Brewing success, crafting a brand
Thirty-eight is Noah McIntee’s favorite number these days. “For a lot of folks, we’re not the sleeper hit anymore,” he said. “We’ve surged fast and have gotten a great hold on the market share.”
Head brewer and general manager of Lazy Hiker Brewing in Franklin, McIntee is full steam ahead with the recent distribution deal the company signed. In their first seven months of operation, Lazy Hiker has become a mainstay in six Western North Carolina counties (Macon, Swain, Jackson, Clay, Cherokee and Graham). That number will increase to 38 counties as it join forces with Skyland Distributing in Asheville.
It’s a move that will complement the brewery’s already hard-earned self-distribution tactics. In an emerging, red-hot industry, the Lazy Hiker brand can now confidently push beyond its initial footprint, where the boundaries now go far past Murphy and Waynesville, onward to the likes of Charlotte and beyond.
“After Waynesville and Brevard, we really couldn’t have gotten much further geographically on our own steam,” McIntee said. “We’d have to have hired another staff to run the distribution, but, with Skyland we’re now able to pass off our distribution in a deal that will put our product all across the state.”
Though still in their first year, Lazy Hiker points to coming out of the gate with a quality product — and also immersing themselves within the region — as the keys to success, traits that ultimately led to Skyland knocking on their door.
“We’re one of the fastest growing breweries, if not the fastest, in Western North Carolina,” McIntee said. “And I think a lot of that comes to just being out there in the communities, shaking hands, talking to people, and providing them with great craft beer.”
At the end of 2015, Lazy Hiker had brewed over 500 barrels of beer (on a robust 15-barrel system), with projections to double that come the one-year anniversary in May. And with an expanding market, McIntee is certain those expectations and products will only soar once orders roll in from around their new jurisdiction.
“These new counties mean we’re cranking up our production schedule, and we’ll buy more equipment during this new brewery roll out,” he said.
Amid a wild and ever-changing craft beer landscape in Western North Carolina, McIntee stands by his brews, where the adage “good beer will prevail” in the hearts and minds of those putting forth the delicious fruits of their labors.
“In a great environment like Western North Carolina where craft beer is received and loved, being in this environment is one thing and being able to sell in this market is another thing,” he said. “I think we went into the market with a fantastic product, and I think we’ve seen success because of that.”
With a mountain of bountiful work ahead of them, McIntee and Lazy Hiker are eager for 2016 to unfold. Their vision is coming to fruition. Their products landing in the hands of locals and visitors that now head to Franklin in search of quality craft beer.
“Where a lot of these folks used to drive past Franklin, they now have a reason to stop, and the residents here know and appreciate that. The town has been really good to us,” McIntee said. “We’re ready to take on any challenges. We’ve made a big footprint already, and we’re really excited to see what the next chapter holds.”