Beer Scout: New Belgium’s year-end update

A SOLID FOUNDATION: New Belgium's cellar deck is just about ready for its stainless steel additions. Photo by Michael Oppenheim and courtesy of New Belgium Brewing

Giant brewhouse tanks rolling through the streets of Western North Carolina are nothing new. Oskar Blues shipped in plenty of large ones to its space in Brevard, and Sierra Nevada closed roads from the coast to the mountains bringing its tanks into Mills River.

However, when New Belgium brings in its oversized brewhouse and fermentation vessels, it will be different. It will be the first time brewery equipment changes the silhouette of an Asheville neighborhood. They will be the largest pieces of brewing equipment inside Beer City’s city limits.

“Really, the physical change on the job site has already been significant. … To move from raising the site out of the floodplain to having a footprint and now having the shell of the building in place has been impressive,” says Jay Richardson, New Belgium Asheville’s general manager.

Yet for anyone passing by, Richardson all but says we haven’t seen anything yet.

He says building activity will peak in the next two-three months as the New Belgium team gets ready for the largest pieces of brewing equipment. The 200-hectoliter (5,283 gallon) brewhouse is coming first, from Germany via the port at Wilmington, and it will have some huge components.

The lauter tun — a giant strainer used for separating liquid wort from the grain solids in the mashing process — is roughly 22 feet by 22 feet by 15 feet, for example. Pieces such as this will require street closures and special accommodation from the N.C. Department of Tranportation. (New Belgium plans on sharing the exact plans once they’re finalized.)

“The reason these pieces are coming sooner than everything else is that to put them in the brewhouse we have to drop them in through the top. … We just can’t have a roof on that building until they’re in place,” says Richardson.

Then the roof itself will be eclipsed when the 75-foot fermentation tanks arrive in early March. They’re so large they will be set up outside the brewery walls, towering above the brewery itself.

 Staffing Up

With all the big pieces in place by spring, late spring and summer will be the time New Belgium looks to staff up more aggressively. Yet Richardson says hiring, just like construction, is a rolling process.

“Now and for the next three months, there will be key positions posted on our website,” he says. So far, New Belgium has hired about 15 people and is looking to fill positions such as lead electromechanical technician and process automation engineer.

The typical brewery jobs — the ones like brewer, tour guide and so on — will start posting in late spring 2015. “We will participate in the chamber’s Homecoming Job Fair [on Wednesday, Jan. 7] though,” says Richardson. “It will be a great chance to meet with folks and tell them the types of positions we’ll have.”

Artists looking to contribute work to the New Belgium space can skip the job fair. New Belgium is planning to open a new portfolio submission page on its website to find all the possible work that aligns with the company’s aesthetic. Look for it in early in the new year at NewBelgium.com/AshevilleBrewery.

New Belgium is also sprinting toward the finish line on its distribution center in Enka-Candler, which the company takes ownership of in March. Richardson says the bulk of staffing for that facility will take place in spring and summer as well, though key positions will be posted sooner.

As for the big moments, brewing beer in Asheville and opening the Asheville tasting room, Christine Perich, New Belgium president and chief operating officer, says it will be a rolling process.

“Rather than doing one event, we’ll be doing a series of them,” says Perich. “We’re still defining what that looks like [but] our collaboration with so many exceptional partners, including the Asheville community, is the key ingredient to us brewing beer [and opening] in Asheville in 2015.”

 For details on the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Homecoming Job Fair, visit: web.ashevillechamber.org/events/ 

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About Thom O'Hearn
Thom O’Hearn is a writer, book editor and homebrewer. Twitter: @thomohearn

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