Uptown Greenville, NC


Local Brewery Taps Craft Market

By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

November 7, 2013 - A Pitt County craft brewery’s debut this week in Charlotte signaled that popularity is brewing for small suds producers.

Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, located at 4519 W. Pine St. in Farmville, will be one of nine state-based artisan breweries offering their brands of beer and ale inside Time Warner Cable Arena, home of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats basketball team.

There are 84 breweries and brew pubs in North Carolina, the most of any state in the South, making it a good bet as a Bobcats attraction. But the fan base for artisan brews extends well beyond sports arenas.

For Duck-Rabbit, that base sweeps beyond the state line, according to brew master and company founder Paul Philippon. The company with the puzzling logo — is it a duck or a rabbit? — is well positioned in the fast-growing microbrewery market, growing each year since its 2004 debut. The company’s market includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

Since 2008, Duck-Rabbit steadily has increased its brewing capacity from about 7,000 barrels per year to its estimated 12,000 barrels per year, Philippon said.

The brewery employs 10 people inside the manufacturing operation, plus a part-time barkeeper who, on Fridays, pours from the tap located at the front of the shop, where customers can look through plate-glass windows into the brewery.

The Duck-Rabbit brew pub now displays a dozen distinctive award-winning dark ales, porters and stouts, available in bottles or on tap. For now, only five brews are available at a time.

“It’s partially because our brewing capacity is limited, but also because having brews available on a limited basis fuels the continuing interest for beer lovers who are always asking what’s new and what’s next,” Philippon said.

Although the demand for Duck-Rabbit products is growing, Philippon cautiously has been planning his growth to meet the demand.

“There are a hundred ways to skin the cat,” he said. “What’s important to me is to always be growing, but at a rate that we always can control to maintain the quality and consistency of the product that our customers have come to expect.”

Philippon is getting ready to add another warehouse on his four-acre site that will allow him to add more brewing tanks inside his 10,000-square-foot plant and hire a few more employees to accommodate his company’s growth.

New beers have been emerging from the brewery at a regular pace. Phillipon’s newest offering, Hoppy Bunny black ale, was introduced only as a seasonal beer last year, but has taken off in popularity since its release. It will be offered year-round starting in 2014, he said. His successful run is a result of keeping a close eye on his business and the market, he said.

“The overall beer industry has seen a slight decline in recent years, partly due to a growth in the spirits market among younger people,” Philippon said. “The small craft brewery industry, however, has been growing at an incredible rate, coinciding with the broader trend toward appreciation for a wide range of artisan food products like those found in cafes and bakeries.”

Although Philippon models the key characteristics of successful entrepreneurship, he does not follow any particular business models other than what works for him.

“I’ve seen some people try to enter the small brewery business without understanding their market; what the people who would be buying their beer were looking for,” he said. “Our products are made by regular people who live in the community and are passionate about what they’re doing. I’m part of that community, so I know what beer lovers want.”

Philippon said he sometimes feels like he should pay more attention to marketing, but does not like taking his attention from the brewing process.

For the big picture, he relies on his distributors and stays close to his banker, he said.

“That’s very important to me,” Philippon said. “A danger of entrepreneurship is that the skills that make someone good at starting a business aren’t the same as, and often run contrary to, the skills necessary to grow a business.

“That said, I’ve been thinking I need to spend a little less time in the brewery and a little more with my banker.”

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9571.