When I visited North Carolina a few years ago I was informed by my good buddy that NC was becoming a hotbed for craft beer. The area is great for raising hops the local municipalities were very business friendly. I had no idea to what extent though. Over the past few years there has been a huge shift of west coast to east coast breweries.
Sierra Nevada, Stone, Green Flash, Oskar Blues and New Belguim have started to make the move to the east coast of the United States. Specifically, they are moving to Virginia and North Carolina and these are no small breweries. Sierra Nevada’s North Carolina brewery will pump out 200,000 barrels a year. Stone and Green Flash will pump out 100,000 barrels each. Oskar Blues will top out at 85,000. In June Deschutes Brewery is dropping it’s pop up 185ft outdoor bar in Arlington, Virginia.
The western US is often touted as being the hotbed of craft beer in the US, with craft beer hot spots like San Diego, Portland, Seattle and, moving a bit East, Denver. The East Coast, in case you didn’t know is chalk full of breweries of it’s own. The largest craft brewery in the US resides there, Sam Adams.
Why is everyone opening up shop on to the East Coast? According to the Washington Post, some of it has to do with the tax incentives local municipalities are offering these breweries. They are using the breweries to increase jobs, bring in tourists and revitalize neglected parts of their city’s.
In a controversial sweetheart deal, Stone will receive a $31 million incentive package from the city in the form of general obligation bonds, plus an additional $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 about 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.”
Eastern States are passing legislation that is favorable to breweries because they are finally seeing the benefits they produce.
Now, politicians are courting them, as the largest craft brewers in the West seek East Coast base camps.
Virginia was slow getting into the game, losing Sierra Nevada Brewing, New Belgium Brewing and Oskar Blues to neighboring North Carolina before passing Senate Bill 604 in 2012. That measure allowed breweries to operate on-site taprooms and made the state much more attractive to out-of-town beermakers.
But the real question is why aren’t east coast breweries moving out west? Dogfish Head isn’t proposing to open up shop in Seattle anytime soon. Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish says some of that has to do with shipping economics. It just doesn’t pay to move when it’s too cheap to ship.
He explains that most of the fruit and vegetables we eat are grown west of here and transported east. The trucking companies, rather than send their fleets back empty, are willing to offer competitive rates for shipping from east to west.
Craft beer keeps evolving and we should be happy we’re surrounded by such prosperous craft brewers.