Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery was selected by the Pitt County Development Commission as the county’s 2016-17 Industry of the Year as a manufacturer that best represents the community as a model corporate citizen, Brad Hufford, PCDC associate director for retention and expansion, said.
“This company has demonstrated its dedication to quality products, innovation, sustainability and corporate citizenship,” Hufford said at the annual Existing Industries Reception, sponsored by PCDC and Greenville Utilities Commission.
Duck-Rabbit has been in operation for 12 years in Farmville. Described as dark brew specialists, they have become a favorite of many beer lovers throughout the Southeast, Hufford said.
The company started with four beers — porter, brown ale, amber ale and milk stout — and has since added eight seasonal brews. The products are available in nine states and Washington, D.C., with distribution set to expand to other states, including Delaware.
Company founder Paul Phillippon, a philosophy teacher-turned-brew master, described his beers as high quality and sincere.
“If it has Duck-Rabbit’s name on it, that means Paul loves it,” he said.
There is no secret formula to Duck-Rabbit’s success, only attention to details, Phillippon said.
“Things have gone great for us. We love our work, and we love the product we make,” Phillippon said. “You might think things have really taken off for us the last few years, but it has continued to be carefully controlled growth. We take great pains to make a product we are proud of.”
Despite its growth, the brewery does things basically the same, but more efficiently and with more equipment. An expansion in 2014 added 7,000 square feet of warehouse space to the original 11,000-square-foot production facility. That opened up space for an additional bottling line, box building machine, and additional brew tanks, PCDC Executive Director Wanda Yuhas said.
The expansion also increased the amount of barrels Duck-Rabbit is able to produce. Barrel production in the first year was 400. This year, Duck-Rabbit produced more than 8,000 barrels.
Plans for the brewery include “steady, comfortable growth,” according to Phillippon.
The brewer gave large credit for the company’s success to his employees. Duck-Rabbit employs 16, more than double the number from just a few years ago.
“That’s where the value of this company lies,” Phillippon said of his crew. “They bring passion, expertise, hard work and the ability to learn. Many of them came to Duck-Rabbit with brewing knowledge. Sean Miller brought tremendous experience and knowledge of chemistry to our quality control laboratory, helping us understand the chemistry of brewing better than we ever did before.”
One of Phillippon’s newest employees, George Thornton, has worked on the bottling line for just seven months but has relished each day, he said.
“It’s a cool place to work and a lot of fun,” Thornton said. “Paul listens to what we have to say, and if there’s a problem, he fixes it.”
The addition of a tasting room in 2009 gave the brewery a greater following. The company has enjoyed greater name recognition as its awards have continued to mount.
Farmville Town Manager David Hodgkins praised Duck-Rabbit’s corporate citizenship.
“They are very community-minded; a hidden gem in the state of North Carolina,” Hodgkins said. “Duck-Rabbit’s unique brand is now so widely known, it’s really put Farmville on the map as a model for other small businesses. We’re very proud of them.”
Duck-Rabbit has garnered awards in several categories the past two years. It also was recently named the most iconic beer from North Carolina by Thrillist.com, a men’s digital lifestyle brand.
Part of that distinction may be attributed to the perplexing logo that looks like a duck’s head or a rabbit’s head, depending on the viewer’s perspective, Phillippon said.
“With our beer as with our logo, a second look might reveal something you didn’t expect,” the erstwhile philosopher said.
For more information on Duck-Rabbit Brewery, visit http://www.duckrabbitbrewery.com/.