Those of us in the industry have heard grumblings about this for a little while now but it was officially announced today that Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, CA will be expanding East, according to an article on cnbc.com. The company will build a new facility in Mills River, NC which is about 20 miles south of Asheville.
Founded in 1980 by CEO Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada is currently the 2nd largest privately-owned brewery in the US behind Boston Beer Co. (Sam Adams). They brewed 800,000 barrels (about 25 million gallons) of beer in 2011 with the Chico plant maxing out at a capacity of 1,000,000 barrels.
“We felt the most responsible thing to do was to build a brewery on the other side of the country, to lessen our impact on the environment while continuing to place great craft beer into the hands of our consumers,” says Grossman. It should be noted that Sierra Nevada was voted “Green Business of the Year” in 2010 by the Environmental Protection Agency.
It is believed that Sierra Nevada looked at over 200 sites east of the Mississippi River as potential locations before settling on Mills River. The state has recently made changes to its alcohol laws such as now allowing a brewery of any size to sell beer and offer tastings on site in order to attract the California-based company. That was previously against the law for breweries that produced over 25,000 barrels annually.
The project will create 95 full-time and 80 part-time jobs and will pay on average $41,526 annually (plus benefits) in a county where the average annual wage is $32,249. Sierra Nevada will also be investing $107.5 million in North Carolina over the next five years. Pretty sweet deal for North Carolina.
“This announcement enhances a burgeoning craft beer industry in our state,” says NC Gov. Bev Perdue. “The investment, jobs and brand recognition Sierra Nevada brings will be a boon to this region and help confirm North Carolina as a destination for innovation.”
I think this is great news for East Coast fans of Sierra Nevada. The beer will fresher when purchased and allow for Sierra’s lesser-known styles such as the Ruthless Rye and Kellerweis to be more widely available. I’m sure there are some people out West that will shun Sierra for selling out or such but the beer has already been available in all 50 states. It just shows that a privately owned company can still saturate a market and be a role model for doing so when many other established breweries (Widmer, Magic Hat, Goose Island) continue to get bought out by larger corporations. Cheers to Ken Grossman and to all the future Sierra Nevada employees in North Carolina.