MountainTrue blamed difficulties in working with officials from the N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement Agency and the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control agency. The ABC agency oversees alcohol sales in the state, while ALE officials enforce state alcohol law. MountainTrue is Western North Carolina’s oldest environmental nonprofit, and it organized the event to showcase its efforts to protect the environment and celebrate the local craft beer culture.
Since the start of this year, Asheville-area ALE officials have stepped up the enforcement of alcohol laws at beer festivals. (See background links at the bottom of this story.)
Here’s the full statement, as posted on the MountainTrue page on Facebook:
Our hope was that this festival would be an opportunity to build community, support local brewers and help display MountainTrue’s presence as an advocate for a healthy environment in Henderson County and the region as a whole.
Unfortunately, due to our and others inability to get clear and consistent answers regarding event requirements from the Alcohol Beverage Control and Alcohol Law Enforcement agencies, we determined that it was impossible to ensure the kind of high-quality event our community deserves.
Despite being in constant communication with ALE and ABC since early June, we were unable to get the answers we needed to proceed. In the final weeks leading up to the festival, continued ambiguity on the parts of ALE and ABC, as well as the prospect of disciplinary action, led several brewers to decline participation, diminishing the event’s core attraction.
Craft brewing is a major economic driver in our area, and we want to maintain constructive relationships with our wonderful brewing community. In this case, that meant not moving forward with an event in which they were at risk of being penalized by agencies who provided unclear and even conflicting information.
Increased enforcement of previously unregulated permitting hurdles has created an environment of uncertainty for the future of beer festivals, which often provide financial support for non-profits like MountainTrue. Indeed, MountainTrue is also a beneficiary of both the Winter Warmer Beer Festival and the Oskar Blues Burning Can festival in Brevard.
In July, such enforcement resulted in the loss of fundraising revenue from the Burning Can Festival. Amazingly, brewers and attendees have responded to that setback with donations of their own. Both before and since that event, MountainTrue and brewers have worked diligently to avoid repeating that situation, only to be met with delays and lack of clarity.
This kind of uncertainty in the face of harsh penalties has an unfortunate chilling effect in an area where craft beer has built such an impressive reputation. MountainTrue would welcome the opportunity to be part of the conversation with ABC and ALE, brewers and others, on how to overcome these issues, and we hope to be able to revive Mountain Brew Fest in 2016.
We would like to thank all of the brewers, sponsors, volunteers, musical acts and food vendors who made their commitment to MountainTrue and Mountain Brew Fest, as well as the City of Hendersonville.
All ticket holders will receive a full refund. MountainTrue appreciates everyone who wanted to make this a great community event.
Background on N.C. ALE enforcement in Western North Carolina: