Charlotte was named the No. 1 booziest city by Instacart after the company reviewed 2018 sales, and not too many people seem surprised.
“I can’t say I’ve been to too many boozy cities, but there’s not a place I’ve been where there’s more breweries,” said Joe Tortolon, Free Range Brewing’s bartender.
Instacart ranked Charlotte as the No. 1 booziest city after reviewing the volume of alcohol purchased nationwide, according to a press release from the company. The data comes with the company’s announcement that it will begin delivering alcohol in 14 states, including North Carolina.
Next in line after Charlotte was Chicago, followed by San Francisco coming in third, according to the press release. Instacart officials did not return requests for the Charlotte-specific data.
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Tortolon moved to Charlotte about a year ago after working as the head bartender at Rooster Fish Brewing in Watkins Glen, New York, for years. Having worked in both markets, he said he sees a definite difference in the drinking culture here in Charlotte.
“In the year I’ve been here, I’ve experienced an increase in people coming through, people interested in beer, and the area is growing so it’s easy to access,” he said.
Not all are reveling in the boozy city status, though. Andrew Porter, owner of Doc Porter’s Distillery in Charlotte, said the number of breweries in the area has likely contributed to this new status. He said while beer sales may be earning the city its newfound fame, there’s still a long way to go for the spirits industry.
“We’ve definitely seen a lot of growth in breweries and the laws that have changed have made it very beneficial to open a brewery,” Porter explained. “It’s why we get all the different types of breweries. Distilling has been trying to follow that path, but it’s slower growing.”
The reason, Porter said, is the different laws and exemptions that apply to the craft brewing industry. Distilleries are still required to go through the state’s ABC system for all sales and face laws that make selling and distributing the liquor more difficult. The result is a lose-lose situation for distillers and consumers, Porter said.
“I think it’s good we’re the booziest city, but we have some progress we can make,” he said.
Despite the saturated Charlotte market, Tortolon said he sees a way for breweries to continue to stand out for consumers. Basically, it’s all about finding your niche.
“Each brewery is unique with its tap list and the types of beer varieties,” Tortolon explained. “Free Range does all locally sourced ingredients in their beer, and that’s how they stand out — they don’t add preservatives or anything that isn’t natural to the beer. You can really taste the difference.”
As Charlotte’s population continues to rise, he said he only expects the trend to continue upward.