Johnston Knighted for Work in Belgian Beer

Brussels, Belgium – Earlier this month, Tryon Distributing Owner and CEO Brad Johnston was enthroned into the Knighthood of the Belgian Brewer’s Paddle during a ceremony that took place at the Brewer’s House in Grand-Place, Brussels. Johnston was chosen by the Belgian Brewers Guild for the honorary knighting following his role in helping to “Pop-the-Cap” in North Carolina, and for his contributions in facilitating the importing of Belgian beer to the state ever since.    


“Belgian beer is world class, and it didn’t make sense to me that we could not sell it in North Carolina. That is one reason that I was so passionate about popping the cap – it allowed us to introduce so many amazing and historic beers to the people of my home state. To be recognized by the Belgian Brewers is an honor and a privilege. Being chosen from a pool of candidates from across the globe is something I will always remember,” said Johnston.


The selection process to become an Honorary Knight of the Brotherhood of the Belgian Brewers Paddle is complex and begins with a Knight-in-Standing nominating a candidate to be considered. To be considered for nomination, candidates must have at least a decade of continued experience, and a proven list of successful efforts surrounding Belgian beer. Following the nomination, breweries who are members of the Brotherhood vote on the nominees from around the world. The criteria to be selected focuses on an individual's contributions and impact to growing the reach and story of Belgian beer. For American nominees, this usually means someone who has worked closely with retail, wholesale, import, or promotion of Belgian beers.


According to Brian Walsh, Marketing Director of supplier partner Better Beverage Leaders, “In North Carolina, we would be hard-pressed to find candidates with the same level of positive impact Brad has had for Belgian Beer. Even throughout America, his contributions put him in a small group who have facilitated in-numerable experiences with Belgian beer for US consumers.”


Tryon Distributing’s first Belgian importer came in 1998, when Johnston partnered with Merchant du Vin. Sometime later, it became apparent that state laws hindered Belgian beer’s growth, as the law only allowed the import and selling of beer with an ABV of 6% or less. With the help of a local brewer, Johnston became an integral part of Pop-the-Cap, a grassroots campaign that sought to raise the allowable beer ABV to 15%.


As the only wholesale distributor to join this movement, Johnston met with lawmakers and key decision-makers to help form new legislation that ultimately raised the ABV limit in 2005. Once the ABV was raised to 15%, Belgian beer was finally free to flourish, and many North Carolinians site Pop-the-Cap as one of the most influential and economic stimulating initiative’s to ever take place in beer throughout the state.


Following Pop-the-Cap, Johnston and his company worked diligently to import Belgian brands and to educate people on these beers. Because of Johnston’s understanding of the influence and importance that Belgium holds in the beer world, Tryon boasts one of the best Belgian beer portfolios of any wholesale distributor in America, and currently works with brands such as: Duvel, A’Chouffe, Liefman’s, Delirium, Averbode, Mongozo, Lindeman’s, Rochefort, Orval, Green’s, Westmalle, Du Bocq, Zundert, Chimay, Blanche de Bruxelles, and Fruli.


Some of the past brands Tryon has worked with include: Maredsous, De Koninck, Timmermans, Straffe Hendrik, Brugse Zot, De Troch, Gouden Carolus, Lucifer, Samichlaus, Oud Beersel, Kasteel, St. Louis, Bacchus, St. Bernardus, Val-Dieu, and Duchess Du Bourgogne.


Over the years, it is estimated that Tryon has sold around 23,000 Hectoliters (that’s almost 20,000 U.S. barrels) of Belgian beer in North Carolina and continues to push sales through multiple campaigns such as Belgian National Day Celebrations and Orval Day.


Tryon Distributing is proud to be a family-owned and operated business. The company is a Charlotte-based craft beer and wine distribution company that began 38 years ago with three people and has grown into a statewide distributor with almost 300 employees. Tryon is proud to be family-owned and operated.