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New Belgium Brewing's Kim Jordan Heads East

We got Jordan on the phone and spoke with her about New Belgium's upcoming East Coast expansion, increased competition within the craft beer community and how to remain relevant as a craft brewer when your new customers were born the year you started brewing:

Once Asheville kicks in and New Belgium's brewing capacity tops 1 million barrels, will it change the way you approach your business and the brewery's growth?

Jordan: I don't think there is a magic number that says things have fundamentally changed. I think it sneaks up on you over time. You get a little bigger and things seem more complex until you start putting in systems structure to handle that.

I don't think we will see a change in how we roll out new states once Asheville is on line, because we will move on from trying to be really measured in our approach because of our capacity constraints in Fort Collins. It's a huge step function that in our past has had many small breaks in our steps. This one will be a lot bigger and, so, I think we will probably roll out more states faster starting in 2015 because it's a $120 million investment we're making. There's a lot of inefficiency in bringing in a staff of people ahead of time for learning and training and we'll have to see a return there more quickly than we have to date.

Is your current selection of markets beyond Colorado based on how receptive those markets have been to craft beer in the past?

Jordan: That's part of it, certainly.

If you go to Pennsylvania, for instance, that's a big state and it has a lot of volume to it and a lot of craft beer awareness. We were being careful about our ability to have enough capacity to open a state like Pennsylvania. New York would be similar and Massachusetts would be similar. It's a more competitive landscape than those examples, but it's also a much more populated state, so we wanted to be able to pick up smaller states.

We will be in those markets starting in the next few years.

A couple of years back, you told the folks at the Brewers Association that you were hoping to see craft beer become 10% of the U.S. beer market. Last year, according to the Brewers Association, craft beer made up 9% of U.S. beer sales. Considering your own company's growth in recent years, are things proceeding as well as you'd hoped for small brewers?

Jordan: It's one thing to say that when you're not doing it, especially on an industry level.

It's easier for me to visualize vividly New Belgium's trajectory, because I have my fingers on it all the time. For the industry as a whole, it's sort of a theoretical "I think we can do this, that would be great." It's hard to actually, in my mind's eye, picture it because it's a much more diffuse and broad proposition.
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