NC Craft Beer Recognizes 2023 Legislative & Industry Champions

For immediate release: November 21, 2023

For additional information contact: 
Lisa Parker, Executive Director 
NC Craft Brewers Guild  |  919.951.8588

NC Beer Recognizes Legislative and Industry Champions

NC Craft Brewers Guild announces the recipients of its 2023 Industry Awards.

Raleigh -  During the 10th anniversary of the NC Craft Brewers Conference last week, over 300 members of North Carolina’s craft brewing industry gathered at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem, for the 2023 NC Beer Industry Awards Banquet.  The Awards Banquet, sponsored by Grandstand, Yakima Chief Hops, and Country Malt, celebrates the leaders and champions of North Carolina’s independent craft beer industry who have demonstrated exceptional dedication, service, and leadership on behalf of the industry.

In 2023, three industry awards recipients and two NC legislative champions were recognized, as well as, the NC Brewery of the Year, NC New Brewery of the Year (a tie!), and category medalists from this year’s NC Brewers Cup Competition.

Legislative Leadership Awards:

Left to right: Cassidy Whitley, Lisa Parker, Sen. Paul Newton, Rep. John Bradford, Alex Miller

This year, Legislative Leadership Awards were presented to Representative John Bradford, III and Senator Paul Newton.  Each year, the NC Craft Brewers Guild recognizes one member of the House and one member of the Senate, who have worked to champion issues important to North Carolina’s craft beer industry.  Selected award recipients have demonstrated their dedication to helping protect the rights of North Carolina breweries and crafting common sense legislative reforms that support a friendly business environment for our industry.  From endorsing lower business taxes to helping ensure access to equitable permitting it is an honor to recognize these two NC legislators who have made North Carolina's craft brewing industry a legislative priority.   

Order of the Lupulin:

Left to right: Micah Niebauer, Sebastian Wolfrum, Lisa Parker

The Order of the Lupulin is the NC craft brewing industry’s lifetime achievement award presented to those who have made a lasting impact on, and ultimately changed the course of, North Carolina’s brewing industry.  This year, Sebastian Wolfrum, founder of Epiphany Craft Malt, and lecturer at NC State University, was inducted into this prestigious Order, joining the ranks of prior recipients, such as Uli Bennewitz, Oscar Wong, and Sean Wilson.

Since entering North Carolina's craft beer industry in 2006 as Director of Brewing Operations at Natty Greene's Brewing Co, Sebastian has remained dedicated to building, educating, and supporting North Carolina's independent craft beer industry.  Sebastian's achievements include: 

  • Founding the NC Craft Brewers Guild in 2008, which created a support network for North Carolina’s small independent breweries, and later serving as Treasurer for the organization,
  • Serving as Executive Brewmaster during the development of the brewery incubator at Rocky Mount Mills which provided a feasible start-up model for young NC breweries,
  • Educating the industry about NC produced malting grains during Ag Extension Field Days, and establishing a malt house that connects the craft brewing industry with grain farmers throughout eastern NC,
  • Creating the NC Beer Education Collective to craft a network of fermentation research connections throughout the southeast.

Industry Impact Award:

Ellie Craig at Front Street Brewery

The Industry Impact Award is given to an individual in recognition of their exemplary work to build the craft brewing industry in North Carolina.  This year’s award was presented to Ellie Craig of Front Street Brewery in Wilmington, NC.

For years, Ellie has served as the backbone of the craft brewing industry in the Cape Fear region of North Carolina. Having served as President of the Cape Fear Craft Brewers Alliance, as well as on the Downtown Wilmington Business Alliance, and the Wilmington Area Hospitality Association Board of Directors, Ellie has been a tireless advocate for craft beer, dedicated to the people & businesses of the region, making connections, providing resources, and advocating at the local government level for positive change. Per Christopher McGarvey, Brewmaster at Front Street Brewery, " Ellie serves as the 'personal internet of breweries' - that point-person who knows everyone’s name and is always connecting people to the support, service, or person who would be able to help them. "  And from, Jud Watkins, owner of Wrightsville Beach Brewery, “Ellie is a legend!  The craft beer scene in Wilmington wouldn’t be what it is today without her generous nature and hard work."

Extra Effort Award:

Left to right: Micah Niebauer, Russ Haddad, Lisa Parker

The Extra Effort Award is given to an individual who has put forth “extra effort”, going above and beyond the scope of duty to assist the industry.  Russ Haddad was awarded the 2023 Extra Effort Award. 

Russ is the Business Development Manager for the NC Craft Brewers Guild, and routinely demonstrates an incredible service in his work with the membership of the organization.  That said, in 2023, during the busiest season for the Guild, Russ truly showed a level of grit and determination that went significantly above and beyond the regular scope of his role.  When two of the four members of the Guild's staff team developed unexpected medical issues immediately prior to the largest events of the year, Russ became the one person able to do any physical labor for both events (NC Public House at the NC State Fair and the NC Craft Brewers Conference.)  "From moving massive amounts of beer, to hanging menu televisions, to loading unloading, and reloading vehicles full of supplies, Russ took it all on, without missing a step, without hesitation, and somehow with a smile and sense of humor," said Lisa Parker, Executive Director of the Guild.  

** NC Brewers Cup Competition Awards **

2023 marked the 12th anniversary of the NC Brewers Cup competition.  873 entries were submitted by 122 independent North Carolina craft breweries, making this year’s competition the largest to date, and the largest single state commercial competition in the U.S. Southeast. 

In 2022, the NC Craft Brewers Guild was please to present the following awards:

  • NC Brewery of the Year is awarded to the one brewery in the competition who secured the most points overall, based on the medals won.

  • NC New Brewery of the Year is an award especially designated for breweries who have opened over the past two years. As with the NC Brewery of the Year, this special group of entrants will be awarded points based on overall medals won.

The recognition of NC Brewery of the Year for 2023 was awarded to Pilot Brewing.  This Charlotte-based brewery, which opened in 2018, won 2 first place gold medals and 2 third place bronze medals in this year’s competition. 

Pilot Brewing Company, NC Brewery of the Year

In 2023 there was a tie for the NC New Brewery of the Year recognition.  NC New Brewery of the Year was was awarded to:

  • Local Time Brewing, located in Holly Springs, NC and opened spring 2023.
  • Happy Valley Filling Station, located in Lenoir, NC and opened fall of 2021.
Local Time Brewing, Devin Singley                             Happy Valley Filling Station, Aaron Dowling

All 2023 NC Brewers Cup category medalists can be viewed by clicking HERE.

The North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild (NCCBG) is a 501c6 not-for-profit advocacy group supporting the independent craft brewers of our state through advocacy and education. North Carolina has over 420 independent craft breweries and brewpubs, each one serving as a local gathering spot for their communities. Our breweries have become part of the fabric of your towns and cities. North Carolina is truly the State of Southern Beer™.