It’s been one year since New Belgium Brewing Co. powered up its big River Arts District brewery and began turning out beers for sale across the eastern United States. The brewery will commemorate the anniversary with the debut of the Tour de Fat on Saturday, May 20, featuring rock band Third Eye Blind along with circus and vaudeville performances, magicians, comedians and more. A new stage at the brewery will offer more live music this summer.
The first year has passed quickly, says brewery General Manager Jay Richardson. “In some ways, it seems like we are just getting started,” he says. “But we announced that we were coming to Asheville five years ago, so in that way, it has been quite a while.”
The Craven Street brewery, the biggest in Buncombe County, is one of three national craft brands located in Western North Carolina, along with Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Mills River and Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard. New Belgium Asheville is turning out six of the company’s beers: Fat Tire Belgian-style Ale, Citradelic Tangerine IPA, all three Voodoo Rangers (IPA, Imperial IPA and 8 Hop Pale Ale) and the current seasonal, Juicy Watermelon Lime Ale. Richardson says more beers will come online, but the company isn’t quite ready to announce which ones.
The brewery, which overlooks the French Broad River, employs 130 workers. In May, 44 of them who have been on staff for a year will receive New Belgium’s trademark bicycles to honor their employment, says spokeswoman Susanne Hackett.
According to Richardson, the brewery is currently running two shifts and at two-thirds capacity. A third shift may be online next year. “We will continue to add more capacity,” he says.
In addition to the Tour de Fat, in May the brewery is hosting Fat Tire Friday events with the company’s flagship ale available at a discounted price in the Liquid Center tasting room.
Business-wise, while beer sales have been flat in both the domestic and craft markets, Richardson says that New Belgium saw an increase in the first four months of 2017 and that Voodoo Ranger is its current top-selling beer. The company also continues to search for a new chief executive officer to replace Christine Perich. Currently, New Belgium co-founder Kim Jordan is occupying that job on a temporary basis. “We are deep into the selection process,” Richardson says. “Kim was the CEO for many years, and it didn’t take her long to get back into that groove. For those of us who worked with her before, it feels natural.”
Tour de Fat happens 4-9 p.m. Saturday, May 20, at New Belgium Brewing Co., 21 Craven St. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online.
Tasting room hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. every day of the week except Sunday, when it opens at noon. For more details, visit newbelgium.com/Brewery/asheville.
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