Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).
Escondido, Calif.-based Stone Brewing Company has been very publicly searching for a location on the East Coast to open a second brewery this year, and it appears that a final decision may be coming soon.
The earliest speculation had Stone settling in Horry County, S.C. near Myrtle Beach; the state legislature even proposed a bill to make South Carolina a more attractive option for breweries in general, which quickly became known as the “Stone Bill.” That bill was signed into law last week by Gov. Nikki Haley, and it seemed like Stone Brewing to South Carolina was a done deal.
This week, however, brought news of a list of “finalists;” locations on Stone’s shortlist for its new facility, along with the 300-plus jobs and $20-30 million investment it will bring. Horry County was out, although Greenville remains on the list to keep South Carolina’s hopes alive.
We talked about the growing craft beer business in North Carolina’s Triangle region a couple of weeks ago; Greensboro is on Stone’s shortlist, with some reports mentioning Charlotte as well. Philadelphia and Cincinnati have appeared seemingly from nowhere, and then there’s Virginia: Richmond and Norfolk have both emerged as potential destinations for Stone.
The future Stone East Coast would be more than a brewery; like the World Bistro and Gardens at its original North County San Diego location, the new Stone facility would house a brewery, a packaging/distribution center, restaurant, and retail location. Richmond is attractive as a city with a long brewing history, not to mention a hotbed of up-and-coming craft breweries and restaurants.
This isn’t the first time a big-name craft brewery has seriously considered opening a location in Virginia: Sierra Nevada was seriously considering Roanoke before settling in the area of Asheville, N.C. in early 2012 (this is a great rundown of how close Sierra came to deciding on Roanoke).
Virginia’s native craft breweries are making some national noise, and that attention is opening the eyes of the industry to our state’s potential. Green Flash Brewing Company is working to get its Virginia Beach location open in 2015 — might Stone be the next San Diego craft brewer to set up shop in Virginia?
Don’t go putting any money on this on my account, but I’m going to guess “yes.” Stone President and Brewmaster Steve Wagner reportedly has said that Norfolk’s port access is intriguing, and with Stone ready to sign paperwork on the European brewery it has sought for years now (supposedly outside of Berlin, Germany according to Stone COO Patrick Tiernan) that’s going to make Norfolk very attractive. Embedding itself in the emerging Richmond craft beer scene also seems like an awfully good fit to me, too. Look for a final decision to possibly come as soon as next month.
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