Brewing is Big Business in Central Virginia

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August 15, 2013

August is Craft Beer Month in Virginia, and people in Charlottesville and the surrounding area have plenty of choices when it comes to locally made beverages they can choose to celebrate with.

That is because the brewing business is becoming big business, and its keeping people like Steve Crandall, the owner of Devils Backbone Brewery in Nelson county, busy.

"The craft beer industry in general has just been on fire across the country and everyone's seeing great expansion." explains Crandall.

Devils Backbone is installing a new cooler at their Nellysford location to help keep up with demand, as well as expanding the facility in Lexington.

"The facility over in Lexington we built last year was about a 6 million dollar build, we're doing another 5 million on top of that now." says Crandall.

That’s more that 11-million dollars in just two years, and the brewery is not the only one to see some benefit from the expansion. It also means a major economic boost to the central Virginia economy. Devils Backbone employees about 80 people, and for many of them, it is becoming a good career track.

Jason Oliver, the Brew Master at Devils Backbone explains, "My assistant Aaron started as a bartender, and then we brought him back part time, and then full time in the brewery, and now he has a special set of skills."

And those skills are in demand in a fast growing industry, that is because in 2005 craft brews had about 6% of the market share for beer sales, and that grew to 10% in 2010 and now it sits at 14%, which could be 15% soon enough, according to the industry growth rate forecast.

Devils Backbone is just down the road from another example of the booming craft beverage industry: Bold Rock Hard Cider. The company began production in 2012, and is already building a new 12,000 foot facility that will help them triple production. Founder John Washburn says he is as surprised about that as anyone else.

"Its is bigger than we ever anticipated, and the demand has been so satisfying." says Washburn.

There is also a secondary economic impact from Bold Rock's success: all of those apples they use in their cider are from central Virginia orchards. Bold Rock gives them another source of sales.

"We are a string to their bow as you'd say, and another alternative that they have." says Bold Rock Co-Founder Brian Shanks.

Its not just existing companies that are expanding, Three Notch'd Brewing is a new brewery in Charlottesville.

The million dollar start-up should be open by the end of August, and Scott Roth, a co-founder of Three Notch'd says they are excited for the future.

"We're working on trying to expand to a bottling line and we have extra capacity built into our plans so that we can hopefully keep a little pace with some of the big guys that have taken off around here." says Roth.

The new company means around three dozen jobs in the heart of Charlottesville. Despite the growing number of breweries, co-founder Derek Naughton tells us it is not a cut-throat business.

"The craft brewery industry is collaborative, and we're all friends in town and beyond, and we believe there is always room for great beer." says Naughton.

A great beer, or cider that in central Virginia means the economic glass is overflowing.

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