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New Belgium Brewing's Kim Jordan Heads East

PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- New Belgium Brewing started its life as a basement in 1991, grew into a Colorado craft beer institution and is now expanding east into a former stockyard in Asheville, N.C.

That's a lot of miles on its bicycle logo's fat tires. It's also a lot of distance between the once-tiny start-up and the burgeoning bicoastal beer empire Chief Executive Kim Jordan oversees today.

New Belgium was started by Jordan and then-husband Jeff Lebesch after a bicycle brewery tour through Belgium. Since then, its flagship Fat Tire Amber Ale, its Explorer series of hoppy India Pale Ales and its traditional Belgian brews such as its Abbey, Trippel and Lips of Faith limited edition Heavenly Feijoa Tripel are available in 28 states.The company makes all of them in a facility that serves as a testing site for Colorado State University environmental studies, including the measurement of the brewery's carbon footprint, the potential gasification of used grain and the use of brewing waste water for breeding tilapia and growing algae for biodiesel. New Belgium's employees, meanwhile, own 100% of the company's stock through a shared ownership program.

Since 2007, New Belgium's annual production has swelled from 476,000 barrels to 750,000 barrels just last year. Last spring, New Belgium announced plans to open a brewery in Asheville just after Chico, Calif.-based Sierra Nevada and founder Ken Grossman came forward with a similar plan for an Asheville brewery. Around the same time, New Belgium's neighbor in Lyons, Colo., and craft beer can pioneers Oskar Blues announced their own intentions to build a brewery in the Asheville area.

New Belgium's facility won't be ready until 2015, but should add an extra 400,000 barrels to New Belgium's total production and room for even more expansion. That would push combined production of Fat Tire, 1554 Dark Ale, Shift Pale Ale, Ranger IPA and other beers above 1 million barrels. By comparison, the only two other brewers that produce 1 million barrels or more in the U.S. not named MolsonCoors (TAP) or Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) are D.G. Yuengling and Sons and Samuel Adams producer Boston Beer (SAM - Get Report).

Jordan's overseen all of that exponential growth and has worked to balance its demands with key elements of the brewery's culture, including its ski-mountain scavenger hunts, independent film festivals and Tour de Fat bicycle parades. In recent years, the brewery's started canning, added hops and increased its collaboration with other brewers as younger, smaller start-up breweries push older, larger craft craft mainstays such as New Belgium to keep active and stop bloating on its own supply.

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