New Belgium bringing fresh-brewed beer and new jobs to Asheville

Published on Tuesday, September 4, 2012

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New Belgium in Fort Collins, Colo., is home to the brewery's headquarters.

New Belgium in Fort Collins, Colo., is home to the brewery's headquarters.



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The employees designed and signed the New Belgium logo.

The employees designed and signed the New Belgium logo.



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The Liquid Center Tasting Room at Fort Collins, Colo., wiil be a part of the Asheville culture when New Belgium is fully on line in 2015.
 

The Liquid Center Tasting Room at Fort Collins, Colo., wiil be a part of the Asheville culture when New Belgium is fully on line in 2015.

 



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The Asheville brewery is scheduled to produce the full line of New Belgium’s year-round beers. 

The Asheville brewery is scheduled to produce the full line of New Belgium’s year-round beers. 



You’d be hard pressed to find someone around here that isn’t happy about New Belgium’s plans to build a brewery in Asheville. I asked a few existing microbrewery owners in Asheville for their thoughts regarding the incoming competition, and they all expressed enthusiasm about New Belgium, saying they are all after the same thing: creating delicious brews and generating new craft beer fans.

A trip to Colorado gave me the perfect opportunity to meet with New Belgium Spokes Model Bryan Simpson in Fort Collins to find out more about the plans for the Asheville brewery. (And the opportunity to try the latest brews they’re releasing, of course.)

New Belgium is known for its commitment to community and environmental responsibility, which made Asheville a perfect choice for the East Coast location. “The community is important to us. We know we’re coming into an existing community and we want to be very respectful and develop relationships. We want to bring new opportunities,” Bryan said.  

The choice of where to build the East Coast facility was narrowed to Philadelphia or Asheville. Asheville won out because: its central location along the coast, its quality water supply, its culture of craft beer appreciation, and its emphasis on conservation. “It has a great brewing culture,” said Bryan. “We were really inspired by the community. And it’s surrounded by the River Arts District, with all the artists’ studios. It’s got so much potential.”

The New Belgium project is divided into two phases. Completion of Phase 1 will result in a facility that’s able to produce up to 400,000 barrels, and it includes the brewhouse, the bottling line, and the kegging line. Phase 2 completes the full build out with a capacity of 750,000 barrels, and will include the canning line.

Fans of New Belgium’s tasting room, The Liquid Center, will be happy to know that the Ashville brewery will also include a tasting room. The style and appearance will incorporate New Belgium’s bicycle and conservation culture as well as include elements of Asheville culture that Bryan says will be determined as they become more involved with the people there. “I’ve seen the blueprints, and there will be an atrium-like feel to the tasting room,” Bryan said, “although the details are still in the planning stages.”

The new facility is scheduled to produce the full line of New Belgium’s year-round beers. “There will be an opportunity to play around with the seasonal beers to create regional versions of different beers,” Bryan said.

New Belgium’s commitment to sustainability flows into everything it does. They were looking for a community where it could improve that location. The beer company chose a Brownfield site (an abandoned industrial/commercial site) that will need to be improved and regenerated before they can break ground in January of 2013.

New Belgium is repurposing much of the existing building materials from an old stockyard, and they’re incorporating a section of graffiti-decorated corrugated steel located on site that they’ll work into the building. The new facility is scheduled to start producing beer in January 2015.

New Belgium is planning to hire 125 employees throughout the project. In addition to the direct job opportunities the brewery will provide, there are also ancillary support businesses that will experience growth, including construction companies and suppliers.

Bryan said New Belgium is excited about becoming a part of the brewing culture in Asheville and even collaborating with other breweries. “It’s this whole symbiotic thing. I think it’s good for the whole community. We like finding other breweries that we’re inspired by and then collaborating with them. It’s fun and it keeps everybody engaged.”

The New Belgium culture celebrates craft and creativity. “It’s our purpose, to operate a profitable brewery which makes our love and talent manifest,” Bryan said.

New Belgium is also an employee-owned company, so the employees own shares of the company, which they earn after one year of employment. At the one-year celebration, new employee-owners are given a “Mojo” handmade by CEO Kim Jordan. Kim presents the fob, made from copper to symbolize the conveyance of water, stainless steel to symbolize brewing, and a bead to symbolize the individuality of each person. The words “Love” or “Talent” are stamped into the metal to reference the purpose statement.

“It’s really an ownership culture,” Bryan said. “You’re thinking about ownership all the time. The books are open, and there’s a lot of living out loud here, a lot of transparency.” There are committees that employees can join, including a philanthropy committee that oversees nonprofit grants given by New Belgium. Not surprisingly, the employee retention rate is 97 percent.

Bryan took us down to the tasting room and poured us a few different beers. One of those was their fall seasonal, Red Hoptober, which should be available in South Carolina soon. It’s a red ale that’s brewed with Eldorado hops, which provide a piney flavor that goes nicely with the caramel malt and roasted barley. There are also notes of fig, tropical fruit, toffee, and citrus. I highly recommend it.

If you’re a craft beer fan, you’ll want to add January 2015 to your calendar and schedule a visit to Asheville. Until then, you can find most of New Belgium’s beers, including the seasonal Lips of Faith series, at specialty beer shops like Greenville Beer Exchange and Community Tap. 

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