Hard cider seems a natural fit for western North Carolina, epicenter of the Tar Heel apple and booze industries. (Henderson County alone accounts for about two-thirds of the state’s apple production.) Cider-makers started popping up across the state two years ago — only one of 10 dates back before then — and five are clustered near Asheville, which also has a booming craft-beer scene. Beverage of choice for the nation’s forefathers, cider fell out of favor as more beer-swilling immigrants arrived in the U.S. But it’s staging a comeback: Estimated sales increased to 13.2 million cases in 2013 from 5.4 million cases in 2011, according to Technomic.com, a market-research website. Trevor Baker — who started Noble Cider in 2012 in a 1,000-square-foot building in Fletcher with wife Joanna and business partner Lief Stevens — says growth has been exponential. “It really was the right product at the right time at the right place.” Noble, which estimates it will sell 14,000 gallons this year compared with 2,000 last year, just closed on a 9,000-square-foot building in west Asheville that it plans to turn into a tasting room and production space by early next year. But the cider industry has its challenges. The state excise tax is higher for wine than it is for beer, and federal taxes escalate with alcohol content, which many cider-makers have difficulty controlling. “In many ways, cider is caught in between two categories,” Baker says. “Technically it’s a wine, and there are a lot of rules governing wine that we don’t necessarily think apply to hard cider.”
North Carolina’s press core
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2. Bull City Ciderworks, Durham, established 2013
3. Fishing Creek Cider, Whitakers, established 2013
4. McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks, Thurmond, established 2006
5. Naked Apple Hard Cider, Flat Rock, established 2014
6. Noble Cider, Asheville, established 2012
7. Red Clay Ciderworks, Charlotte, established 2014
8. Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards, Hendersonville, established 2012
9. Sourwood Brewing, Durham, established 2013
10. Urban Orchard Cider, Asheville, established 2013
RUTHERFORD COLLEGE — BSN Medical will lay off about 200 of 250 workers at its factory here by December 2015 and move production to Mexico. The Hamburg, Germany-based company, which has its North American headquarters in Charlotte, makes medical bandages and compression garments for orthopedic uses.
ASHEVILLE — Highland Brewing will add 15 jobs to its 47 and invest $5 million over three years to expand production. Opened in 1994, Highland is Asheville’s oldest brewery. The new jobs will pay an average of about $42,000 a year, higher than Buncombe County’s average of $38,494.
WEST JEFFERSON — Three hedge-fund managers were sentenced in federal court in Charlotte for their part in the $40 million Black Diamond Ponzi scheme. Chad Sloat of Kansas City, Mo., Michael Murphy of Deephaven, Minn., and Jeffrey Toft of Sioux Falls, S.D., must pay $8.45 million in restitution and serve 48 to 77 months in prison. A fourth defendant is awaiting sentencing. Keith Simmons, mastermind of the scheme, was sentenced in 2012 to 50 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $35 million in restitution (cover story, August 2012).
ASHEVILLE — HomeTrust Bancshares rebranded its branches, whose number will more than double from 20 to 44 due to recent and pending acquisitions. Since July 2013, the community bank has acquired three banks and expects to close on 10 Bank of America branches in North Carolina and Virginia this month. All branches will be called HomeTrust Bank.