Sure, Asheville-area brewers put their best foot forward in October when they hosted Deschutes chief Michael LaLonde. That’s despite the fact that the Asheville-area is already awash in craft breweries, including big ones on the same level with Deschutes, including New Belgium, Oskar Blues and Sierra Nevada. Lots of beer was drunk and many polite things were said, but rest assured that in the increasingly competitive craft brewing world, not everybody around town is stoked about yet another player moving to town.
Also, there’s word on the street is that the tract of land in western Buncombe County that Deschutes was eyeing for its brewery earlier in the year is still actively being marketed. That doesn’t preclude the possibility Deschutes moving to the area, but if the brewery is closing in on that particular piece of property, it likely wouldn’t be on the hot list of potential economic development sites in the county.
To sum up: the mood around Asheville is a bit of a downer when it comes to Deschutes.
In Virginia, meantime, the mood is distinctly upbeat. Michael Galliher, a Roanoke resident, launched a social media campaign in September that’s gained traction as the fledging craft beer community. A barrage of editorials from the Roanoke Times has added to the buzz. So Roanoke is on a roll.
Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s governor, has bolstered the grassroots effort through is own boosterism. McAuliffe backs up his enthusiasm with cold cash. When the state landed Stone Brewing last year, McAuliffe offered a $5 million grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, as well as a $250,000 grant from another state fund, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper also reported that Stone Brewing got a sweetheart deal from the city of Richmond:
In a controversial sweetheart deal, Stone will receive a $31 million incentive package from the city in the form of general obligation bonds, plus a $7 million in state and local grants. What’s in it for Richmond? The prospect of 288 jobs plus an army of tourists who, according to Stone chief executive Greg Koch, “will spend money on hotel stays, local shops and local restaurants.” (The original Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido, Calif., draws more than 600,000 visitors a year.) Plus, there’s “the benefit of us going into a decades-long neglected part of town, where we expect to spark additional development.”
Back in North Carolina, the state and local government would have to step up its incentive game to compete with incentives like that. Back in 2012, the city of Asheville promised New Belgium $3.5 million in tax reimbursements, plus another half a million dollars in infrastructure improvements.
Deschutes has promised to announce where it will open its East Coast brewery early next year. That decision will come just as Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing opens its new $175 million brewing operation in Asheville. Area residents will be getting their fill of craft beer, with little apparent appetite for much more.