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Posted at 08:00 AM ET, 09/19/2011

Beer: Where will Sierra open its East Coast plant?

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. flexed its muscles last Tuesday by holding two simultaneous beer dinners, at the Clyde’s of Gallery Place and Ripple in Cleveland Park, with mostly different lineups of beer. The Ripple event featured Sierra Nevada Vienna Lager, a light, clean, malty little cousin of the Oktoberfest beers that are storming the market right now. Patrick Myers, Maryland sales representative for Sierra Nevada, bragged that it was the only keg of this draft-only beer in the Mid-Atlantic.

Despite persistent pumping, Myers wouldn’t divulge any information on the site of the East Coast branch brewery that Sierra Nevada is planning. Virginia and Tennessee are vying for the plant, which would cost $70-$100 million and could employ up to 100 people. A decision between two locations — one near Roanoke, the other close to Maryville in eastern Tennessee — had been expected in early August.

Now there are some dark horses in the race. Bill Manley, Sierra Nevada’s communications director, says the company has opened up the search to “two or three” additional sites, which he declined to identify while due diligence was going on. Sierra Nevada will decide “probably by mid-fall, definitely by the end of the year,” he said.

If anyone wants to register a vote for the Old Dominion, check out the Facebook page Bring Sierra Nevada to Southwestern Virginia.

In other news, Manley noted that the brewery is considering a wider distribution in 2012 for its Foam, a hoppy pilsner that up to now has only been available at Phish concerts, most recently the group’s Superball IX festival in upstate New York in July 2011.

Foam isn’t the only beer with a musical inspiration.

New Belgium Brewing Co.’s Clutch, a sour dark ale, is named after a Germantown, Md., rock group that assisted in its brewing. Miles Gray, managing partner of Smith Commons, announced that he’ll be working with DC Brau and Baltimore’s Stillwater Artisanal Ales to brew a collaborative beer called DJ Love, commemorating the fact that Gray, DC Brau’s Brandon Skall and Stillwater’s Brian Strumke have all worked spinning records. They won’t settle on a style until after Strumke returns from a three-week trip to Europe. The launch party will be at Smith Commons, “probably in November.”

An update on last week’s blog post on pony bottles and mini-beer cans: Anheuser-Busch has announced that it’s introducing a sleek, new model of eight-ounce can this October. Consumers will have their choice of four brands — Budweiser “Half Pints,” Bud Light “Azulitas,” Bud Light Lime “Limeys,” and Michelob Ultra “Quenchers” — in both 12- and 24 can cartons.

“These packages will offer additional convenience and portability for outdoor drinking occasions (e.g. picnics, barbecues, tailgates), as well as provide additional sampling tools for wholesalers and retailers,” reads the e-mail announcement.

Not just wholesalers and retailers, but also customers. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to buy a variety pack of single-hop ales in eight ouncers? Or maybe an eight-pack of barrel-aged beers mellowed in different types of wine and spirits casks? If any aspiring craft brewer wants to provide the beery equivalent of a Whitman’s Sampler, this is the perfect package.

By  |  08:00 AM ET, 09/19/2011

 
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