This felt a lot like LeBron’s The Decision, and like the 2010 original, Ohio came out the loser. Stone Brewing Co., one of the biggest and well-respect craft brewers in the world, has picked Richmond, Va., as the location for its new East Coast production facility — over Norfolk, Va., and Columbus, Ohio. Why? We’ll start with these two reasons gleaned from this Richmond Times Dispatch article:
The governor [Terry McAuliffe] made a personal pitch for Virginia. Last month, he said he had hosted company executives at the mansion and drunk Stone beer with them. He also traveled to San Diego to meet with the company.
Stone is in line to receive $5 million in public grant money, according to sources, but the precise details on state and local incentives were unclear Wednesday.
According to the same article, the facility is apparently being built in the Greater Fulton neighborhood in the city’s East End. Subject to local approvals, Stone plans to invest $74 million to construct a production brewery, packaging hall, destination restaurant, retail store and its administrative offices. Construction of the facilities will occur in phases. The brewery is anticipated to be operational in late 2015 or early 2016, with Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens opening a year or two after that. Ultimately, the company will employ more than 288 people.
Now that Richmond won, why did CBB neighbor Columbus, Ohio, lose? According to The Columbus Dispatch’s JD Malone, it might have had something to do with Ohio’s ABV laws (among other factors).
Fans of “big” beers, those with an alcohol content of more than 8 percent, hit a low ceiling in Ohio. The state mandates that no beer made or sold here can be more than 12 percent alcohol.
That puts Ohio on uneven ground in the competition for craft-beer expansions, like the $31 million East Coast brewery planned by Stone Brewing Co. Columbus is in the running, but up against two cities in Virginia — Norfolk and Richmond — that are in a state that has no cap on what a brewer can do with beer.
Further explanation is revealed in Stone’s news release, which was circulated yesterday.
“The search for our location east of the Mississippi River was no easy endeavor,” said Stone President and Co-founder Steve Wagner. “We received and reviewed hundreds of proposals, visited more than 40 sites, and received quite a bit of attention from communities and craft beer fans. The three finalist cities each provided diverse offerings, however, we decided to begin next-step negotiations with Richmond because of their ability to meet our extensive site requirements, subject to the city’s approval. We also feel that Richmond’s vibrant energy and impressive craft beer culture, along with the uniqueness of the property, will allow us to create a truly memorable Stone experience for our fans. We are honored by the amount of time and effort all the communities that submitted proposals put forth, and we want to specifically thank Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones for welcoming us.”
Stone anticipates building a 200,000-square foot production brewery and distribution facility on 14 acres of land. Equipped with a 250-barrel brewhouse, the brewery will produce year-round and special-release beers to be bottled, kegged and distributed, as well as enjoyed on-site. The company also plans to renovate a two-story, 30,000-square foot building, transforming it into a destination restaurant spanning four acres and highlighting locally grown organic food, complementing the harmonious nature and seasonality of the location’s surroundings. The restaurant will feature beautifully landscaped gardens where visitors will be able to enjoy craft beer, dine and relax in an inviting atmosphere.