Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch founded New Belgium in the basement of a home in Fort Collins, Colorado in 1991 after a bike trip through the Low Countries convinced them that there was more to beer than tapping the Rockies. Today, New Belgium is the third-largest craft brewer in the country – and largest employee-owned operation – with distribution in 37 states. The brewery, which is increasingly focused on growth, produces nine year-round beers, four seasonal releases, new "Lips of Faith" and "Hop Kitchen" offerings every quarter, and award-winning sour ales like La Folie and Le Terroir.
"We'll be expanding that line as we have recently doubled capacity," promises New Belgium Spokesman Bryan Simpson. But that expansion won't necessarily be happening in Colorado. With the Fort Collins facility approaching capacity, the brand decided to use its second brewery to expand into new markets with the goal of being completely national by 2020. Because having a brewery on the East Coast will cut down shipping costs, Jordan and Lebesch settled on the idea of opening their outpost in Asheville, North Carolina, a well established beer town.
Specifically, the duo settled on an aging stockyard in gritty West Asheville, a space that looks quite similar to many facilities in Colorado but decidedly different than the company's Wonka-style headquarters. They broke ground earlier this month.
"In many ways Asheville feels like Fort Collins, which is home to New Belgium, and so building our second brewery here feels right," says Jay Richardson, New Belgium's Asheville General Manager." By having a brewery in the east we will be able to introduce New Belgium and craft beer to more people and ultimately we'll be able to become a national brand. That's exciting for sure."
The Asheville brewery, which reflects New Belgium's ambitions, will, fittingly, be a 127,000-square-foot statement piece with large windows, and massive skylights. "The brewery will have up to three levels in some areas, and the tasting room will be in its own one-level building," says Richardson. "Both buildings will parallel the French Broad River, and the landscaping and open space designs are aimed at reflecting that natural beauty.” The "Liquid Center" area, designed to host beer tastings, will be 6000 square feet.
If this is all good news for New Belgium, it's also good news for North Carolina, which now hosts roughly 100 breweries and is fast becoming the Colorado of the East.