Wednesday, February 15, 2012
New Belgium Brewing to pick between Phila., North Carolina for new site
Philadelphia is one of two cities being looked at as a possible East Coast site for a Colorado beer brewer.
New Belgium Brewing, which is based in Fort Collins, and produces Fat Tire Ale, said the facility would create 100 to 120 jobs. It would produce up to 500,000 barrels a year, in kegs and bottles, and serve as an East Coast distribution center, New Belgium spokesman Bryan Simpson said.
“Philadelphia is a great beer town, it has a great beer culture. People there are savvy about beer. We also think we could also learn from Philly,” Simpson said.
Asheville, N.C., is also being considered, he said. Last month, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. of Chico, Calif., said it picked Mills River, N.C. (12 miles north of Asheville), for its East Coast brewery, where it will produce 300,000 barrels a year.
New Belgium, which is sold in 28 states but has limited availability on the East Coast, started by looking at “dozens” of areas before narrowing the list to 10 and then two, Simpson said. It is looking for a site to build from the ground up.
News reports from North Carolina and Colorado have indicated that a decision was imminent, but Simpson said Monday the decision might not be made before June.
New Belgium is nearing capacity at its Fort Collins brewing operation, where it produces 700,000 barrels a year (with capacity for 900,000).
The New Belgium Brewery was founded in 1991 by a basement brewer named Jeff Lebesch. He had just returned to Fort Collins after an epic mountain bike trip throughout Europ. While there, he sampled local brews. His wife Kim Jordan is now the company’s CEO.
Pennsylvania has a thirst for beer brewing, particularly with the growth of brewers like Yards Brewing, Philadelphia Brewing Co., and Victory Brewing, as well as stalwarts like D.G. Yuengling & Son, to name just a few.
Between 2009 and 2010, the Keystone State recorded the second-largest gain in active brewer permits, adding 17, behind only Washington state, which added 25, according to the Beer Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association.
Overall through 2010, Pennsylvania ranked sixth in the number of active brewer permits, with 105, behind California, Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Wisconsin, according to the Beer Institute’s brewers almanac.
Since 2004, the Keystone State has added 35 active brewers permits.
Craft-and-premium brews, along with imports, are among the fastest-growing segment of the $98 billion-a-year U.S. beer trade, the Beer Institute said.
Lew Bryson, author of a guidebook to Pennsylvania Breweries (now in its fourth edition), has been leading the charge to get New Belgium to settle here. On his blog, he argues that Philadelphia has the beer culture, including Philly Beer Week, as well as the infrastructure a brewer would need.
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