New Belgium, Sierra Nevada Dish the Dirt on Asheville-area Site Selection

Written by Adam Nason for

(Asheville, NC) – Much has been written about New Belgium and Sierra Nevada Brewing’s East Coast site searches and selection over the past several months. As everyone knows by now, the two companies landed in the Greater Asheville Area with Sierra Nevada electing the nearby rural town of Mills River.

A magazine called Site Selection posted a lengthy report this month detailing the decisions leading up to Asheville with a couple notable quotes from reps for each company. At one point, each company discovered that the other was looking in the same areas for a second brewery. So, what do they have to say about being in each other’s backyard in the future?

Austin Consulting’s Don Schjeldahl helped Sierra Nevada in its search.

Sierra Nevada also considered the site that New Belgium eventually selected in downtown Asheville. “It’s got some contamination and flood plain issues, but you can overcome those with money usually,” Schjeldahl says. “It’s also right in the face of some of Asheville’s brewers. This seemed a little insensitive, so we narrowed it to three sites: one in Marion, one in Black Mountain and this one.” […]

“Craft brewing is a tight industry. They [management of both companies] have been to each other’s breweries many times. People go back and forth between the breweries. When it comes to selling beer though, it is pretty competitive. We are here and we came here because this is the right place to be. It doesn’t matter if New Belgium is here. We’ve chosen to be out of town and taken on stewardship of the environment. They have chosen to be in an urban setting.”

Meanwhile, New Belgium director of strategic development and sustainability, Jenn Vervier, led the company’s search.

“By the time we heard that they were even looking at North Carolina, we were kind of past the point of no return. We each had to play our own ball game. If it turned out we were near each other, then that is the way it was going to be. The sites are about 15 miles (24 km.) apart, but also very different. Ours is in a city and theirs is not. We didn’t want it to happen and it wasn’t our preference, but when it became inevitable, we decided to make the best of it. We have found throughout our history that competition makes you stronger, so we are okay with that.”

With Oskar Blues also moving to Brevard along with a number of smaller local breweries, the region will eventually churn out more than one million barrels annually (~10% of the nation’s current production from craft breweries). The addition of those three brewers will also make an already hot tourist spot for beer drinkers that much more attractive.

While, perhaps, neither company will be able to lay claim to being “North Carolina’s brewery” with the other there, come 2015, few will question that the general region is among the nation’s craft beer epicenters

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