March 11, 2013

Updates from New Belgium Asheville: Open House Recap

New Belgium Asheville
Rampant Imperial IPA
On Thursday night, New Belgium Brewing Company hosted an open house at Isis Restaurant in West Asheville to officially introduce themselves to Asheville residents. In addition to New Belgium CEO Kim Jordan and Asheville General Manager Jay Richardson, a number of New Belgium employees, contractors, and community partners were on hand to answer questions and celebrate the beginning of the brewery's participation in the Asheville community. Two things were clear: 1) New Belgium is making a sure-footed, conscientious entry into Asheville, 2) the Asheville community is, by and large, VERY excited to have them here.

First things first: New Belgium graciously provided free beer to all 800 or so who attended the event. It was crowded, but that didn't stop anyone from having a good time. I started with the just-released Rampant Imperial IPA (8.5% ABV, 85 IBUs), while my girlfriend got the Hoppy Bock (6.5% ABV, 70 IBUs), both from New Belgium's new Hop Kitchen series.

Mingling with the crowd, several of New Belgium community partners were on hand to talk about ways they would be involved with the new Asheville brewery. AB-Tech will be offering a number of courses in the Business of Beer, including a 2-year degree in Brewing, Distilling, and Fermentation starting in Fall 2013 (for more information contact Scott Adams). RiverLink, an Asheville non-profit revitalizing the French Broad River, will work with the brewery to protect the watershed that flows past the brewery site. To see a full list of New Belgium's Asheville community partners visit Pollinate Asheville.

I was fortunate to catch up with Bryan Simpson, New Belgium's "Spokes Model," and asked him about a few of the topics on most everyone's minds:
  • Jobs: There will be jobs. At this point, New Belgium has only just begun deconstruction and revitalization of the brownfield site near the River Arts District. This process will take time. New Belgium will likely begin hiring 40-50 brewery employees in late 2014 for initial production in 2015, but by 2020, total staff will be around 150. The best way to stay apprised of job opportunities is the New Belgium jobs page.
  • Traffic: Some residents have raised concerns about truck traffic coming to and from the brewery. Bryan assured me that they are continuing to investigate ways to reduce the impact of truck traffic, which may include alternate routes and road improvements. (For more information, see the Citizen-Times' interview with Kim Jordan and Jay Richardson.)
  • Waste Management: A significant component of a brewery's waste is spent grain. New Belgium has recently announced partnerships with two organizations to help process the 200-500 tons per week in spent grain coming out of the Asheville brewery. The WNC Brewer’s Grain Alliance, a project of WNC Communities, will facilitate the sale of spent grain to area farmers, while the Bent Creek Institute is researching innovative ways to extract the cellulose from spent grains for use in the neutriceutical and gluten-free industries.
It was a thrill to attend the New Belgium open house and get a preview of what they intend to do for the Asheville area. A lot of breweries talk about community, but it's clear that New Belgium intends to walk the walk.

For the latest on New Belgium Asheville, visit NewBelgium.com/AshevilleBrewery and facebook.com/NewBelgiumAsheville.

RiverLink Asheville partners with New Belgium

New Belgium Asheville open house