Opinion: In Asheville, a Deschutes downer as high-energy campaign rolls on in Virginia


There’s a distinct lack of outward excitement in Asheville around the possibility of landing the East Coast brewing operation of Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery.

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.


Schwarzcat December 22, 2015 - 2:37 pm

We are definitely not all over “beer city”. Love it. More breweries….yes please.

Josh Sullivan December 21, 2015 - 9:50 pm

I haven’t been getting this vibe from people in the community at all. These are the manufacturing jobs that Asheville can compete for and has been getting on a pretty regular basis. We won’t win every brewery but we’ve been doing well to attract these jobs to our local market.

One reason there has been a full court press in Roanoke is due to the racist comments made a few months ago by their mayor. There is a big PR campaign to try to limit the damage of his words.

Asheville may or may not get this build out, but if we do the community will benefit from good jobs and (from all outward appearances) a good company. This is the first “downer” article I’ve read.

Jim conners December 21, 2015 - 9:39 pm

Yes, we are all getting sick of the beer city. Go somewhere else, corporate America!

Itsbeenagoodrun December 24, 2015 - 1:32 am

Deschutes is privately owned… Not corporate America.

Barry Summers December 24, 2015 - 10:47 am

Deschutes is privately owned

For now.

Itsbeenagoodrun December 24, 2015 - 11:35 am

And that’s all we have at this point, right? No guarantees that any business in town won’t be bought by a larger interest. Whether it’s the Grove Park Inn or a brewery these things happen to popular businesses in popular cities. But to label an independently owned brewery as ‘corporate America’ and use it as an excuse to get some internet anger flowing is misleading.

Barry Summers December 25, 2015 - 2:34 am

Good point. But…

A few years ago, folks may remember that the town of Tryon an hour or so south of us had a persistent suitor trying to buy their water system. When Tryon wanted to know precisely who might wind up in control of their drinking water, this mysterious company insisted they were ‘privately’ owned, but refused to identify who the owners were. When the town persisted in asking questions, the offer to buy was withdrawn. We found out months later that the actual owners were the ginormous multinational Citigroup. If that had been revealed during negotiations, the answer from the town would certainly have been “Hell, no!”.

I think if any incentives are used to attract businesses to establish here, local governments should demand that they reveal ownership details, and guarantees be written in that incentives will be cancelled or repaid if the company is sold.

Woodlenz December 21, 2015 - 7:10 pm

Deschutes will make their decision soon enough and we would welcome them to Asheville if they choose us, but enough with the sensationalism. Move on and just let it play out.

NFB December 21, 2015 - 6:18 pm

I’m so over “Beer City.” It was fun for a while but now it is just a massive yawnfest.

Itsbeenagoodrun December 24, 2015 - 1:36 am

Well, NFB is over it… Pack it up beer industry…

luther blissett December 21, 2015 - 4:18 pm

” the mood around Asheville is a bit of a downer when it comes to Deschutes.”

At some point maybe Jason will stop riding this hobby horse. You’d think we were back in the days of voting a dozen times for the Beer City poll. It’ll be nice to have them brewing and distributing out east, because they make good beer; they’ll make their decision based on their own priorities and the amount forthcoming in tax bennies for the state and city coffers, not on local newspaper cheerleading and social media boosterism.

And once again: municipalities can’t relocate, corporations can.

Costanza December 21, 2015 - 8:41 pm


Chris December 22, 2015 - 8:45 am

So as I understand it Jason, you are cool with the state and local governments ponying up incentive money for these big corporations while we have people in our community that are struggling? I am shocked that with all the problems we have in this area someone is advocating we waste our limited tax dollars on wooing yet another brewery.

Think about if Terry McAuliffe used the 2.5 MILLION dollars to help the homeless in Virginia as opposed to paying bribe money for a brewery. How many people’s lives could he have saved? Pardon me if I think Habitat for Humanity could do a lot more for the community with 2.5M than a brewery!!

If Asheville is everything it supposedly “is,” then the opinion piece should read that Deschutes doesn’t need us to beg and plead and pay off for them to come to our city. Our quality of life, surroundings, and people should be enough. If they aren’t sold on that, then go enjoy Roanoke and the bribes.

At a time when the state and Asheville need to be investing in an infrastructure to see this area into the second half of the 21st century, I would welcome the money that could have been spent on Deschutes to be spent actually improving the lives of residents.

Lauren December 22, 2015 - 9:57 am


Jason Sandford December 22, 2015 - 11:18 am

Good point, Chris.

The Real World December 22, 2015 - 11:34 am

@Chris – some of your sentiments are worthy but, when only cherry-picked aspects of situation are being considered you wind up with a very imbalanced perspective.

1) To disregard that companies bring jobs and contribute to the tax base is to leave out a huge part of the equation.

2) Whereas I think most are interested in helping people (there are amazing resources in this town), we do have to balance it. I read an article recently that, apparently, AVL is so well-known for being generous to the homeless that other NC cities provide bus tickets to their homeless to come here. There’s a point where this become hugely burdensome and is a result of our own making.In the category of ‘the laws of unintended consequences’.

3) Don’t shoot the messenger on this point, I don’t make it this way. Struggle is part of the human condition and it has enormous value. Correct, we don’t want people dying of hunger or freezing to death (this is America, if either of those happen, it is by choice) but struggle is part of the human package and it takes many forms.

4) I agree with your last paragraph — focusing on AVL infrastructure is of utmost importance. Also, I could care less if we attract any more breweries; it seems like enough now.

Scott December 22, 2015 - 3:31 pm

Good grief…what was the old saying? Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime. In other words how is giving to the homeless going to help the community?
You probably don’t remember, but SC gave BMW huge tax incentives 20+ years ago to build there…just look at what that’s done for SC…there are many more high paying jobs outside of BMW there because of the attention BMW drew to the area…as far as helping the homeless, the majority of them just want a hand out…we have been helping a homeless family for over a year…the father and mother are both healthy and capable of work, but refuse to find jobs. We finally had to stop enabling them and stop offering assistance.

Itsbeenagoodrun December 24, 2015 - 1:42 am

Making smart decisions with tax money is exactly what a local government should be doing. If $2.5 million was donated to habitat they would do a lot of local good. Once the homes were built, people would occupy them, scramble for the same number of low paying service industry jobs we currently have and then tread water hoping to keep their head up in a community that offers little opportunity. By creating hundreds of manufacturing jobs, and another tourist attraction, we see much greater secondary benefits through employee wages being spent in the community, more visitors to the area spending their money in hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. Charity is an important part of any community, but building better options for its citizens should be the first goal of local government.

The Real World December 24, 2015 - 1:16 pm

@Scott and Itsbeenagoodrun – well said, both!

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