I have had some mixed emotions over Stone’s announcement of coming to the east coast. I love that they are expanding, but I quickly grew tired of every ZIP code east of the Mississippi cluttering up social media with pleas for the craft beer giant to settle in their town. Like anything that gets hyped to that level, I am usually ready for it to go away as soon as it appears.
I don’t think Stone could have reached the level they are at without being smart. They are going to build where the highways meet to minimize transportation expenses. They are going to build where there is sufficient population to staff the brewery jobs with quality people that are willing to work. They are going to build where the disposable incomes of the people that live there can support regular crowds at their classy beer garden and restaurant. I don’t think they are going to merely rely on a Facebook page with 500 likes to make their decision: “Well, this town doesn’t fit our model and they don’t have any land….but there is this guy with a lot of passion that roped 500 people into clicking a thumb icon. Let’s go there!”
This week though, I had an epiphany. I had been spending significant effort being annoyed with the attention-grabbing mayhem. Then, in a moment of clarity–the kind of clarity that can only be achieved when one spends 30 minutes in a hot shower drinking a cold craft beer–it hit me. Perhaps that is exactly what they wanted.
Stay with me on this. You don’t have to do too much Googling to find that the legislative gears are cranking wildly to pass laws that make Stone’s picking their region an attractive option. As we rebound off of the economic bust of the last 7 years, getting some fresh investment in a growing industry looks pretty attractive to most states. I think Stone is talking about a $30 million investment here. That gets the elected officials all kinds of excited and willing to move on changes to the laws (even in an election year).
All of this deregulation might be trying to influence Stone’s decision, but it is having the side effect of making a more beneficial environment for ALL craft breweries in their jurisdictions. The ramifications of these new laws will be felt long after the fact. I will leave the discussion about what impact these laws will have (I know the law in South Carolina is getting some heat from both sides of the argument) for a different day, but make no mistake, the changes could be significant. There is a broad range of states and municipalities that are anxious to get a piece of the growth in the market, and none seem to be to worried about some archaic laws getting in the way of that.
If my presumption is correct, I applaud Greg Koch and his folks for playing their hand brilliantly. Since you can’t get congress to act without dangling a wad of cash in front of them, we can leave this one hanging out there for a good bit longer to see what else we be accomplished.