By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In advance of its Virginia production brewery opening, Bend-based Deschutes Brewery is kicking off its East Coast presence with a new tasting room in downtown Roanoke, Va., which is scheduled to open by the end of August.
“Roanoke is home to us now and we wanted to put down some roots,” said Nate Brocious, tours and tasting room manager of Deschutes Brewery. “Since we will not be breaking ground on our new brewing facility until 2019, we’re excited to take one of our first steps in becoming part of this awesome community by opening the new tasting room.”
Deschutes beers are now available in 29 states and Washington D.C., and throughout most of Virginia’s urban areas, such as Roanoke, Charlottesville and the Beach Cities. Deschutes has also partnered with southwest Virginia’s Blue Ridge Beverage Company to bring its most popular beers to area bars, pubs and grocery stores. The decision to house East Coast operations and production in Virginia bumps Deschutes to the same rank as Stone Brewing Co., Green Flash Brewing Co. and Ballast Point Brewing Co., which is based in nearby Botetourt County about 30 minutes north of Roanoke.
Following its 2016 announcement to open an East Coast production brewery in Roanoke, in April 2017 Deschutes announced the new tasting room. Deschutes had planned to look for a suitable location to augment its local presence, provide beer-related public education and host events. The search for the right spot began in fall 2016. Roanoke’s historic, walkable downtown also includes a farmers market, a variety of eateries and nightlife, museums, galleries, a new hotel and additional craft beer presence from local breweries such as Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers. The Deschutes Brewery Tasting Room will be located in a 4,700-square-foot space in a renovated building that was previously occupied by a restaurant that closed in 2016. As part of the construction, the ground floors of three conjoined structures will be combined into one spacious gathering area.
“Being in the heart of downtown allows us to share our culture and brands with locals and visitors alike,” explains Brocious, who plans to hire around 10 employees. “Back in 1988, we opened our first location in the heart of downtown in Bend, so it only seems fitting that we would open our first location in the heart of downtown Roanoke.”
Fifteen taps will fill Deschutes pints, growlers and crowlers. The tasting room will exclusively pour Deschutes beers for its opening, but Brocious says they “are open to exploring many options as we move forward,” and may eventually host guest taps for other local and regional breweries. Bottled Deschutes beers and other brewery merchandise will also be available for purchase. Indoor and outdoor seating is planned. Instead of building an in-house kitchen, Deschutes is removing the current prep space and working with local restaurants to offer ready-to-eat foods.
Deschutes is developing classes for the public and other events will be offered regularly. While initially the space won’t be available for private events, Brocious says they’ll be looking at ways to use some areas for that in the future.
In addition to the tasting room, the location will house a 20-gallon pilot and small-batch brewing system. “It will allow us the opportunity to create many new and exciting brews,” says Brocious, including “unique beers for the community” that may be available only in the Roanoke area or exclusively at the tasting room.
The tasting room’s brewing system is also an opportunity for Deschutes, in partnership with the fermentation sciences program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, to continue its work ensuring that beers brewed in Roanoke match those made in Bend.
Deschutes considers the tasting room as more than just a way to anchor its Roanoke presence, however. It’s also a chance to see how customers take to Deschutes-branded tasting rooms and taphouses in another part of the country that could lead to additional facilities in other markets. Roanoke-area business and tourism leaders view the business as an opportunity to further rejuvenate downtown. But perhaps most importantly, the space will allow the public to become familiar with Deschutes beers while they await the 55-acre, 350,000-barrel, $90 million production brewery’s opening in 2021.
For now, though, Brocious and the Deschutes team are focused on finishing the tasting room and getting it ready for its public debut. “We hope to see many of our friends and neighbors and will be offering some fun activities for those in attendance.”
Headed to Roanoke? Here are Additional Craft Beer Resources and Destinations:
315 Market St. SE, Roanoke, Va. 24011
Beer Trail: Virginia's Blue Ridge Beerway
Ballast Point Brewing Company
555 International Parkway, Daleville, Va. 24083
Blue 5 Restaurant & Beer Bar
312 Second St. SW, Roanoke, Va. 24011
Big Lick Brewing Company
135 Salem Ave. SW #100, Roanoke, Va. 24011
Devils Backbone Brewing
50 N. Wind Lane, Lexington, Va. 24450
Flying Mouse Brewery
221 Precast Way, Troutville, Va. 24175
Hammer & Forge Brewing Company
70 Main St., Boones Mill, Va. 24065
739 Kessler Mill Road, Salem, Va. 24153
Rising Silo Brewery
2351 Glade Road, Blacksburg, Va. 24060
Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers
523 Shenandoah Ave. NW, Roanoke, Va. 24016
Twin Creeks Brewing Company
111 S. Pollard St., Vinton, Va. 24179
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
A small city, a little off the beaten path, in a beautiful region, known for its outdoor activities and increasingly renowned for its craft beer. It might sound like Bend — but it can also describe Bend-based Deschutes Brewing’s recently announced new East Coast home: Roanoke, Va.
