Craft Beer’s Positive Community Impact

By John Holl

In her mind’s eye, Anne Moore-Sparks can see it. Walking around the Tobacco Warehouse District in Danville, Virginia, Moore-Sparks sees the brewpub that city officials one day hope will open there.

The district is a prime location for a craft brewery. Ever since officials in this city of 45,000 residents decided two years ago that a brewery was exactly the kind of local business they wanted, the pursuit has been on.

Craft breweries are good for local economies. They create jobs, contribute to city coffers, are often generous to local charities and causes, and are usually willing to move into areas that are in need of rehabbing.

The spot that Moore-Sparks and Danville have in mind is along a bike path and in the same complex that boasts an amphitheatre, 160 units of housing, several local businesses, and parking for 350 cars. A local university has also committed to using some of the space in the district.

“This area is just ripe for a brewpub,” said Moore-Sparks. “The community is asking for it.”

The city has put together schematics, is willing to work with the brewery owner towards clearing any potential bureaucratic hurdles, and has a number of spaces available raging from 6,000 to 20,000 square feet. The city is actively taking inquires, and waiting for the right fit.

Community Support: Asheville, North Carolina

Having a brewery in a town can also raise a municipality’s cache. Take for example Asheville, North Carolina, which boasts ten breweries and has a handful more in the planning stages.

“We have a community that supports the beer scene and keeps the momentum going,” said Dodie Stephens, a spokeswoman for the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau. Stephens explained that a brewery is a benefit for locals, but that it’s also a draw for the more than 3 million visitors to the city each year.

“I would say the craft brewing scene is what makes Asheville an enriching destination,” said Stephens, who noted that the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Biltmore Estate remain the top attractions.

Mindful of their brewery wealth—Asheville currently holds the title of Beer City USA—the visitor’s bureau has built a whole experience around the city’s beer scene that is popular with both tourists and residents. Another company in the city, Brews Cruise, offers both walking and driven tours to the community’s various breweries. Since its founding in 2006, Brews Cruise has become a main attraction for visitors.

Stephens said the city is looking forward to new breweries opening in the coming years, saying that the existing businesses are diverse and unique, each with a distinct vibe and flavor. There is a place for every palate in Asheville.

Breweries Building Community: Harpoon Brewery

In Boston, Harpoon Brewery recently signed a 50-year lease with the city that will keep them in their current marine industrial park location. Operating first as a naval base, former President Richard Nixon closed the facility in the 1970s. The land was later turned over to the state and eventually the city.

“When Harpoon opened 25 years ago, it was an ideal spot for the brewery,” said Dan Kenary, Harpoon Brewery president and co-founder.

Not only was it easy for trucks to access the brewery for deliveries, they also had room to expand. Harpoon, which began with 5,200 square feet of space, now occupies 47,000 square feet. When including outdoor areas, the brewery is closer to 100,000 square feet.

Being on city-owned land helps officials tout Harpoon as a hometown success story, something the mayor does on regular occasions.

“People love manufacturing businesses and we can keep jobs in town,” said Kenary.  “That’s important.”

He also pointed out that for a city like Boston, with its bustling tourism and convention industry, having a brewery that is in walking distance of hotels is a selling point.

“To be honest, they love us here,” said Kenary.

A good relationship between a town and brewery is crucial. Kenary said that when Harpoon expanded and took over a brewery in Windsor, Vermont, one of the main reasons they completed the deal was because the city was willing to work with them.

“We worked very closely with the town management, and I don’t know if we would have gone forward if they weren’t as forthcoming and welcoming as they were,” Kenary said.

Establishing a Brewery Community

With all the good will that some cities show America’s craft brewers, there are others that are still unaware of the brewing renaissance and need a helpful nudge.

Rodrick and Kiera Landess, who opened New Boswell Brewing Company in 2010, looked at two different Indiana cities before opening. Neither, Rodrick said, had ever considered recruiting a brewery.

“I don’t think Richmond or Muncie was actively looking for a brewery,” said Landess. “I don’t think either organization saw the value in this sort of business as a means to increase tourism.”

Eventually, the members of the Historic Depot District in Richmond did provide a very supportive atmosphere and offered an affordable place for the couple to open.

“We were supported in the local bars, and we worked together with the neighborhood merchants to put on an Oktoberfest in our first year that attracted thousands of visitors,” said Landess. “Everyone said it was the largest festival in the district in decades, or possibly ever.”

John Holl is the editor of All About Beer magazine and author of The American Craft Beer Cookbook: 155 Recipes from Your Favorite Brewpubs and Breweries.

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