Exclusive Interview on How Ballast Point is Sprinting into Virginia

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Virginia may have to change its slogan to: “Virginia is for Craft Beer Lovers.”

Another west coast brewery is setting up shop for east coast distribution as Ballast Point has purchased a building north of Roanoke with hopes of opening a production facility and taproom as soon as it can.

“We do like to move quickly,” Ballast Point Vice President of Marketing Hilary Cocalis told The Brewer Magazine, noting that the San Diego brewery built its current Miramar production facility in less than a year. “We want to be in a position to brew beer as quickly as possible and still maintain the quality of the beer at a level of what we brew in San Diego.”

Ballast Point, the 11th largest craft brewer in the country by volume in 2015, joins Stone Brewing (10th) in Virginia, which will open a Richmond facility this year; Green Flash (41st), which will open in Virginia Beach this year; and Deschutes Brewery (eighth), which plans to break ground on a Roanoke facility in 2019.

Cocalis said the timing of finding the 250,000-square-foot building located in Botetourt County came rather quickly.

“We had our eye on this location over the last several months,” she said. “We knew that at some point this was something we were going to have to do, just in the interest of maintaining the quality of our beer and meet the demand that we have, especially on the east coast.

“Every time we load up a refrigerated truck in San Diego and ship it across the country, there are so many extra variables and not to mention the extra cost. It’s always been something that has started to make more and more sense for an east coast operation where we can control the quality of our product on the east coast.”

The planned cost of the expansion is $47.8 million with a projected 178 jobs for the facility. Most will be for brewing operations and management, but Cocalis said that a retail side has been promised to the state, meaning a taproom of some kind will be created as well.

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“We do expect a tasting room aspect to be a portion of it but the main focus will be as a production and packaging brewery,” she said, noting that it’s still too early to know if the taproom will have any special beers made just for the facility.

Virginia beat out several other offers from other areas for Ballast Point to call home. Cocalis said Ballast Point did look at other states and didn’t just target the south.

“It’s an area with easy access to highways and infrastructure for distribution, but it’s also just a little off the beaten path so it sort of becomes a destination in its own right,” she said. “There were some markets in some states where it would have been great for us but when we dug deeper into the state laws and ownership and what we could do in the confines of a production brewery, we saw some hurdles there.

“It’s tricky because you have some older states that don’t just have pre-prohibition laws, but sometimes even Colonial-era alcohol laws still. The requirements and restrictions around that makes California seem like the Wild West to us.”

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe met with company officials at their headquarters in San Diego during his West Coast Marketing Mission last September.

“Winning this significant project was a top priority, and we are proud that Botetourt County will be home to the company’s East Coast brewing operation,” McAuiffe said in a release. “Virginia has truly become a leader in the industry and a destination for craft beer lovers.”

Beth Doughty, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership, said the organization called on the company more than a year ago as part of a campaign to attract craft brewers.

“The company was able to move quickly because we matched them with an available building and all the infrastructure to help meet their requirements,” she said.

Botetourt County and the Roanoke Regional Partnership worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Economic impact modeling by the Roanoke Regional Partnership estimates this project will have an overall annual economic impact of $376,442,866 and spur creation of more than 540 secondary jobs. The impact will extend across the region.

McAuliffe approved a $2.4 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Botetourt County with the project. Ballast Point will also be eligible to receive a $250,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

The county will provide $1,402,177 in tax incentives along with performance grants anticipated at $650,000, the potential AFID grant and permit fee waivers.

Ballast Point employs more than 500 and sells its beer in more than 40 states. It operates as a stand-alone company after its acquisition in 2015 by Constellation Brands. Cocalis said that the east coast has been a good territorial footprint so far for Ballast Point and plans to enter Delaware and Tennessee are on the horizon.

“The governor’s office and county officials have been great to work with and have been helpful and friendly,” she said. “The building is something that checks all our boxes and it was something that fell into place at the right time.”

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