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The Weekly Brew: Craft Brew Behemoths Move East

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, April 16, 2012

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08

While over 250 new micro breweries have opened in the last year, recent developments of larger craft brewers have made bigger waves throughout the industry. Three of the 20 largest craft breweries in the country, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Lagunitas, have all made announcements in the last few months to open a second brewery location. While opening a second brewery location comes with an incredible capital investment in terms of real estate, equipment, planning and labor, it provides numerous benefits such as long-term savings on freight, fresher beer to customers and a lower impact on the environment.

For Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, Calif.), the decision to break ground in Chicago. was partially inspired by the fact that owner Tony Magee was born and raised there. It was more heavily dictated by the incredible demand for their unique hoppy ales up and down the Atlantic coast. Unlike the months of rumors surrounding the other breweries’ construction projects, Lagunitas’ announcement was made casually via Twitter last week, much to the delight of customers. The new 250 barrel brew house in Chi-town is expected to be up and running by 2013 and will provide an estimated 1 million barrel capacity between both locations. This increased level of production will help to improve the quality and quantity of Lagunitas beers that reach east coast distribution.

New Belgium Brewing Co. (Fort Collins, Colo.) made its announcement to move east just days before Lagunitas’ tweet. After years of east coasters’ calls for distribution of their famous flagship amber ale “Fat Tire,” New Belgium has finally responded with the construction of a new brewery to meet the demand. The building will be located in Asheville, North Carolina—a city that is already well known for its beery locations supported by the thriving beer community throughout the state. Though New Belgium is currently unavailable anywhere north of Maryland, it’s safe to say that this will be changing in the coming years.

Coincidentally, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s (Chico, Calif.) new brewery location will be located just outside of Asheville, N.C. in scenic Mills River. After just recently beginning distribution of the canned versions of their classic Pale Ale and Torpedo IPA, the photos of the new build site on their Facebook page only served to further whet the palates of east coast drinkers. Unfortunately, due to the complexities and challenges of opening the brewery, east coast imbibers will have to suffice with the current distribution of Sierra Nevada’s hoppy offerings until construction is completed in 2014.

Though big American brewers like Anheuser Busch have over a dozen brewery locations nationwide, the news of these craft breweries opening their second locations are true milestones. These levels of success necessitate increased capacity and a wider distribution to meet the demand, creating echoes throughout the industry and foreshadowing future success for the craft brewing market. If these brewers are any indication, it’s likely that the micro-brewing industry will see some other big players make the strategic decision to open a second location in the coming year. Luckily, this will only result in fresher beer, wider distribution and happier customers. Cheers!

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