From Moonshine To Microbrews


October is Archives Month. The Society of North Carolina Archivists  has proposed the theme “From Moonshine to Microbrews: North Carolina’s Brewing History.” The State Archives of North Carolina has created a display of records and artifacts chronicling major moments in the timeline of alcohol legislation in North Carolina. Come on out to the search room to see it during the month of October.

Revenue and Recreation

junaluska Junaluska Wine Co. above A Dughi store on Fayetteville Street, Raleigh, 1895 (PhC.166.4.)

Originally, alcohol was a form of revenue and recreation in early North Carolina with slight government oversight mostly in the form of requiring permits and collecting taxes. The earliest taverns were profitable, often home-based businesses providing alcoholic beverages and a gathering place for the community. These and later industries such as bottling companies and retail stores provided an income for owners and employees and revenue in taxes for the county and the state.

Temperance and Prohibition

still 100 Gallon whiskey still captured by Sheriff Hinson and deputies in Hamlet, 1909 (N_89_3_12.)

In the early 19th century, fueled by the concern for the undesirable effects of alcohol on morals and society, the Temperance Movement reached North Carolina. Concerned citizens and lawmakers called for restriction and prohibition of alcohol. At first, legislation was enacted locally in rural areas and towns. Statewide prohibition first went to ballot and failed in 1881. It was made law after an overwhelming vote in favor of 113,612 to 69,416 in 1908, ten years before the 19th Amendment brought Prohibition to the entire United States.

Legalization and Regulation

Though the nation repealed prohibition with the 21st Amendment in 1933, North Carolina kept statewide prohibition until the Legislature passed the Pasquotank Act in 1935. In 1937 a statewide local-option law was enacted and liquor could be sold in counties in state-owned stores regulated by an alcoholic control board now known as The Alcohol and Beverage Control Commission or ABC. The Commission oversees the regulation of the manufacture, sale and distribution of liquor, adding control of beer and wine with legislative acts in 1945 and 1949.

Industry and Tourism

301grf-0-1790-jeff-fisher-brewmaster-at-the-weeping-radish-brewery-and-restaurant-in-manteo-pours-malted-barley-into-a-brew-kettle-1991-drew-wilson-collection Brewmaster Jeff Fisher, pours malted barley into a brew kettle at the micro-brewery on Roanoke Island for the Weeping Radish Brewery and Restaurant in Manteo in 1991 (Items 301GRF-0-1729 and 301GRF-0-1729 from the Outer Banks History Center.)


Even after North Carolina ended prohibition, the alcohol industry was slow to recover. In 1965, after decades of failed business and low returns on NC vineyards growing grapes for distribution to wineries outside of the state, the legislation passed funding for grape and wine research. Further legislation in the 1970s encouraged the growth of local wineries including Duplin (1976) and Biltmore Estate (1985) wineries. Since then, the state has worked to grow the wine industry and incorporate it into part of NC tourism. Today there are over 130 wineries in North Carolina.

Due to ABC regulations after prohibition ended, brewing beer and selling it in the same location was illegal. In 1985 after a lobbying campaign by Uli Bennewitz, an amendment was passed legalizing brewpubs in North Carolina. Bennewitz opened the first brewpub, The Weeping Radish, in Manteo. Amidst controversy over health and safety concerns, further legislation increasing legal alcohol content in beer brought North Carolina into the growing national trend of microbreweries. North Carolina now has more than 200 microbreweries and brew pubs that have become an integral part of its local culture and its tourism industry.