To be clear, this isn’t the mysterious vanishing colony you learned about in school (that’s Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina). Nicknamed “Star City of the South” for the 88.5-foot neon star atop Mill Mountain near downtown, Roanoke has been many things. Originally established in 1852 as Big Lick (it was the site of a large salt lick known for attracting wildlife), the city officially became known as Roanoke in 1882. The city of 98,465 has been a popular train stop and manufacturing town, and today is a scenic city to visit when driving I-81 or the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 469-mile scenic National Parkway and All-American Road that runs through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina.
There’s a mix of Southern charm and an emerging New South. Like many other small American cities, Roanoke has been redefining itself with small, artisanal businesses in travel, food, art, the outdoors, wine — and craft beer.
“It’s similar to Bend 15 years ago,” says Michael LaLonde, president of Deschutes Brewing. “In Central Oregon there’s nearly 30 breweries, and most of those have developed in the past five to 10 years. Within Roanoke and a little outside, there’s a half-dozen breweries now.” Those breweries have also been welcoming neighbors. “They have been so gracious,” says LaLonde. “Every one of those brewers came to the announcement and sat down with us. There’s a similar ethos of getting along and working together that we see in Bend.” The brewing industry has other support too, with a brewing program at nearby Virginia Tech as well as programs at the local community college.
Founded in 1988, today Deschutes now distributes to 28 states and the District of Columbia. But as a brewery distributes farther from its base of operations, transportation and environmental costs increase — as does the risk of quality control problems. Like Full Sail, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada, Deschutes decided to set up a new production and distribution facility east of the Mississippi — or, as LaLonde explains, east of Omaha, Neb., the midpoint between Bend and Roanoke.
The two-year search took Deschutes to hundreds of locations, and the decision could have gone a different way. Except that Roanokers launched a social campaign, #Deschutes2Rke, to persuade the company that a small valley city was a better fit than those bigger East Coast places who, as Southern charm dictates, will remain nameless.
“It was amazing,” says LaLonde. “They sent me Louisville Slugger bats engraved with #Deschutes2Rke. Local breweries sent T-shirts. One guy even wrote and recorded a song, sent us the lyrics and CD. They welcomed us with open arms and the hospitality was amazing.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the municipal water supply is similar to Bend’s, and that Deschutes found a slab-ready location (complete with access to a bicycle greenway and a creek). With site construction expected to begin in 2019, by 2021 Deschutes plans to have more than 100 personnel on site and be shipping beer throughout the region. With initial production of approximately 150,000 barrels, LaLonde expects the Roanoke facility to eventually become bigger than the Bend brewery. East Coast beers will include Deschutes’ three most popular flagship beers and four seasonal beers. Regional beers will also be produced and distributed more broadly if they prove popular in the market.
Although opening day is years away, Deschutes is already on the ground, speaking at engagements and sponsoring events. On Aug. 27, Deschutes will host a one-day setup of its 40-tap Street Pub. The family-friendly event will feature live music and cooking demonstrations, with proceeds going to a local charity.
“We were looking for a place similar to Bend where there was lots of outdoor activities that our employees could participate in,” says LaLonde. “We have people who love to trail ride, mountain bike, fly fish. Someone who was in Bend could move to Roanoke and feel comfortable.” LaLonde estimates 15-30 Bend personnel will relocate to Virginia, and there’s plenty of excitement — one person has already bought a house there.
Things to See and Do in Roanoke, Va.:
—See the city and surrounding Roanoke Valley from Mill Mountain Star, the world's largest freestanding illuminated man-made star
—Traveling with kids? Ride the Zoo Choo at Mill Mountain Zoo
—Drive or bike the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway
—Tour the Virginia Museum of Transportation, Center in the Square and Science Museum of Western Virginia
—Hike part of the Appalachian Trail
—Go swimming in or boating on Smith Mountain Lake
Visit Area Breweries
--Big Lick Brewing Company
--Chaos Mountain Brewing
--Flying Mouse Brewery
--Foggy Ridge Cider
--Hammer & Forge Brewing Company
--Parkway Brewing Company
--Sunken City Brewing Company
--Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers
--Twin Creeks Brewing Company
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