California-based Stone Brewing Co. is not the only West Coast brewer potentially looking at new facilities in South Carolina because of a law passed this week that will let breweries sell their beer onsite.
Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery is considering an East Coast expansion and will at least look at South Carolina.
“With the law you guys passed, (Deschutes founder Gary Fish) said we might have to take another look at South Carolina,” Deschutes spokeswoman Marie Melsheimer said Friday afternoon.
Melsheimer did not say what she meant by “another look,” but she said the brewer, the nation’s fifth-largest craft brewer, is several years away from making any decisions about an expansion.
“We don’t have any plans to expand,” she said.
The S.C. House and Senate approved the bill Wednesday that would allow breweries to produce an unlimited amount of beer and also operate on-site restaurants that serve food. The bill came as the state courts Stone Brewing Co., which has said it will invest up to $30 million and hire hundreds of employees where it locates a brewery on the East Coast.
The California-based company is the 10th largest craft brewer in the country.
Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach, said state Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt told him that Stone planned to move to South Carolina if the bill was passed. Stone said this week it had not yet decided where it will build its new East Coast brewery.
In an article published in January, Fish told The Bulletin of Bend, Oregon, that Deschutes has a company looking at possible East Coast sites for development.
Fred Richardson, chairman of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., said he and EDC CEO Brad Lofton met recently with a consultant who represented breweries.
He said the consultant “didn’t give out any names,” and characterized the meeting as general in nature. Lofton showed the consultant some sites and the consultant said he’d take the information “and see if anyone was interested,” according to Richardson.
While economic development interests and others in Bend are working to get the company to expand at its current site, according to The Bulletin, Fish told the reporter that “it costs about $4 to $5 a case to ship beer to the East Coast.”
“There are a lot of places that are a lot less expensive to develop than Bend, Oregon,” Fish was quoted in the article. “As our sales continue to grow on the East Coast, at what point is it going to make sense to produce it where it’s being sold, or closer to where it’s being sold?”
The beer is not distributed in the East now, but it has plans to begin distribution to the Midwest and Philadelphia.
In 2013, Deschutes increased its capacity to produce 460,000 barrels annually.
Like Stone, Deschutes also has restaurants that serve the beer it brews, so the bill that would allow Stone to do so onsite would apply to Deschutes as well.
The Bulletin said that Fish said an initial estimate on the cost to expand would be about $50 million.
Lofton said late Friday that he had not yet talked with Deschutes, but would call them before the end of the day.
While intrigued to hear what Fish said about looking again at South Carolina, Lofton said all of the EDC’s efforts now will be focused on trying to snare Stone for the Grand Strand.