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.