Brownfields and Breweries: Rising to the Top (part 1 of 3)

Map of breweries that sit on brownfields properties
Wednesday, May 16, 2018 - 10:46am

(Part I: this is three-part series) 

With 260 breweries and brewpubs, it’s no wonder North Carolina boasts the largest number of craft breweries in the American South according to the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild.

That means there’s something for everyone in nearly every corner of the state. Each craft brewery has its own flavor in both atmosphere and pint. Some breweries reside on unused, old manufacturing properties that have sat for years but have been given new life through the North Carolina Brownfields Program.

The North Carolina Brownfields Program works with prospective developers who did not cause or contribute to contamination of an abandoned or unused property they wish to redevelop. Prospective developers of these properties get liability protection through a brownfields agreement. The agreement identifies measures that the prospective developer must conduct to make the property safe for the proposed reuse.

 “Anytime an unused property is safely recycled into a productive space, it’s a win-win for the community and the environment,” said N.C. Brownfields Program Manager Bruce Nicholson. “Jobs are created and the public health protected simultaneously.”

There are eight such breweries across North Carolina. Each is distinct; the commonality is that they were all built on abandoned properties that now add to the economic vitality of their respective communities. 









Notable Brownfield Breweries

Located on a 40-acre site in southeast Asheville, what is now Highland Brewing, previously housed a metal stampings and bearings manufacturer, a textiles manufacturer – and even a motion pictures studio! After working with the Brownfields Program and conducting the necessary environmental assessment and mitigation measures, Highland Brewing opened in 2006 and added a rooftop bar and an indoor event center in 2016. The 40-plus acre site has continued to expand but stays true to Asheville’s flavor and commitment to sustainability, including the third largest craft brewery solar array in the world.

New Belgium Brewing Company, though based in Fort Collins, Colorado, decided to broaden its horizons and found its East Coast expansion home in Asheville.  Specifically seeking out a brownfields property to exemplify sustainable land recycling, New Belgium Brewing Company chose a 21-acre property in the River Arts District that formerly housed a gas station, automotive repair business, demolition junkyard, livestock market and ministorage buildings for its vision of a sustainable, community-oriented brewery. New Belgium Brewing Company worked with the Brownfields Program to assess soil and groundwater impacts to be able to redevelop the property into a state-of-the-art brewery that opened in 2016. The result: a top-notch craft brewery that lives sustainably with a greenway, employee recreation, walking areas and a stream restoration project.

Craft brewing in North Carolina provides a taste of North Carolina’s diverse and beautiful landscape. Part of the flavor is the ambiance. The site and building that holds your favorite craft brewery has its own story to tell. The history of these breweries will forever include recycling abandoned properties into a very tasty reuse. Part II highlights three more craft breweries in the heart of Western North Carolina.

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Laura J. Leonard