Brewery expansions worth watching

New Belgium's proposed brewery design in Asheville, N.C.

I sat down with Larry Bell earlier this year when he was visiting Phoenix to watch his beloved Chicago Cubs at Spring Training. While I wanted to keep the conversation focused on his ties to baseball (like the fact that he plans to attend every home game at Wrigley Field next year), our chat did venture into some beer-related topics. As we were wrapping up the Q&A, Bell hinted at a pretty big development in the works. He couldn’t divulge the secret, but he did tell me that it was related to an upcoming trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The secret: Bell’s recently announced it’s building a new brewery, called Upper Hand Brewery, in Escanaba, Mich. The brewery should be up and running in about 18 months. On a side note, Bell’s is also opening a bar in the Grand Rapids airport.

While this isn’t one of the biggest craft brewery expansions (and, of course, it’s the development of an entirely different brand, not a new Bell’s production facility) it’s still another one to add to the growing list of big name breweries building new facilities.

Here are some of the new production facilities slated to open:

* Lagunitas in Chicago, opening late 2013
* Sierra Nevada in Asheville, N.C., opening 2014
* Urban Chestnut in St. Louis, opening 2014
* New Belgium in Asheville, N.C., opening 2015
* Green Flash in Virginia Beach, Va., opening 2015
* Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, opening 2016

Now, that’s just a short list of some of the bigger brands in craft beer (or, soon to be, like Urban Chestnut). There are plenty more happening on a local level: For instance, here in the Phoenix area, Four Peaks recently opened a new production facility and SanTan’s new facility is slated to open in May. Add to that the number of on-site expansions at big and small breweries alike and it’s staggering—especially when placed next to the escalating number of new breweries opening across the country.

Doom and gloom aside (for now), it’s pretty remarkable.

Which expansions have you the most excited?

[Image courtesy of New Belgium]

Posted on Monday, April 29th, 2013