Asheville, once again on bended knee to big brewer, has Deschutes decision near

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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deschutes_brewery_logo_2015The Asheville-area political and economic development powers-that-be, as well members of the beer community, are so close to landing Deschutes Brewery that they can taste it.

Those powers have been maneuvering all year long to convince Oregon-based Deschutes to open its East Coast brewery here in Buncombe County. Call it a dance or, in the vernacular of old-school economic development veterans, a “buffalo hunt.” The Asheville area has been competing with spots in South Carolina and Virginia, and the chase is about to end. Deschutes has said it plans to announce its decision by the end of the year.

In these final days of wooing, though, things have gotten a little crazy.

At Tuesday night’s Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Miranda DeBruhl made a motion to sell a 137-acre tract of land in the Bent Creek neighborhood that the county had tagged as property for an economic development project. Earlier this year, officials confirmed that Deschutes was eyeing that site. Commissioner DeBruhl, with the backing of her two fellow Republicans on the board, explained that proceeds from the immediate sale of the property could pay off a $5 million legal settlement the county is forced to pay.

Commissioners immediately retreated behind closed doors, according to reporter Mark Barrett’s account for the Asheville Citizen-Times. When they returned to their public session, DeBruhl backed down and rescinded her motion. County board Chairman David Gantt confirmed that the county was actively negotiating with a prospect for the site.

WLOS reported this week that the choice for Deschutes is now down to Buncombe County and one other location.

Thursday, the Citizen-Times reports that the head of Deschutes is returning to Asheville later this month for another “date” with the area. It’s an “informal visit” to “learn more about the local craft beer scene” with area beer-makers, according to reporter Tony Kiss’s story.

Kiss was quoting Asheville’s secret weapon in this scenario, Mark Lyons, who founded the brewery tour service Asheville Brews Cruise several years ago and who still produces a big annual winter beer fest. Asheville couldn’t have a better influencer – a better mole – than Lyons. He’s on the inside now with Deschutes, and he’s got strong connections with the mountain metropolis. Sweet.

About a month ago, an Atlanta-based beer journalist tweeted that he had a source that told him Asheville was the choice. He backed off that, but it’s hard not see Asheville as a front-runner here. Roanoke, Va., appears to be the other top contender. This opinion piece at clearly states their case for why they think Roanoke should win Deschutes.

Even beyond the jobs, though, there’s the cool factor, the wow factor, the prestige factor, whatever you want to call it. Deschutes Brewery — maker of Black Butte Porter, Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Fresh Squeezed IPA — would be a fantastic thing for Roanoke to call one of its own. Deschutes, quite frankly, would make us look good — a nice little exclamation point as we fashion ourselves from a gritty railroad town of the past into a hip, little outdoorsy town of the present and future.

The Roanoke piece notes that the city has a bit of a “complex” when it comes to Asheville landing big craft breweries over the past several years. Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium have all chosen Western North Carolina as their second homes for East Coast operations in the past five years. So Roanoke pleads to Deschutes, on bended knee: “If you come to Roanoke, you will be loved.”

Here in Asheville, we’re familiar with that wanting, that yearning, that desire to be respected and seal a bond with a strong new partner. With 20 years into our craft brewing culture in Asheville, we should stand at the altar with confidence. We’re a place that’s recognized as a top global tourist destination. We’re a place with warm, friendly people. We’re a place where people want to live and raise a family. That matters.

It’s no small thing that three other big craft brewers have been attracted to us. Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium all saw the benefits of connecting with the passionate beer community that’s been built here, as well as to this region’s commitment to preserving the stunning environment that surrounds us. We value clean air and water, better access to greenways and bike lanes and a local economy that supports independent-minded entrepreneurs so often found in the craft brewing world. We’ve got our issues – low wages, high housing costs and a frayed infrastructure, to name a few – but we’re working on them.

Having Deschutes choose Buncombe County for its East Coast operation would be another critical affirmation that we’re headed in the right direction, and that we continue to seek great partners who can help us along the way. So once again, Asheville extends an invitation to join the fun and the family. Deshcutes, won’t you say yes?

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. Eden October 14, 2015

    Great! Yet another brewery to attract even more tourists and hipster wastes of life to Asheville. Do these people who welcome these industries with open arms ever consider the negative impacts that come with them?

  2. Eden October 14, 2015

    Great! Yet another brewery to attract more tourists and more hipster wastes of life to Asheville. Do all these people who welcome these industries with open arms ever consider the negative impacts that come with them?

  3. Tim Peck October 12, 2015

    Was there some new development in the water lawsuit that she knows about but we don’t?

  4. Tim Peck October 12, 2015

    Asheville city council candidate Lindsey Simerly said that if they take the water away we won’t have any left for the breweries.

    Is that true?

    1. dummy October 12, 2015

      STFU Dummy.

    2. Mike October 13, 2015

      You’re hanging a lot on what a city council candidate said. I wouldn’t over think it.

      1. Tim Peck October 13, 2015

        It’s just something I heard. It sounds like Simerly doesn’t understand the situation. If it’s true. I’ll keep digging. Thanks for your help and interest.

    3. Steve October 14, 2015

      Hey – I think we gotta give Tim some credit for a completely rational post. Congrats!

      1. Tim Peck October 14, 2015

        Has anyone heard anything about this important local news?

  5. AVLpedalpunk October 10, 2015

    Just what we need, another lame hipster brewery. Please Deschutes please go to Roanoke. We don’t want or need ya here. We can’t even spell your name right in the title of the article. Your arrival will be met w/ minimal fanfare and you’ll be yet another drop in a larger dilution of an increasingly unauthentic tourist driven craft beer circus. Go to Roanoke, surely they’ll appreciate your Oregon hipster cred.

    1. Woodlenz October 13, 2015

      I’m guessing you’re either a Roanoke plant, a disgruntled former employee of a brewery or just a bitter person. And who is “we” as you certainly do not speak for me or the vast majority of us who would welcome them to our great city. So speak for yourself. Deschutes would definitely be welcomed here and completely embraced.


  6. Flori October 9, 2015

    Living in Bend within walking distance to Deschutes Brewery for many years made Ted and me huge fans. We now call Asheville home. We are the creators of the app and website that connects folks to the awesome offerings taking place here in Asheville including the craft beer scene. Bend was a significant part of the inspiration for Dig Local. For us the decision to leave Bend was difficult, but transitioning to Asheville, to a community who values quality of life, outdoor recreation, sustainability, good food & BEER was a soft landing spot and a natural fit. Deschutes Brewery, please know that Asheville will dig you. You will thrive here and Ted and I will walk to get to you, even in the snow, as we’ve done many, many times in the past. Please come. – Flori Pate -co-founder of

    1. Woodlenz October 13, 2015

      Well said Flori!!! Thank you for bringing intelligent insight to the conversation.


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