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Deschutes Heads East

How the brewery found its new Virginia home



Deschutes Brewery's decision to open an $85 million second brewing facility in Roanoke, Virginia (announced on March 22) was not something Bend's most well-known beermaker decided upon lightly. The seventh-largest craft brewery in America has spent much of the past couple of years hunting for a location to expand into, gauging candidate sites in places like Texas, Minnesota, the Carolinas, and even a 126-year-old former brewery building in Memphis, Tennessee. The reason is simple enough: Deschutes, which currently distributes beer in 28 states, wants to expand its range to cover the Eastern United States. In order to accomplish this, building a new brewery is a lot cheaper than trucking bottles all the way from Bend to Florida. (Many large Western craft breweries, including Stone, Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues, have already built second locations in the East.)

The decision to go with Roanoke, however, caught some industry observers by surprise. By the end of last year, Deschutes had narrowed its choice down to three possible locations: Roanoke; Charlottesville, Virginia; and Asheville, North Carolina. All are medium-sized regional cities near the interstate system (important for a brewery Deschutes' size), all are outdoorsy and picturesque, and Asheville in particular is a brewery-laden beer mecca outclassed perhaps only by Bend.

What did it come down to? The benefits, basically. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe approved a $3 million grant to help Roanoke land the project, which will be located in a business park overlooking nearby Tinker Creek on the eastern edge of town. That wasn't on the table in Asheville, and Charlottesville bowed out after its city government declined to rezone the land Deschutes needed.

Thus, Roanoke—historically a railroad-centric town, trying to diversify its economy—is now Deschutes' second home out East. The facility won't open for a while (the opening's slated for 2021), but when it does, it may join Lagunitas and New Belgium in the elite club of craft breweries that produce over a million barrels per year.

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