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Craft brewers toast McGrady

Used to be, alcohol and laws didn't mix in the North Carolina General Assembly.

That's changed over the past five years as North Carolina has been a leader in the country in the burgeoning craft beer industry and more recently hard cider and even micro-distilleries.

State Rep. Chuck McGrady has been the tip of the spear in the state House on alcohol laws that have helped the fledgling industry grow and prosper. This week the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild toasted McGrady for those efforts. It made him the recipient of its first annual legislative leadership award.

"In his time at the NC General Assembly, Representative McGrady (R-Henderson) has become known as a champion of a diverse set of issues from the environment to renewable energy, education and insurance, and, of course, the craft brewing industry," the guild said in a news release.

When Southen Appalachian Brewery first opened on a sketchy area of warehousing off Seventh Avenue, patrons paid a nominal fee to become a "member" of a private club. That coincided with Chuck McGrady's first term in the state House. The freshman legislator sponsored a bill that would let the new micro-brewery sell beer without the awkward club appendage. Along with state Sen. Tom Apodaca, McGrady pushed through legislation to help bring Sierra Nevada to Mills River and this year to boost the hard cider business here.

"He was instrumental in helping to bring Sierra Nevada to Mills River, championing legislation in 2011 to make it possible," the guild said. "In 2013 he was the primary sponsor of the growler bill and the in-stand sales bill, and in 2015 was the primary sponsor of House Bill 625, which addressed a number of issues important to our industry, from self-distribution to contract brewing and alternating proprietorships. When the bill was held up in the House ABC Committee, he worked to ensure that the contract brewing and alternating proprietorship provisions became law as part of House Bill 909."