By DC Beer contributor Katie McConnell
Two weeks ago, Green Flash Brewing Co. announced that they will join Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, and New Belgium in calling the East Coast its second home. Green Flash plans to break ground on its 58,000 square foot 100,000 barrel brewery in Virginia Beach later this year, with an expected opening in 2015. DC Beer had an opportunity to catch up with Co-Founder and CEO Mike Hinkley and hear what this move means for DC’s hopheads.
According to Hinkley, the DC region isn’t going to see much of a difference in the quantity of beer (the company already has a solid foot print in the area), but given the mere 3 hour drive between DC and Virginia Beach, the product will be much fresher – an important factor for IPAs. Once the new brewery opens, delivery to the greater metro area will occur on the “same day instead of five or six days currently” says Hinkley. Eventually, DC beer drinkers can also expect a cheaper product on par with what folks get in San Diego.
When asked “Why Virginia Beach?”, Hinkley said that they wanted a location on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard and after comparing a number of different sites, Virginia Beach was the best fit. Hinkley pointed to a number of similarities between Virginia Beach and San Diego – mainly the beach, military presence, and abundant tourism.
The tourist draw is a strategic factor for Green Flash. The company does “big business” at its brewery in San Diego. According to Hinkley, 50,000 people visit the brewery in a given year. Virginia Beach draws 5.5 million people during its peak season and Green Flash is hoping to tap into these thirsty tourists with a large tasting room, beer garden, event space, and tours.
Virginia’s 2012 legislative changes allowing tasting and retailing at Virginia breweries made the state appealing for the second location. Incentives like the $275,000 GF received from Virginia Beach Development Authority were also a factor, but only a small one; according to Hinkley “we were looking for a place to do business, and Virginia Beach is certainly business-friendly.”
While there will surely be more discussion about the overall effects of these large brewery expansions on local native breweries, Green Flash’s move offers some positives for Virginia Brewers. The company has created a $10,000 credit with San Diego’s White Labs for young breweries in the Virginia Brewers Guild to use for product testing. In the long-run, the brewery plans on allowing Virginia brewers to use their in-house product laboratory.
So welcome to the East Coast, Green Flash – and thanks for giving DC beer drinkers another reason to hit the beach.