Starr Hill to expand across U.S. with help of Anheuser-Busch
By Tasha Kates / firstname.lastname@example.org | 978-7267
December 19, 2007
Adults across America may soon pop the cap off an ice-cold bottle of beer from Starr Hill Brewery.
The Crozet-based brewery took a big step Tuesday toward fulfilling its mission of “bringing the gift of great beer to the world” by announcing a distribution deal with Anheuser-Busch Inc. The deal will eventually allow Starr Hill to peddle its brews from coast to coast in independent and chain stores.
Brewmaster Mark Thompson said the distribution deal is a dream come true.
“We’re honored and humbled and thankful to be chosen,” Thompson said.
The brewery, which was founded in 1999 on Charlottesville’s Main Street, has been working on the deal for more than a year. Details of the deal were not disclosed. Dave Peacock, vice president of marketing for Anheuser-Busch, said the company seeks out specialty brews to sell alongside its flagship products.
“Starr Hill has already developed a loyal following among craft beer consumers in Virginia, and together with our wholesaler network, we’re looking forward to enhancing the distribution and sales support for these award-winning beers,” Peacock said in a statement.
Starr Hill will continue to market and produce its brews at its Three Notch’d Road location. Thompson said the first year of distribution would focus on Virginia.
“We will start immediately in Roanoke and Lynchburg,” Thompson said. “After those two, we will do Blacksburg and Danville. By mid-2008, we will do [Virginia Beach] and the last remaining areas.”
The company’s three-year plan is to have its beers available from New York to Atlanta. Thompson hopes the brews go nationwide in five to 10 years.
The company has designed four core beers - Starr Hill Amber Ale, Starr Hill Jomo Lager, Starr Hill Pale Ale and Starr Hill Starr Stout - for which it has won 12 awards. The brewery also produces several holiday beers.
Starr Hill had been looking for a way to expand its business before the Anheuser-Busch deal, but Thompson said it would have involved significant time and energy.
The St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch holds a 48.4 percent share of U.S. beer sales and is a major manufacturer of aluminum cans. The company also owns a 50 percent share in the Mexico brewer Grupo Modelo and a 27 percent share in China-based brewer Tsingtao.
Keeping up production at Starr Hill will require a few extra people. Thompson said the company would need to purchase more fermenters and hire another brewer in the next year. The brewery has the capacity to produce up to 60,000 barrels a year.
“We have a long future here in Crozet,” Thompson said. “We will continue to make all of the beer right here.”
Starr Hill’s distribution deal is beneficial for the community too, said Michael E. Harvey, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development.
“The further their reach gets, the more attention they get about their product, the more people visit the area,” Harvey said. “If they so choose to have a storefront like [brewer Redhook], there is a benefit to the area in terms of those direct jobs and indirect jobs and bringing people to the area.”
While Starr Hill is rolling out its distribution plan slowly, Thompson has an idea of what he would like to see Starr Hill become - a nationally sold craft beer.
“We want to be the next Sierra Nevada,” Thompson said.
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