It’s been a busy summer at New Belgium Brewing Co. The craft brewer, which has its eastern U.S. facility in West Asheville, has hired a new chief executive officer, filling a job that has been temporarily occupied by company co-founder Kim Jordan.
On the product side, the brewery has started a new small-batch sour brew series called Wood Cellar Reserve and launched a new nationally distributed white ale that’s an extension of its flagship Fat Tire Amber.
Steve Fechheimer, who has been chief strategy officer with spirits giant Beam Suntory, will officially join New Belgium in late August, says Jay Richardson, general manager of New Belgium’s Asheville brewery and part of the team that recruited Fechheimer. The new CEO will be based at New Belgium’s original Fort Collins, Colo., brewery, but, according to Richardson, he’ll pay a visit to Asheville by September. Fechheimer will oversee New Belgium’s nearly 800 employees, 135 of whom are in Asheville. He will also head New Belgium’s executive team, lead short-term strategy and handle day-to-day operations.
With Fechheimer’s arrival, Richardson says Jordan will return to her previous position, continuing as chair of the New Belgium board and focusing on “long-range strategy and industry topics.” Jordan has been pinch-hitting as CEO since the departure of Christine Perich in November.
The company went through at least 50 potential hires for the CEO job. Richardson says the selection team talked with “no more than 20” of the candidates and that Fechheimer has “the natural disposition” that will make him a good fit with New Belgium. “He has the experience in the alcohol industry … that’s very important,” Richardson says. “One of his specialties is strategy development.”
The overall beer industry “is showing a slight decline in growth year over year,” Richardson adds. “Within the craft industry, the [sales] growth rate we have seen over the past five to seven years is slowing.” He notes that some drinkers are consuming more wine and spirits, and as more craft breweries continue to open, competition for customers is strong. In Richardson’s words, the choices that consumers face are “staggering,” especially as brewers look for flavors that the public will find appealing and new products continue to be released.
Doing its part to stay competitive, New Belgium kicked off its Wood Cellar Reserve limited brew series in July with Le Kriek Noir, a Belgian-style kriek lambic made in Fort Collins. The brewery has also added Fat Tire Belgian White, made in Asheville and Fort Collins. Brewed with Seville orange peel, ground coriander and Nugget and Cascade hops, it’s available in 12-ounce bottles, can variety packs and on draft.
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