If you are a follower of the beer blogosphere, or the Twitosphere, I suppose, you’ll know by now that California’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, the second largest craft brewery in the United States, has chosen a location just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, as the site of their new east coast brewery. This has some people cheering and others worrying about the chilling effect the arrival of a large capacity brewery could have on the craft brewers of the east. It is to that second group that I direct the following:
- Sierra is adding capacity, much as they have been doing for the last dozen or more years. They are not declaring war on eastern craft breweries;
- If Sierra had chosen instead to add capacity to their existing brewery, it would not have had any significantly different effect and you would not be worrying about it. Sierra is already a national brand and having the brewery in NC merely helps co-ordinate distribution;
- As I wrote last year in Ale Street News, one million new barrels of craft beer is the minimum the U.S. will require within the next year if the current pace of market expansion is maintained, and I can find no reason to doubt it will. Sierra’s new brewery won’t even be operational until early in 2014, much less running at its 300,000 barrell capacity.
So relax. The fact that Sierra has chosen a new home — and we think New Belgium and Stone might soon follow suit — is a very good thing, not just because it signals the very good health of craft brewing in the U.S., but also because it will bring much national media attention to the craft beer market and thus expand it even further. These are the glory days. Enjoy them!