Site Selection: Beer culture comes to a head in the Asheville region

Here’s an excerpt from a recent article in Site Selection, a magazine that focuses on corporate real estate strategy and economic development. The piece analyzes how both New Belgium and Sierra Nevada breweries ended up locating major new production facilities in the Asheville area.

Asheville, N.C., knows its hops and grains. The city has been voted Beer City USA four years running in an unofficial national poll, this year tying with Grand Rapids, Mich., for first place. An annual beer festival in the city quickly sells out. The area is home to more than a dozen craft breweries and brew pubs. And beer aficionados held the city’s first-ever Asheville Beer Week across 11 days in late May and early June this year because seven days apparently aren’t enough to celebrate the city’s culture of cold ones.

The region’s beer-centricity is advancing to a whole new level this year as two of the top three heavyweights in craft brewing are opening East Coast breweries in or near Asheville. Sierra Nevada, based in Chico, Calif., announced plans in January to build a $108-million brewery in Mills River, south of Asheville. Sierra Nevada is the No. 2 U.S. craft brewer in terms of sales behind Sam Adams. It plans to have an initial capacity of 300,000 barrels and will employ 90.

In April, Fort Collins, Colo.-based New Belgium Brewing, the third leading craft brewery in the U.S., announced it would build a $115-million brewery in downtown Asheville and employ 130.

As the two fierce competitors forged their searches, they both found themselves in Western North Carolina. Some of their location criteria were similar. But in other ways they differed starkly.


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