The goal is to get out there, celebrate your favorite brewer and have fun responsibly."