You give an inch, they take a mile.
As someone who is extremely pro-small business and pro-craft beer, the current expansion of the ‘homegrown’ Virginia Craft Beer industry has been both exciting and exponential. With such a small staff here at Virginia Brew Review, it is hard to not only get out to breweries that have been here for a while, but to all of the newer breweries that have popped up recently. For example, Virginia Brewing Company just opened their doors about 2 months ago and 3 more are planned for the Middle Peninsula area very soon. On the Southside of Hampton Roads, there are several newer breweries in the last year, with the latest, Rip Rap, turning the lights on earlier this month. And don’t get me started on Central and Northern Virginia, that seem to have litters of breweries every year.
But on top of all of this growth, Virginia seems to be THE east coast home of west coast breweries. It was only last month that Deschutes Brewery from Oregon announced that they were setting up a massive facility in Roanoke, Virginia. Now just about a day ago, Ballast Point dropped another bomb on the Virginia economy, saying they too will be moving out to Southwest Virginia, a stone’s throw away from Deschutes in Botetourt County. So now, Virginia will now boast 4 West Coast Breweries’ east coast facilities, with Stone coming on line a few months ago, and Green Flash just about 2 months away from opening as well.
So why pick Virginia, other than the great Commonwealth that it is? Virginia was able to lure these breweries economically to Virginia with the combination of several million in state grants from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund, the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, and local tax incentives. They are able to get up and running for less and start producing product without a chunk of overhead going to taxes. And behind the COF and AFID is the current Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe, a pro-business Democrat that sees the growth potential in craft beer has made it a priority during his administration.
Secondly, the two latest locations for the facilities are located in Southwest Virginia, an area that used to be a beacon of manufacturing in Virginia, but desperately needed a shot in the arm. Situated along the I-81 coordinator, getting up and down the east coast will not be a problem, and (like Richmond) most of the Mid-Atlantic States are less than a days ride away. This convenience is a logistical analysts dream. It also will definitely aid in job creation for both facilities as well as putting some more brewery options in SWVA.
Again, we have to look at the impact on the smaller breweries as well. A while back, we penned an article about Stone moving to Virginia and the impact that it could have on local craft beer establishments. We have found that distribution is not currently being affected that much by the influx of west coast breweries into Virginia, as most of the same products appear on the shelves than they did before, minus a few ‘specialty bottles’. The bigger impact comes from The Dark Side, which we have spoken our mind about a few times.
Overall business growth is a good thing for The Commonwealth, but Virginia has shown their hand and put a lot of money towards the craft beer initiative. Here’s to hoping it pays off.