One of the biggest new breweries in Charlotte is taking shape inside a former fiber processing facility, in a part of town that’s become a booming entertainment district.
The facility by Artisanal Brewing Ventures, owner of Victory Brewing Company and Southern Tier Brewing Co., is the latest change sweeping an area that was once mostly industrial, dominated by warehouses and small factories.
The neighborhood just south of Scaleybark Station is already home to Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Sugar Creek Brewing Company, Great Wagon Road distillery, GoodRoad Cider Works, Doc Porter’s Distillery and Queen Park Social.
“We think this will be a great district,” said CEO John Coleman. ABV plans to call the facility “Brewers at 4001 Yancey” to avoid brand confusion between Victory and Southern Tier, which will operate independently with their own brewing teams at the same site.
They’re targeting a mid-May opening. Last week, workers were welding and polishing the shiny stainless steel brewing vessels, which drinkers will have the chance to gawk at and walk between in the brewery.
Developer White Point Partners bought the Bowers Fibers facility at Yancey and Pineville roads for $7.9 million in 2017 and is in the midst of a total renovation.
The facility will include seating for 300, a 25-barrel brewhouse, indoor and outdoor space, glass walls to let people see the brewing process just behind the bar and an outdoor beer garden.
“Beer’s the hero,” said David Harries, director of brewing operations, standing in front of the multimillion-dollar brewing system. “We want to talk beer, show off the beer.”
Victory (whose flagship beers include HopDevil IPA and Golden Monkey) and Southern Tier (with staples such as Southern Tier IPA and Pumking Imperial Ale) merged in 2016 to create ABV, a new company backed by private equity investors. The company’s headquarters is on Tyvola Road. Both brewing companies were founded in the Northeast: Southern Tier in Lakewood, NY and Victory in Downington, Pa.
The number of people who are relocating to Charlotte from the Northeast – and are already familiar with Victory and Southern Tier – is one reason ABV picked the city for its satellite brewery. But they won’t just be producing the same familiar staples.
“We’re small enough to be creative and a little wild, but large enough to brew some for distribution,” said Harries. “We can do things that are a bit more off the wall... things you can’t do if you’re doing 1,000 barrels of it.”
Harries said the facility will serve as a forum for experimentation, with labor-intensive ingredients (citrus zest, hand-ground spices) and new flavors and beer tips. A citrus gose, slightly salty, for the hot Southern summer is one such idea.
ABV has leased about 28,000 square feet of space at Bowers, while SentryOne, a software technology firm, has leased 31,000 square feet and will relocate there from Lake Norman. Chef Alyssa’s kitchen is also moving into the new development.
Room for growth
Despite the flood of breweries that have come to Charlotte in the nine years since OMB opened, Coleman said there’s still room to grow.
ABV brewed about 270,000 barrels last year, a tiny fraction of the 92 million barrels brewed and consumed on the East Coast. Coleman said the new Charlotte facility could see about 10,000 barrels of annual production.
“There’s a lot of running room there,” he said.
But he said the craft beer industry’s rapid growth – there’s now somewhere around 6,500 breweries in the U.S., with about 1,500 more planned – means more consolidation is likely.
“It’s very different than it was five years ago,” he said. “It’s gotten more challenging out there.”
That’s what drove Southern Tier and Victory to consolidate, combining much of their overhead.
“By coming together, they’d be stronger than on their own,” said Coleman.
There are about 30 breweries in the Charlotte metro area, with several more on the way in addition to the duo from ABV.
Town Brewing is under construction off West Morehead Street, opening this summer, and Divine Barrel Brewing opened last weekend on North Davidson Street. Legion Brewing recently announced plans to open a location in SouthPark, and Heist Barrel Arts is up and running just north of uptown, according to reports.
Charlotte might seem to be on the cusp of “brewery fatigue,” but a nearby city provides a counterpoint. Asheville, with a population about one-tenth that of Charlotte, has 26 breweries, according to an analysis from Forbes. If Charlotte had that same saturation, there could be around 260 breweries in the city.