Four out of the five largest craft brewers are located west of the Mississippi. California and Colorado, in particular, are known for their incredible community of craft brewers, breweries and beer lovers. Some of the biggest names in craft brewing, however, are looking east to keep up with the wildfire growth of the craft beer industry.
Take Chico, California’s Sierra Nevada Brewing and Fort Collins, Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing, for example. The second and third largest U.S. craft brewers by sales, respectively, both top brewers looked to “Beer City USA,” Asheville, North Carolina, as home to their highly anticipated east coast outposts.
First out of the gates, Sierra Nevada is finally breaking ground this fall with brewery tours and a gift shop, followed by their taproom and restaurant later this winter. After a delay from their original launch timing, New Belgium’s Asheville brewery looks to launch next spring.
Most recently, San Diego’s Stone Brewery announced three finalist cities for its east coast operations: Richmond and Norfolk, Virginia, and Columbus, Ohio. As an aside, PadillaCRT has offices in both Virginia cities, and specifically in the Manchester neighborhood of Richmond which Stone has apparently considered for a specific location…so, the Booze Bin team is feeling hopeful! Promising upwards of 400 jobs and $100 million in revenue by year four, much of the Richmond community is rooting for Stone.
So, why the domino effect in moving east? Here are the top three reasons:
1. Keeping up with Growth
According to the Brewers Association, in 2013, “craft brewers saw an 18 percent rise in volume, representing a total of 15.6 million barrels, and a 20 percent increase in retail dollar value.” That growth has continued in 2014 at a similar pace, and doesn’t look to slow anytime soon. In order to keep up with this wildfire demand, the large craft brewers must expand their production facilities, many of which are nearing capacity.
2. Quality Control
One of the challenges in distributing beer is maintaining excellent quality control, and the immense size of the United States does not work in craft brewers’ favor. Unlike wine that improves with age, most beer is a perishable product where freshness is paramount. The more distribution grows and a farther a beer gets from the brewery, the more challenges there are in maintaining the quality, from shelf life to working with on-premise establishments to ensure quality at the point of consumption (e.g., clean tap lines). Opening a second facility east of the Mississippi shortens the distance beer must travel to the many big markets on the east coast.
3. Miles to Market Means Strain on Pockets and the Environment
One serious consideration for every brewer is the cost of shipping. This is a financial consideration, of course, but for green brewers like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, there is also an environmental factor to consider. Trucking beer across the country is expensive, but reducing carbon footprint is an important part of many craft brewers’ ethos. An east coast production facility shortens the distance to top markets in the Northeast.
Photo Credits: Andy Newborn.com