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Saturday, May 18, 2024

UNCW enters craft-beer game with WB Brewery partnership

The Dub is on sale at Wrightsville Beach Brewery, select bottle shops and retail locations, and school sporting events. (Courtesy UNCW)

WILMINGTON — Beer and college goes hand in hand — now, a local university is “dubbing” its own brand. 

From University of Montana to Louisiana Lafayette to UNC Wilmington, universities across the nation are adding to the U.S.’s billion-dollar craft brew industry as beer-makers create one-of-a-kind sippers in honor of their collegiate mascots. Late last week, Seahawk Nation announced the release of The Dub Amber Lager, produced locally by Wrightsville Beach Brewery.

“It’s the first venture of branded beer in the school’s history,” according to Gino Galutera, associate vice chancellor for business services at UNCW.

WBB was chosen from a 20-deep applicant pool, Galutera indicated. Last fall, the university asked breweries to submit proposals for consideration and were scored based on facilities, community involvement, sustainability, production capabilities and its vision for a UNCW beer. 

Though a competitive process, WBB came out on top. 

The brewery — which opened on Oleander Drive in 2017 and launched its second location Brunswick Beer and Cider in Leland last year — runs a 20-barrel system that churned out more than 3,000 barrels of beer in 2022. 

On Friday, WBB began selling The Dub in pints and cans, and distributing it to select bottle shops and retail locations, such as Bigger’s Market. The Dub is also available at Seahawk sporting and arts events, with royalty revenues supporting UNCW athletics, scholarships and other auxiliaries. 

“Gradually over time distribution will grow out, but we wanted to focus on campus and close to campus to start,” Jud Watkins, founder of WBB, told Port City Daily.

The brewery already works with more than 100 restaurants in a 50-mile radius.

His team met with a committee from UNCW to collaborate on the project. It’s been a two-year process for UNCW through research and evaluation to release. They settled on an amber lager with subtle malt notes for the debut.

“We worked with them on what would be a good crowd pleaser but still flavorful,” Watkins indicated. 

Every step of the process was thoughtful, according to Galutera. The 4.7% alcohol by volume tips its hat to the university’s founding in 1947. The teal and navy label design includes a coastal map that pinpoints both WBB and UNCW and includes a vintage throwback university logo, the “W.”

“Once we decided that we wanted to get into this marketplace, we didn’t just want to slap our name on a beer and call it a day,” Galutera wrote in an email to Port City Daily Monday. “We wanted to be intentional with the product and really make this venture our own.” 

Watkins sees the partnership as one with endless possibilities. His vision includes the potential for making the UNCW-branded beers a rotating series. 

“Nothing is set in stone, but I’d wager to say you’ll also see a session IPA Seahawk beer soon,” he said.

Community collaborations aren’t new to WBB. In spring, it partnered with paws4people to release a special edition “Dog of the Year” pale ale in honor of paws4people’s 2022 contest winner, Josie. The contest raised $30,000 for the foundation.

WBB also works with nonprofits monthly by donating 11% of the proceeds from its “beer of the month” to area organizations.

According to Watkins, the brewery has close connections to the university, in that they have hired more than 100 students to work in the facility since opening. 

“I’m excited to see this partnership take off,” Galutera said.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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