Photo courtesy of Fullsteam Brewery.
Location: Durham, North Carolina
Years in Business: <10 years
NCIF Role: Line of Credit, Equipment Acquisition, Refinancing
Sector: Craft Beer Brewing; Value-Added Agriculture
Impact: Job Creation, Strengthening Food Economy

Fullsteam crafts Southern-inspired “plow-to-point” beer, using local, seasonal ingredients like paw paws, persimmons, pears and pecans.  In a post-tobacco era, Fullsteam is enlisting neighboring farmers, foragers and agricultural entrepreneurs to help build a Southern Beer Economy, one pint at a time.
Fullsteam doesn’t use local ingredients because it’s fashionable, but because the company wants its customers to fall in love with native Southern flavors.  And so they have: Fullsteam’s sales have increased from just over 2,000 barrels in 2011 to 4,800 in 2015. Along the way, its stable of fine, craft-brewed beers has picked up honors from the James Beard Foundation, the Good Food Award, Southern Living and Garden &Gun. Yahoo Travel named Fullsteam one of the five coolest craft beer tours in America. Equally important, it’s been named Durham’s Best Local Brewery five years in a row.

In North Carolina alone, people drank 33 million gallons of craft beer, but only 8 million were produced in the state.  Nationwide, the craft brewing industry is growing by more than 15 percent a year, and 17 percent in North Carolina.  

The Opportunity

Breweries are a capital-intensive business, and Fullsteam got its start with the help of early investors and a Small Business Administration loan. To increase its production capacity as demand for its beer grew, the company later received several loans from a  regional lender. 

As the company continued to expand, it outgrew its existing banking relationship.  In 2016, NCIF lent Fullsteam funds to acquire kegs and provided a much-needed line of credit. Then, in 2017, NCIF helped Fullsteam put together a new refinancing package, which saved the company about $100,000 a year in debt service payments, and increased the brewery’s line of credit so that the company could bulk-order its cans, saving an additional $63,000 a year.

Along with a new canning line installed in mid-2016 that provided cost-savings of $75,000 a year, NCIF’s loans are allowing Fullsteam to expand its distribution to more than 200 stores in North and South Carolina. Local food trucks make a lot of visits to Fullsteam and, starting this summer, the brewery is launching a full kitchen for its family-friendly tavern.

Impact

To date, the company has provided jobs to 25 people, and the jobs pay well.  Fullsteam is one of 29 local businesses in the Durham Living Wage Project, a program that seeks to raise wages for service workers and certify businesses that pay higher than minimum wage.

Fullsteam was a pioneer when it located its taproom and manufacturing facility in an economically disadvantaged section of Durham in 2010 (check).  Now, Durham’s Central Park is thriving, with restaurants, a 450-person concert venue, and a mixed-use project featuring 246 luxury rental apartments and retail space all within walking distance, offering residents new employment opportunities.

Visit the Fullsteam Brewery website