Regions Southwest Virginia

Facebook campaign used to woo brewery

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Print this page by Tim Thornton

When word leaked out months ago that California-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. was considering a site somewhere near Roanoke for its first East Coast brewery, Patrick Beeson knew just what to do.  He set up a Facebook page.

Beeson, the webmaster for the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute in Roanoke, is an avid home brewer. Soon, his Facebook page, “Bring Sierra Nevada to Southwest Virginia,” had more than 1,600 “likes” and people were posting messages such as “I will name my second-born ‘Sierra’ ” if the company came to town.

At Beeson’s suggestion, people began to post photos of their favorite Sierra Nevada beer in their favorite Roanoke Valley and New River Valley locales. Beeson photographed his favorite, the Torpedo, overlooking Norfolk Southern’s East End Shops in downtown Roanoke.

Beeson says his primary motivation is “my desire to see a better beer scene in Southwest Virginia. Something like that I can really see helping other industries.”

Tourism jumps to mind, especially with the region’s emphasis on outdoor recreation such as mountain biking. “Bikes and beer,” he says. “It goes together perfectly. At least in my mind it has.”

North Carolina has 51 craft brewers, according to Beeson, and he doesn’t understand why Southwest Virginia isn’t a small brewery hotbed, too. Adding such a well-known craft brewery would add to the region’s cool factor, Beeson says, something that can help when recruiting all sorts of people and businesses.

Published reports say Montgomery County, just west of Roanoke, was the site Sierra Nevada was considering. County spokeswoman Ruth Richey likes Beeson’s grass-roots business recruitment. “It’s been great to see the outpouring of support for Sierra Nevada,” she says. “I don’t see how this could be anything but positive.”

Sierra Nevada spokesman Bill Manley says his company has been “humbled and thrilled to see the amount of support pouring in from fans in Virginia as well as the other sites we have been looking into. We were overwhelmed with the amount of positive encouragement coming from the community there, and it did not go unnoticed here at the brewery.”

Nonetheless, all that love didn’t persuade the company to build in Southwest Virginia. Richey says the brewery isn’t looking at Montgomery County anymore. The latest rumors put the plant near Asheville, N.C.

Beeson remains upbeat but philosophical. “If Asheville gets it, that’s another reason to go visit Asheville,” he says.

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