Deschutes dumps Asheville, picks Roanoke for new East Coast brewery


Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery announced Tuesday that it would build its new $85 million East Coast brewery in Roanoke, Va., ending months of speculation about whether Asheville, which was on the brewery’s location short list, would land yet another major craft brewery.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Deschutes representatives, including founder Gary Fish and company President Michael LaLonde, made the announcement to an energetic crowd. The officials detailed a years-long effort to woo Deschutes, one that began in 2012 when Roanoke-area economic development officials launched a campaign to show off the region’s assets and opened discussions with Deschutes officials. Deschutes looked at more than 100 possible locations before narrowing its list to spots in Virginia, South Carolina and Asheville, North Carolina.

McAuliffe made it clear that he was personally involved, noting a winter 2015 dinner in the Virginia governor’s mansion with Deschutes officials that included the company’s beer and an impromptu tour. (The dinner also included the playing of a Grateful Dead concert from a 50th anniversary box set, said one official who noted a Deschutes officials love of the iconic band.) Deschutes notified Roanoke officials in November that they had picked the city (and a site at a local business park) as the spot for their new brewery. It will produce about 150,000 barrels of beer a year when it opens; construction is set to begin in 2019.

McAuliffe announced that the state was giving Roanoke $3 million from an economic development fund as an incentive for Deschutes.

Officials on hand also took time to personally recognize a local resident, Michael Galliher, who spearheaded a social media campaign dubbed Deschutes2Roanoke that caught fire online. The virtual campaign confirmed to Deschutes officials that they were making the right decision, they said. By comparison, there was little online excitement expressed from Asheville quarters during the lead up to Tuesday’s decision.

The Roanoke choice left Asheville economic developers wondering what else they could have done to win over Deschutes. The Asheville Citizen-Times quoted Buncombe County economic development official Ben Teague as saying that the quest for Deschutes was a “marathon” and that Roanoke’s plans likely fit the company better than Asheville’s site, a 137-acre parcel in the Bent Creek community. Teague also told the newspaper that Deschutes notified Buncombe officials late last year that their site was out of the running.

Buncombe County commissioners spent $6.7 million of taxpayers’ money to acquire the property last year, property the county is now back to marketing. Board of Commissioners Chairman David Gantt issued a statement Tuesday defending the purchase of the property and noting that the Ferry Road site is still a good location for economic development.

Tuesday’s decision comes as Asheville prepares for the opening of Colorado-based New Belgium Brewery’s new $180 million East Coast beer-making operation near downtown. Over the past five years, Asheville and Western North Carolina has landed the East Coast brewing locations of New Belgium, Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues Brewing, while the local craft beer scene has exploded with some 50 breweries around the mountains.



Tim Peck April 5, 2016 - 8:35 am

It’s my understanding that Deschutes was never interested in the property and that the whole story was a ruse. Wasn’t the real reason for Buncombe County’s purchase of the Bent Creek property from Henderson County on a deadline on behalf of the City of Asheville to keep Jack Cecil from getting it?

Unfortunately, some public records requests are being withheld from the public. Why is that, do you suppose?

“Emails by commission Chairman David Gantt and Commissioner Brownie Newman, both Democrats, were not among those the county provided on Wednesday under a North Carolina Open Records Law request.”

Unaffiliated Voter March 24, 2016 - 5:52 pm

THRILLED deshoots went to Roanoke! don’t blame them one bit as we are soaked with breweries already here! Yay for Roanoke!

Tim Peck March 23, 2016 - 9:33 pm

Records reveal Deschutes dropped Asheville months ago

County leaders knew before Thanksgiving that Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery wasn’t coming to Asheville, according to internal records obtained by News 13. But for months, they declined to discuss the project or said an official decision had not been made.

chris March 24, 2016 - 9:57 am

Fire up the emergency session! We’ve got a scandal on our hands!

I look forward to reactionary DeBruhl’s reactionary reaction.

luther blissett March 24, 2016 - 3:55 pm

“for months, they declined to discuss the project”

Or perhaps, just perhaps, they were under a NDA, given that the email in question reads “While the project remains confidential until announcement”. I know that Peckaloon has no journalistic credentials whatsoever, but that’s weak sauce from WLOS.

If dim bulb Miranda DeBruhl wants to run on it in November, then let her, but she’ll have to admit to basic geographical fact: companies have mobility, but counties and cities don’t.

The Real World March 23, 2016 - 12:17 pm

I’ve noticed that there are certain topics for which Jason has a very sour and myopic view. And it seems like once he has it, there is no reasoning with him. Hence, the using the angle of “dump”. (Liked your comment, Ryan, funny!)

My money is on what Luther said. AVL was never really in the cards but proved a good leveraging tool in their negotiations elsewhere. I mean look at the New Belgium situation — we thought we were getting a regional craft brewer but they have, NO DOUBT, known for a long while that they intended to sell themselves to probably a big, multi-national. Surprise!

They’re pretty “crafty”, these breweries.

Ryan March 23, 2016 - 11:49 am

“Deshutes Dumps Asheville?” Wow. That kind of makes it sound like we were dating? My understanding was that we were just maybe getting to know one another, you know, like coffee dating (low committment) while we checked each other out. And yea, maybe things seemed like we were getting friendlier (second base?) but that we also knew that it was an open relationship and that Deshutes was seeing someone else. In the end though, Deshutes chose Roanoke, and probably for a number of good reasons including business perks being offered, a extremely enthusiastic Roanoke community, and possibly the desire to be the big brewery in town rather than one of several. Makes sense. Sure, I wish they were coming here too. But good for Roanoke and good for us also as we are close enough to be able to go visit them easily. And heck, in Oregon, they have their brewery in Bend but they have a fantastic pourhouse in Portland. I like to daydream that one day they might bring one here. But setting up our relationship as being “dumped” seems to make Deshutes sound like jerks and makes us sound like whiney high-maintenance ex-lovers. Can’t we just say congratulations to the happy couple and be friends? jeez.

Gaines March 23, 2016 - 11:05 am

“Dumped”? I think that Roanoke wanted it more, and rightfully so. WNC is an attractive place to brew, that has been proven. But there are other locations that deserve some love as well. I was fortunate enough to meet with Michael LaLonde on one of his visits to the area and he was very gracious and complimentary of our area. I am happy for the citizens of Roanoke and for Deschutes.

Doc March 23, 2016 - 8:29 am



luther blissett March 22, 2016 - 8:50 pm

“The Roanoke choice left Asheville economic developers wondering what else they could have done to win over Deschutes. ”

That’s projection, Jason, because in honesty, the answer is nothing: Deschutes wanted to be the anchor brewery (though not the Anchor Brewery) in town. Perhaps having Asheville on the list helped them extract more from Richmond and the local govt, but it was never on the cards. Now we count down the days until we can get Black Butte Porter, and I’m sure there’ll be Parkway collaborations.

Doug S. March 22, 2016 - 5:55 pm

Roanoke needs it more than we do. Glad for them.

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