RALEIGH – Bob High is an enthusiastic guy. He embraces life and the things it has to offer, spending his free time outdoors enjoying everything from mountain biking to surfing and paddle boarding. But chat with High for five minutes and you will discover the two things he is truly passionate about: craft beer and coastal North Carolina. Chat with him for five more minutes, and you’ll understand what a natural pairing this is.
As brand manager of Natty Greene’s Brewing Co. in Raleigh, High was awarded a 2013 Pelican Award by the N.C. Coastal Federation for his commitment to bringing these two passions together to help preserve and protect North Carolina’s coast.
The list of fundraising events High has sponsored or organized reads like a roadmap of coastal conservation efforts, including events for the federation on the coast and inland. These include Cycling for the Coast, the annual Fish Fry and Shrimp Boil in Manteo, numerous seafood festivals and various events at Natty Greene’s in Raleigh. He has also partnered Natty Greene’s with other coastal events including Reeling for Research, Swim the Loop, and N.C. Fresh Catch, as well as the largest standup paddle board competition and the largest spearfishing tournament on the East Coast, both in Wilmington. Clearly, Bob High has a commitment to the coast.
“If I am going to spend my time promoting the beer and being part of an event it seems like a no brainer. And it has really worked out well,” said High about developing the relationship between the federation and Natty Greene’s.
Originally from Texas, High’s love for the coast developed early. He credits his dad for this, by bringing him on frequent trips to the Gulf and the Florida Keys and spending as much time in or on the water as possible
“I don’t even remember learning how to swim. He had us in the water since we were infants. Even though we grew up in Texas, we were very much in the water,” said High.
|Bob High and Natty Greene’s have become important features of federation events, such as Cycling for the Coast on Bogue Banks.|
While beer brought him to North Carolina – moving to the state in 1994 to work for Greenshields Brewery and Pub – it didn’t take long for High to develop a passion for all that the coast has to offer.
“I took a job in Raleigh and I immediately started traveling to the Outer Banks. I had never seen anything like it,” said High.
But it was seafood that introduced High to the federation.
“You know, I really love to eat shellfish. The guys that own Natty Greene’s, we go to the Outer Banks, we go all over – and we love the fresh seafood,” High said with a grin. “The whole seafood thing is where my interest and love for the Coastal Fed started. Seeing the ‘No Wetlands, No Seafood’ bumper stickers was what first got me interested in the Coastal Fed and what they were doing,” said High.
High believes seafood is the key to bringing the coast to people living inland in the state and connecting them to the health of this ecosystem. He recognizes that educating people living inland about their impact on the coast and inspiring them to take an active part in its protection is necessary for coastal preservation, and he sees the No Wetlands, No Seafood campaign as a simple and effective message to accomplish this.
“I think they are dead on, because the people inland here, the thing that they think about the coast the most is going out and eating seafood. I feel like these events such as the fish fries, are directly impacting the quality of the seafood I get when I go to the coast, and the quality of the seafood I get when I am here,” said High
High recognizes that he is in a unique position to help foster this relationship. It turns out that there is significant overlap between craft beer drinkers and coastal outdoor enthusiasts, and it is here that High feels he can make the biggest impact. Pairing good beer, good seafood and the outdoors in the name of coastal protection is a winning combination, and something that High is always looking to support.
|Bob High, left, receives his Pelican Award frm federation founder, Todd Miller.|
The connection between good beer and a healthy coast goes even further. Clean water is essential to both, as High is acutely aware of working in the craft beer industry. Water quality changes can strongly affect the brewing environment, changing the flavor and quality of the beer.
“Water is really important for us. It can affect the yeast that we treat our beers with and the type and style of juice that you get off the grain,” explained High.
High sees Natty Greene’s as an outlet to spread the message of protecting our water sources to the inland population, saying, “Even though we aren’t on the coast, the Coastal Fed is such a huge supporter of clean water and they are trying to do all these projects on the coast – we can help them by bringing some of those projects to Greensboro and Raleigh. That’s the tie-in that I really want to make.”
Both beer and the coast are lucky to have High on their side. But High is just excited to be a part of two organizations that allow him to support his passions. He is quick to credit Natty Greene’s for any recognition he has received for his coastal protection efforts.
“Natty Greene’s made it all possible. I wouldn’t be able to do all that I can without their support,” said High genuinely.
His enthusiasm shows no indication of slowing down, already looking for the next event he can become involved with to help the federation. Bob High is ready to get together, drink some good beer, and give back to the coast. Judging from the success of the events he supports, he’s in good company.